chocolate peanut butter chip cookies

sometimes, i need to skip martha. and joy (no, this joy. that one). and sometimes even baked. and go straight for the back of the bag.

the peanut butter chip bag.

after a disastrous run with some drop sugar cookies late last week, i still hadn't fulfilled my hankering for a cookie. a nice easy one.

turns out this was my opportunity to teach jason about the importance of creaming butter and sugar. and why the dry ingredients aren't all added to the wet at the same time. now the next time he puts in a cookie request, he has no excuse not to make them.

chocolate peanut butter chip cookies
adapted from the back of the reese's peanut butter chip bag
1 hour (includes baking time), makes 4 1/2 dozen

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups butter, room temp
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups peanut butter chips (a 10oz bag)
  1. preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. set aside.
  3. using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. mix the eggs into the butter mixture one at a time, ensuring each egg is incorporated before adding the next. add the vanilla extract and mix.
  5. gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing well after each addition.
  6. stir in the peanut butter chips.
  7. drop by rounded teaspoons on ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart. bake 8-9 minutes. the cookies should be a slightly underbaked so they're still chewy. they will puff up a lot while baking and will flatten while cooking.
  8. cool on the baking sheet a couple minutes. remove with a spatula and cool completely on a wire rack. store in an airtight container. they're best eaten within a couple days.


lazy wo(man) mac & cheese

here's a crazy simple one for you. so easy i almost didn't post it.

it's quicker than this stovetop mac & cheese and takes the same amount of time as the blue box.

and if you're a coffee drinker and enjoy cheese (like that's a real question), you probably have everything in your pantry to make it...

...and i made it up as i went along, so the measurements are approximate. if you want more cheese, add it. if your cheese sauce looks a little thin, add a touch more half & half, but go easy on it. a little goes a long way.

lazy woman mac & cheese
10 minutes, serves one

for each serving -
1/2 cup dried short cut pasta, i used ditalini
2 tablespoons half & half or whole milk (a good size splash)
3 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese (a palmful)
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese (a little less than half the cheddar)
salt & pepper
  1. cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  2. when the pasta is done, add the half & half to the pan. if you have an electric stove like me, put the pan back on the hot burner and leave the burner off. if you have a gas stove like i wish i do, put it over super low heat. warm the half & half for 30 seconds to a minute.
  3. season with salt & pepper and mix in the cheese.
  4. when the cheese is melted, stir in the pasta. ta da. easiest saturday lunch ever.


italian stuffed peppers (and tomatoes)

jason has been asking for stuffed peppers for a couple months now that they're a mere $0.25 a piece at the market, i figured it was time to give it a try.

for my first attempt, i chose to make them italian style, since i also had homemade pasta sauce, carrots from the market, and basil and oregano from my garden.

the grated carrots may seem like an odd addition but they add a good sweetness and almost act as a thickener for the filling. i used my microplane ribbon grater to get small pieces that blend in to the rest of the filling. if you don't have a microplane, small holes on a box grater would work.

i didn't make the peppers and the tomatoes on the same day. i refrigerated the filling i had leftover from the peppers and make the tomatoes the next night. i much prefer the tomatoes - their sweeter flavor went well with the filling - and jason much prefers the peppers. to each his own.

overrun by zucchini? i bet this filling would be great for zucchini as well. cut the zuke in half, lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. fill each half and bake at 375F on a sheet pan for about 30 minutes.

...and if you want to make this one meatless, simply omit the ground beef from the filling.

italian stuffed peppers and tomatoes
1 hour 20 minutes (includes baking), serves 4, makes enough for 4 peppers and 8 sm/med tomatoes

