Double Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownies

Happy Halloween, friends.

Halloween is one of my favorite times to make treats. Unfortunately, my favorite Halloweenie no longer lives at home. :-( He’s almost 24 (what, you say?!?!) and is now living in the big city while he works on his master’s degree. But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t send him some Halloween treats. After all, I do miss seeing his freakishly handsome face around the house.

So, to celebrate his (and my) favorite holiday, I made him these double peanut butter paisley brownies from Hershey’s Kitchens.

They’re scary good.

I hope your goblins like them, too.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 10 oz. package of peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup chocolate syrup

Heat your oven to 350°. Grease a 9×13 pan. Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla.ButterAndPeanutButter

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then mix that into peanut butter mixture, blending well. Stir in peanut butter chips.

PeanutbutterChips

Spread half of batter in prepared pan. Spoon the chocolate syrup over the top. Carefully top with remaining batter; swirl with a metal spatula or knife for marbled effect.

BeforeTheOven

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

PaisleyBrowniesDone

Cut into squares. Makes about 24 brownies.

In honor of Halloween, let me leave you with this:

Sweet Potato Pecan Bread

It’s fall. The perfect time to make something awesome, particularly if that awesome thing is made with cinnamon, pumpkin or sweet potato, and pecans.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I discovered a culinary gem recently. This month’s Food Network Magazines features a little booklet with 50 quick bread recipes.

I vowed last week to try them all and started with the Carrot Coconut Bread. Today, it’s Sweet Potato Pecan Bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pureed sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9×5 loaf pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the sweet potato puree, vegetable oil, brown sugar, water, eggs and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt, orange zest and pecans.CuttingPecans

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Bake 60 to 70 minutes.

SweetPotatoBreadDone

It’s delicious and tastes just like fall.

SweetPotatoBreadSlice

 

Carrot Coconut Bread

Is there anything better on a cool autumn day than baking something delicious that will make the house smell awesome? OK. There may be some things– jumping in a pile of leaves, taking a nice drive along a country road to see the colored leaves, picking out the perfect pumpkin – but they’re really only equally as good.

This month’s Food Network Magazine came with a little gem: a little booklet with 50 quick bread recipes.

I’ve decided to work my way through the entire thing, making each one.

This Carrot Coconut Bread was the first one, and what a way to start. It reminded me of carrot cake, and it was delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9×5 loaf pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the carrots, vegetable oil, yogurt, eggs and vanilla.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, coconut, pineapple, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.BatterforCarrotCoconut

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes.

CarrotBreadDone

Optional glaze:

If you’re looking for more of a sugar high, you can make this glaze to drizzle on the bread while it’s warm.  Just whisk the ingredients together.

  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch of salt

We did not feel the need for the glaze. The bread was super-duper without it. Doesn’t that look pretty?

CarrotBreadslice

 

Orange Brownies

OK, before you go, “Eew, that sounds disgusting,” hear me out. These aren’t chocolate brownies with orange indiscriminately tossed in ‘cause that probably could be disgusting. Unless … Oh, but I digress. These are brownies made with orange instead of chocolate. They are moist and dense and buttery and orange-y (is that a word?).  Oh, and they’re topped with orange cream cheese frosting. Do I have your attention now?

This recipe comes from Paula Deen.

The brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Grease a 13×9 pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter, eggs, orange extract, and orange zest and beat with an electric mixer until well blended.ButterSugarEggs

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown and set. Cool.

PreOvenBrownies

The orange cream cheese frosting

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 16 oz. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter and cream cheese together until fluffy. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until it is smooth. Beat in the orange zest and juice. Spread over the brownies.

FrostedBrowniesThen stand back. ‘Cause if you get in the way, you may get knocked over.

 

Salted Caramel Frosting

Salty and sweet go together perfectly just like Rock Hudson and Doris Day,  or, so I don’t totally date myself, Kim and Kanye.