1/2 pound ground beef
1 cup dried orzo pasta
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups your favorite pasta sauce (or homemade sauce)
2 finely grated carrots, about 1 cup
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, finely cubed
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced (or a pinch of dried)
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 sweet peppers
8 small/medium (a little smaller than a baseball) tomatoes, use larger tomatoes if you have them
  1. preheat your oven to 400F. place a strainer over a square baking dish.
  2. brown the ground beef in a saute pan over medium low heat. set aside.
  3. bring the vegetable broth to a boil and cook the orzo, about 4 minutes. drain the orzo with the strainer, so the vegetable broth is in the baking dish.
  4. in a large bowl, combine the ground beef, orzo, pasta sauce, carrots, mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and olive oil. mix well.
for peppers -
  1. cut a small slice off the bottom of the peppers so they sit flat in the baking dish. be careful not to cut all the way through the bottom or the filling will fall out.
  2. cut the top off the pepper and remove the insides.
  3. fill each pepper and place in the vegetable broth baking dish. cover with foil and bake about 45 minutes. remove foil, dust with parmesan cheese, and bake an additional 15 minutes.
for tomatoes -
  1. if the tomatoes don't sit flat, cut a small slice off the bottom. be careful not to cut all the way through the bottom or the filling will fall out.
  2. slice off the top of the tomato and hollow it out.
  3. fill each tomato and dust with parmesan. bake on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes, or until the filling is hot and the cheese has browned.


basil garlic tomato sauce

i decided earlier this summer that i was going to make tomato sauce and can it. this is my maiden voyage.

sometime last week one of my coworkers gave me a good sized bag of homegrown garlic. saturday morning on my trek through the market i picked up 20 pounds of tomatoes for a mere $9. i had basil growing in my backyard at home so i picked up some small onions at the market and i was ready. nervous, but ready.

i started by blanching my tomatoes. easy enough. i used a slotted spoon to transfer my tomatoes to and from the boiling water and the ice bath. and was able to do about 6 tomatoes at a time. after the first couple tries i had a good rhythm going - put 6 tomatoes in, boil for one minute, move from boiling water to ice water, add 6 tomatoes to boiling water, while tomatoes boil for one minute peel the tomatoes in ice water, when tomatoes are done boiling the ones in ice water were peeled. it worked well for me, but it might be a little crazy for you. start out with 4 tomatoes and work your way up. it took me a hour just to blanch and peel them all.

once the tomatoes are blanched, ready and waiting, i sauteed the onion and garlic. also easy. add tomatoes and cook. easy. now comes the tricky part - blending it. i had a huge stockpot and i knew there was no way my stick blender would even put a dent in it, let alone actually reach the bottom. so i decided to use my food processor. it can hold more than my conventional blender and works much better than my blender.

there's one key piece missing from my logic: blenders are water tight. food processors are not.

i ended up with a huge mess of tomato juice all over the counter and half pureed sauce in my food processor. when all way said and done, it looked like a tomato massacre on my counter from transferring the sauce from the food processor to the blender. what a mess. so take it from me - use the conventional blender. i did about 6 batches in my blender to get all the sauce.

once the sauce was blended, it was smooth sailing. it takes a while to cook the sauce down to half its volume and canning it was a breeze. i only had 7 pint jars, so i ended up with another pint and a half left. i refrigerated half a pint, froze half a pint, and had the rest tossed with pasta for dinner.

if you don't want to can it or have 20 pounds of tomatoes, go ahead and scale it. and this is your sauce - so change it up as you like.

basil garlic tomato sauce
4 hours, makes 8 pints

20 lb tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
if you're canning it - bottled lemon juice and any combo of pint and half pint jars to total 8 pints
  1. add enough water to a stock pot to cover a layer of tomatoes and bring water to a boil. blanch tomatoes for about one minutes and place in ice water. when cool enough to touch, remove skin and discard. set tomato aside and repeat with remaining tomatoes. to save some time later, quarter the tomatoes.
  2. in a large stock pot, cook the garlic and onion in olive oil over medium low heat for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.
  3. add the tomatoes and cook about twenty minutes, or until the tomatoes really start to break down.
  4. puree the mixture using a conventional blender. add back to the stockpot.
  5. bring to a boil and simmer until reduced in volume by half. this took me 3 hours. if you aren't canning the sauce, it's ready to eat!
if you're canning the sauce -
  1. when your sauce is getting close to reduced by half, get your boiling water canner, jars, and lids ready.
  2. add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to each pint jar and 1 1/2 teaspoons to each half pint jar. fill the jars with sauce, leaving 1/2" headspace. cover and process in boiling water canner for 35 minutes. remove from the canner and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours. check to make sure the jars are sealed. if the button on the top can be pressed, the jar isn't sealed and needs to be kept in the refrigerator.


caprese panini

after all the super sweet blackberry treats last week, it's time for a simple and delicious dinner. especially one that involves fresh tomatoes.

we had a killer storm sunday night. the thunder and lightning startled me out of bed. i went back to sleep and for the most part forgot about it until i came home from work. my tomato plant that's taller than me had fallen completely over on it's side. it was tomato carnage. some were crushed into the dirt. some got stepped on in the midst of trying to get the cage to stand up straight. all in all, it wasn't a good sight. so i grabbed as many of the red ones that were still clinging on as i could. and i've got big plans for them.

including this sandwich.

i used my favorite multitaskter - my foreman grill. i grilled three fresh picked medium tomatoes for two sandwiches. whipped together a great big handful of basil growing next door to the tomatoes, fresh homegrown garlic from one of my coworkers, parmesan, and olive oil. slather the roll with the pesto mixture and add the grilled tomatoes and a nice thick slice of good mozzarella cheese. grill the whole thing in the foreman for another couple minutes until the cheese is oozing out the side of the roll. it's summer - toasted - between bread.

oh and make some of the extra pesto. yea, i know it's missing the pine nuts, but it still tastes great tossed with pasta. and keeps in the fridge for a while.

caprese panini
30 minutes, makes 4

1 cup loosely packed basil
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large/6 medium ripe tomatoes
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
4 sandwich rolls
salt, pepper, olive oil
  1. in a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, and 1/4 cup olive oil until smooth. season with salt & pepper.
  2. heat a grill pan (or foreman grill) over medium high heat. slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices and grill a couple minutes on each side, until softened. meanwhile slice the rolls in half and spread a thick layer of pesto on the top half of each roll. arrange slices of cheese on the bottom half of the roll.
  3. when the tomatoes are soft, spread them out on top of the cheese. put the tops on the sandwiches, brush the tops and bottoms with olive oil (so they don't burn) and press until the cheese is melty, about 5 minutes.


blackberry jam & blackberry syrup

so you just happen to fall into cups and cups and cups of berries - any kind - and wish you could eat them until christmas? yea, me too. i don't like to freeze fresh berries too much. it seems no matter what i do, they stick to each other and end up as frozen blobs. and they just don't taste the same. same for pies. for me, it's jam all the way.

sometimes i wonder if people realize how insanely simple (and cheap) jam is to make. especially when i see it in the store for $4 a half pint.

i decided to end the week with how i started the week. i made the jam and syrup the day after i picked the berries, when they were still fresh and hadn't yet started to get mushy or soft.
and except for some straining to make the syrup, they're exactly the same. and the only thing you need to know is that it's fruit and sugar. i used a 2:1 ratio of berries to sugar for the jam and 6:1 berries to sugar for the syrup, but it's totally up to you, depending on how sweet you like your jam and your syrup. and of course they can be scaled up or down, depending on your berry situation.

but the syrup. omg. it's so good i had to stop myself from eating it by the spoonful after it was made. lucky for me, i canned a pint of it, so sometime in mid february when i'would kill for a berry, i can pretend it's summer again while i have blackberry syrup over my pancakes on a lazy, snowed in saturday morning.

if you're sick of jam on your toast/bagel/english muffin/other baked good, try it on top of a cracker with some peanut butter. it makes a great afternoon snack.

and in case you missed it, here's a recap of blackberry week -
kicked it off with my mom's blackberry sangria
then moved on to a moist blackberry crumb cake
i tried my hand at blackberry half moons, but they weren't as berry-ey as i would have liked
and recreated the blackberry pancakes i had on vacation this summer in waffle form
ah, nothing like sweet tart blackberry ice cream on a humid summer night
and last night i made an amazing white layer cake filled with blackberry buttercream that i can't wait to try with other fruits

blackberry jam

makes 3 pints

6 cups blackberries
3 cups granulated sugar
  1. in a large saucepan, heat the blackberries and sugar until boiling. use the back of a spoon to crush the berries while heating.
  2. if you like your jam thinner (with less chunks of whole berries), use an immersion blender to smooth it to your liking.
  3. boil until the jam thickens to your liking, about 15-20 minutes for thinner jam.
  4. process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

blackberry syrup
makes 1 1/2 pints plus just enough extra for a round of pancakes

3 cups blackberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
  1. mash and strain blackberries and discard the pulp. you should have about 1 cup of juice.
  2. in a small saucepan, heat the juice and sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. remove from heat. syrup can be canned in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. or refrigerate if using immediately.


white layer cake with blackberry buttercream

i don't remember the last time i made a layer cake. (turns out it was this chocolate peanut butter marble cake back in april.)

there's no sign of them on here. sure, i've made plenty of cupcakes, but layer cakes just seem so much fancier. they seem like they take more time, more fussing, more waiting for the layers to cool so i can ice it. but i bet all in all, cupcakes and layer cakes take the same amount of time and fussiness to make.

in the last year or so, jason and i have become big fans of cook's illustrated and america's test kitchen. i found this recipe looking for who really knows and ended up on their white layer cake. i was sold as soon as i read "almond extract" in the ingredients list.

in fact, the cake is so good, it could definitely win on it's own. with a light vanilla or chocolate glaze, it would make the perfect sheet cake. so even if you aren't a fan of blackberry buttercream - or buttercream in general - make the cake. it's that good.

but let's get on to the star of the show - the blackberry buttercream. it's the perfect blend of super sweet and creamy, like any buttercream, and tart from the berries. i've said it before, but i'll say it again - the tartness of the blackberries is a really nice compliment to the sweetness of the buttercream. and the almond in the cake. it's the perfect combo.

white layer cake
adapted from cook's illustrated
40 minutes plus cooling time, serves 12

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
6 egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  1. set oven rack in the middle position. preheat oven to 350F. spray two nine inch cake pans with non stick spray. dust pans with flour.
  2. whisk together milk, egg whites, and almond and vanilla extracts. set aside.
  3. in a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. add butter and mix until it forms coarse wet crumbs.
  4. add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. add remaining milk mixture and beat another 1 minute.
  5. divide batter evenly among the two pans. smooth out the batter so it's even in the pan.
  6. bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. let the cakes cool in the pan a couple minutes before inverting. cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours. frost with blackberry buttercream.

blackberry buttercream
adapted from the novice chef
10 minutes, makes plenty for a two layer cake (divide in half if your crew doesn't care for buttercream so much)

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
6 cups confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons strained blackberry puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  1. beat butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  2. slowly add 1 cup sugar and beat until smooth.
  3. add blackberry puree, vanilla, and almond until blended.
  4. add remaining sugar half a cup at a time, blending after each addition.
  5. when all the sugar is added, beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.


blackberry ice cream

you really didn't think i would let this week pass without some ice cream, did you?

jason says this is the best ice cream he's ever had. period. a little ecstatic for me (my favorite definitely involves chocolate), but i agree it's probably the best fruit ice cream i've ever made. the berries keep just enough of their tartiness so the ice cream isn't too sweet. the perfect balance.

this ice cream is pretty simple if you remember two things -

1. please please please crush the berries and strain them. someone i know - i won't name names - took a shortcut and decided to keep the berries whole. needless to say, the ice cream itself has little to no flavor and since the berries are whole, when you find one, it's like a block of ice in your ice cream. really, it's not so good. take the time to strain it. it's well worth it. (i mashed & strained mine a couple days before i made my ice cream. i kept the juice in the fridge and it was fine. shake it up good before using it.)

2. be careful when making the custard. don't let it cook too long. the first time i made this batch, i let the egg and half & half mixture cook too long. instead of "coating the back of a spoon" i had a pan full of scrambled eggs. it was awful. luckily i had enough half & half and eggs to redo. but don't make the same mistake. once you put the egg mixture on the stove to thicken, don't stop mixing. and as soon as the mixture coats the back of the spoon - run your finger through it, does it hold the path? or does it run? when it holds the path, it's done - remove it from the heat and strain into the heavy cream. and make sure you strain so if there are any small bits of cooked egg, they don't end up in your ice cream. if frozen berries are bad, i can't imagine what biting into a piece of cooked egg would be like. either way, it's not good.

blackberry ice cream
adapted from david lebovitz's raspberry ice cream in the perfect scoop

4 cups blackberries
1 1/2 cups half & half
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. crush the berries and strain them with a cheesecloth or fine metal strainer. you should have about 1 2/3 cup juice.
  2. in a sauce pan, heat the half & half and sugar over medium low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. while the half & half and sugar are heating, place the heavy cream in the bottom of a bowl. place a strainer above it. in a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks.
  4. when the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat. pour a small amount (about 1/4 cup) of the mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. when incorporated, whisk in the remaining sugar mixture.pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
  5. heat the custard over medium low heat, whisking constantly, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. be careful here - don't let it go too long or you'll have a pan of scrambled eggs.
  6. remove from the heat and pour through the strainer into the heavy cream. stir to incorporate.
  7. add the blackberry and lemon juices and mix thoroughly.
  8. chill overnight (or a few hours) and churn according to your ice cream maker. david has great instructions for making ice cream if you don't have an ice cream maker.


blackberry waffles

i had the most amazing whole wheat blackberry pancakes when we were in gloucester massachusetts this summer at the atlantis inn on atlantic road. sweet and tarty whole berries with the nutty wheat pancakes made the perfect breakfast. jason always jokes that he should order whatever i order in restaurants, because inevitably, when the food comes, he's jealous of what i got. these pancakes proved it. but when is he ever going to learn? while he had forkfuls of eggs and bacon (which were also good), i was stuffing these tarty homemade pancakes into my face.

i knew as soon as i got my hands on some blackberries those pancakes were on the list. you know the list, right? the list of food you have on vacation and want to immediately recreate at home. the foods you mentally recreate at home while you're still eating them on vacation. i can't be the only person that does this, am i?

anyway, back to the pancakes. the only problem is, they're pancakes. my track record with them is not very good. they burn. they're under cooked. etc. etc. i was flipping through my joy of cooking when it hit me. duh. make waffles. they're foolproof! anyone can see when the green light goes off on the waffle iron to tell me they're done. the only thing i need to worry about is not over mixing. and be sure to grease the waffle grates. there's nothing worse than a stuck waffle.

so i took the generic "waffles" recipe from joy of cooking, added some wheat flour (honestly, i was a little too afraid to go 100% whole wheat, so i went half & half this time) and the berries. along with some vermont maple syrup i picked up on our trip this summer, homemade blackberry syrup, and some scrambled eggs these made a great weeknight dinner. yep, i had waffles for dinner.

and i froze the leftovers. let them cool to room temp and freeze in zip top storage bags. toast in a toaster oven or toaster and serve. they'll make a quick breakfast before hitting the public market this weekend!

blackberry waffles
adapted from joy of cooking
30 minutes, serves 4 (makes 8 waffles)

3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup blackberries
  1. preheat your waffle iron.
  2. in a large bowl, whisk together the dry team - all purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. set aside.
  3. in another bowl, whisk together the wet team - eggs, melted butter (make sure it's not too hot or you'll have scrambled eggs), and milk.
  4. make a well in the center of the dry team and add the wet team all at once. mix just until incorporated. gently stir in the berries.
  5. fill waffle iron about 2/3 full of batter and cook according to your waffle maker directions. keep cooked waffles warm in a 200F oven while the rest of the waffles are cooking. waffles are best enjoyed with real maple syrup or homemade blackberry syrup.


blackberry half moons

i had high high hopes for these cookies.

half moons are my favorite. or black and whites if you're downstate. whatever you call them, they're my favorite. there used to be a time when i couldn't walk past the two pack in the wegmans bakery without tossing them in my cart. so i thought blackberry half moons would be even better with the tartiness of the berries balancing the super sweet glaze.

not so much.

it's not that they're bad. they just aren't very blackberry-ey.

which is a bummer since they came out so nice and purple. too bad i didn't spread them out with a spoon so they're all misshapen and look like a sixth grader made them. but the purple is just different enough to be intriguing. but when you take a bite, it's just a plain old half moon.

not that i won't stop eating them. the texture is spot on so is the sweetness. and the glaze is perfect. perfect rendition of the glaze from a bakery half moon.

it's just too bad the berry doesn't really shine through. i put these in my "retry" file. along with some others i haven't even mentioned.

...maybe it's the berries. blackberries aren't as strongly flavored as raspberries and strawberries. maybe it's a bad choice of berries. i guess i'll have to wait until next summer to see.

blackberry half moons

adapted from a lot of places, but mostly smitten kitchen, joy the baker, and all recipes
makes 18 medium sized cookies in 60 minutes

for the cookies -
1/2 cup room temperature butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup strained blackberry puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup cake flour
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the glaze -
6 cups confectioners sugar
4 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons melted or room temp butter
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
hot water
  1. preheat your oven to 375F and grease or line two sheet pans with parchment.
  2. in a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. add the eggs, milk, berry puree, and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  3. in a separate bowl, combine flours, salt, and baking powder. add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in batches, until combined.
  4. place heaping tablespoons of batter two inches apart on baking sheets. use the back of a spoon to make a nice round circle out of the dough. bake about 10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. cool completely before icing.
  5. while the cookies are cooling, make the icing. in a bowl, combine 3 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons corn syrup, 1 tablespoon butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and whisk. add enough hot water to achieve the right consistency. remember - you can always add more water if it's too thick, but it's a pain to add more sugar if it gets too thin. this is your white glaze. set aside.
  6. make the chocolate glaze. in a separate bowl, in a bowl, combine 3 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons corn syrup, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and the melted chocolate and whisk. add enough hot water to achieve the right consistency.
  7. when the cookies are cool, spread the white glaze across the bottom half of each cookie. let sit about 15 minutes or until set before spreading the chocolate glaze. let glaze set and store in an airtight container.


blackberry crumb cake

i love a good coffee cake. a good breakfast cake with fruit in it. like raspberries. or peaches.

i've just never made one.


that's what my mom does. ever since i can remember my mother has been baking up something. fallen over birthday cakes. homemade cookies in the cookie jar. and since i've grown up, it's a toss up between cinnamon rolls and coffee cake first thing in the morning whenever we stay at their house. for me, it's my mother through and through. and only comes out for special occasions.

so next time you have house guests and want them to feel extra special, whip up this cake. it's easy, tasty, and super moist. i used fresh berries, but i bet frozen would work too. and swap out the blackberries for raspberries if you prefer them. it's your cake! make it how you want it.

blackberry crumb cake
adapted from real simple, july 2010

for the topping:
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

for the cake:
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups blackberries (about 1 pound)
  1. preheat the oven to 350F. grease an 8 inch square baking dish.
  2. in the bowl of a food processor, making the crumb topping by pulsing all ingredients until crumbly. pour out of the processor and set aside.
  3. make the cake in the food processor too. pulse the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until crumbly. in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla together. add the dry ingredients from the processor to the egg mixture and mix until combined.
  4. pour the cake batter into the pan and top with the blackberries. sprinkle the topping over the cake. bake about 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. let the cake cool in the pan before serving. and cool completely. otherwise you might end up with berries down your shirt and a soupy piece of cake.


blackberry sangria: the kickoff to blackberry week!

i've mentioned before that i come from a long line of berriers. so it's no surprise that last weekend, jason, my parents, and i spent an hour picking loads and loads of blackberries growing like crazy behind my mother's uncle's house.

in that one hour, we picked a good 7 quarts of berries. yea, a lot. so this week is all things blackberry!

there's cake and ice cream and jam. i'm kicking off my week with my mom's blackberry sangria and stay tuned every day this week for a new recipe featuring blackberries!

i first had this sangria last august at my bridal shower. and mom and i made it again this year just because we can.

but watch out. one minute you're sitting in a chair, surrounded by the important women in your life, opening gifts while others oooh and aaah and bring you sangria refills. an hour later when you finally get up, you'll be a little weak in the knees. and it will take you a second to realize you drank three glasses of this stuff in the last hour!

that's how good it is.

blackberry sangria
adapted from better homes and gardens
30 minutes, makes ~13 cups

4 cups blackberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 750ml bottles of rose wine
1 cup orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 peaches, thinly sliced
handful or two of ice
  1. combine 2 cups of the berries, sugar, water, and a dash of salt in a medium saucepan. bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. remove from heat and cool slightly. crush the berries and strain through a colander. discard the smushed berries and let the syrup cool.
  2. in your sangria pitcher, combine the cool syrup, wine, liqueur, lemon juice, peach and remaining 2 cups of berries.
  3. when you're ready to serve, fill the pitcher (or glasses) with ice and add sangria. mom likes hers with a splash of carbonated water for fizz.


lemon basil pesto

last year my lemon basil plant didn't do so well. this year it's grown into a huge bush! lemon basil is a type of basil that has a really strong lemony flavor. it grows just like basil but has smaller, skinnier leaves. it goes really well with pasta or chicken.

i make pesto two or three times a year when i finally have enough italian basil or lemon basil to make a batch. the thing is, unless you can find it really cheap at your local farmer's market, buying the amount of basil you need from the store will empty your pockets. it just isn't worth it. and right about now, if you've got your own basil garden, it should be going crazy. pesto is a great quick way to make a dent in it.

i used my lemon basil this time simply because it was out of control. i've made this exact same recipe before using italian basil instead, with some modifications. since you won't have the lemon flavor from the lemon basil, add the juice and zest of a whole lemon to the pesto. the flavor will be virtually the same. if you don't have enough lemon basil for the recipe, substitute the missing piece with italian basil. the combo of the two is good also.

lemon basil pesto
15 minutes, serves 2

1/2 pound spaghetti, linguini, angel hair, thin spaghetti - whatever long skinny noodle you like
1 cup tightly packed lemon basil leaves
juice of half a lemon (add the juice from the whole thing for extra lemon flavor)
zest of half a lemon (optional, add it if you want a lot of lemony flavor)
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. cook the pasta according to package directions. drain.
  2. while the pasta is cooking, make the pesto. blend the lemon basil leaves, lemon juice, zest (if using), garlic, cheese, and olive oil in a food processor or handy chopper. if you don't have a food processor, finely mince the lemon basil and garlic before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients. the recipe definitely still works, it just takes a bit more time than giving it a whir in the processor.
  3. when the pasta is cooked, toss with the pesto. serve. brush your teeth before leaving the house.


dark chocolate & almond biscotti

before my mother in law flew home a few weeks ago, she had one simple request in exchange for her tomatoes: biscotti.

i've said it before and i'll say it again, biscotti is easy. so much so that i still cannot believe bakeries charge a solid $3 for two small pieces. especially when the texture is never right - either hard as a rock or soft and mushy - and they taste like cardboard. i've never met a bakery biscotti that i've liked.

i made almond instead of pistachio this time, mainly because we were on somewhat of a time crunch and i didn't want to shuck pistachios for a half an hour. and i figured since i was making them, i may as well make a double batch - one for me one for her. i doubled the basic recipe - everything but the chocolate - below and got to the point where the chocolate needed to be added. i eyeballed half the dough and formed it into the log. into the remaining half i added some dark chocolate i broke up with a knife. you could also use chips if you have them or you can skip them all together. but i ended up with half with chocolate and half without. i much prefer the chocolate, but it's totally up to you.

dark chocolate & almond biscotti
adapted from tyler florence's pistachio biscotti
1 hour, makes 24

1 1/2 cups whole, sliced, or slivered almonds
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (or microwaved for a few secs to take the chill off)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. preheat your oven to 350F. lay the almonds on a single layer on a sheet pan and bake about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are toasted. make sure they don't burn - they taste really bitter. remove from the oven and let cool. don't turn off the oven.
  2. using a mixer, beat the butter until it's light and fluffy. turn the mixture down to low and gradually add the sugar and vanilla. add the eggs one at a time.
  3. add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth.
  4. mix in the cooled almonds and chocolate.
  5. divide the dough roughly in half. roll each piece of dough into a tube, roughly the size of your rolling pin. move the dough to a parchment lined sheet pan. use your hands to flatten the dough - so instead of a long, circular tube, you have an almost rectangular sheet. repeat with the other piece of dough.
  6. bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.
  7. let cool on the sheets for 10-15 minutes.
  8. slide one of the dough logs onto a cutting board. using a serrated knife, slice the log into 1/2 to 1 inch thick slices. the thickness of your slices will determine how wide your cookies are.
  9. place the slices cut side down on the baking sheets, bake 5 minutes, flip them (so the down side is up and the up side is down) and bake an additional 5 minutes.
  10. cool on a cooling rack. store in an airtight container and dunk in your morning coffee.
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