And salted caramel? Well, that may be one of the greatest pairings ever, perhaps even better than Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 ounces of confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 15 caramels
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Beat your butter, cream cheese, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar alternately with three tablespoons of milk, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition.CaramelFrostingBatter

Put your caramels in a microwave-safe bowl with one tablespoon of milk and microwave on high for one minute or until smooth. The time may depend on the power of your microwave. You may want to check and stir the mixture after 30 seconds so you don’t zap them too long.MeltedCaramel

Fold the caramel mixture into your frosting, creating some lovely swirls. You don’t want to completely blend it.

Frost something. (To add a little extra zing, I sprinkled a bit of kosher salt on the top.)

FinishedCupcakesBut, you don’t have to take my word for how tasty this frosting is. I frosted some yellow cupcakes and took them to my students in the Social Media Communication class I’m teaching this semester. I frosted half with this and half with the fresh strawberry frosting I told you about earlier.

My students pounced on them like a lioness on a gazelle. I didn’t take any home, much to the chagrin of He Who Must Be Fed.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

There’s something about cheesecake. I know, I’ve written about this before. But it’s worth repeating. So many people speak of it reverently.

A few years back, I made a cheesecake for friends who invited us to their house for dinner. (I can’t seem to ever go to dinner empty handed.) Ever since then, whenever I run into the wife, she mentions that cheesecake. So, when she and her husband invited us for a Labor Day cookout, she didn’t have to say what she wanted. I knew. I complied.

She took a bite and her eyes rolled back into her head. Well, not exactly, but you get the idea. I almost felt guilty because it’s so easy to make. Try it out. You’ll see.

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cup mini chocolate chips, divided
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 ready-made chocolate pie crust

Preheat your oven to 350°. With a mixer, beat your cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add the sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.CheesecakeBatter

Toss one cup of the chocolate chips with the flour and stir into the cream cheese mixture.ChocolateChipWithFlour

Pour into the crust.

CheesecakePre-Oven

Bake for 35 minutes or until the center springs back when you lightly touch it. Cool then top with the glaze.

To make the glaze, combine ½ cup of the mini chocolate chips with ¼ cup whipping cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 30 seconds and stir until smooth. It may take a little longer, depending on your microwave. Spread over the pie and refrigerate. FinishedChocolateChipCheesecake

Then sit back and let the compliments wash over you like an ocean wave. J

 

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

There are many things to love about fall:

  • Wearing cuddly sweats
  • Playing in the leaves
  • Drinking warm cider
  • Snuggling in front of a fire
  • Watching football games

And then there’s the plethora of pumpkin. Pie. Cake. And cookies.

Have I got another recipe for you.

Pumpkin cookies. They meet the baker’s trifecta: They’re freakin’ delicious. They’re easy to make. They don’t require any funky or out-of-the-ordinary ingredients. Just look.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup solid-pack pumpkin
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat your oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl, mixing on low speed until well blend. Scrape the bowl occasionally to make sure it’s mixed well. PumpkinCookieBatter

Drop a heaping tablespoon of batter on an ungreased cookie sheet. You’ll want your cookies about 2 inches apart so they don’t squish together.PumpkinCookiesPreOven

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.PumpkinCookiesDone

Eat them. Love them.

My two favorite little people really loved them. Oh, and my favorite big person loved them, too. GrandkidsAndPumpkinCookies

Oreo Cheesecake

Cheesecake. That one word can send food chills up some people’s spines. If they don’t spontaneously shiver, they’ll roll their eyes in imagined culinary ecstasy and/or emit a guttural “mmm …” Think I’m kidding? Try it out.

So, imagine what your family and friends will do if you actually make one. And this is a super easy one to make.  They’ll love you. Or, they’ll come to a long and probably dull meeting if you bring cheesecake along. Or, they’ll do you a favor in the future they might not have otherwise considered.

In other words, making cheesecake for people gives you some culinary collateral.

I’ve made this recipe several times with different types of Oreos, including mint. However, the ones that my family, friends and co-workers seem to like best are the cheesecakes made with either regular Oreos or Golden Oreos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (I lb., 2 oz.) Oreo cookies, divided
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 packages (8 oz. each) of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 eggs

Preheat your oven to 325°. Place 30 cookies into a food processor and process for 30 to 45 seconds or so until they’re finely ground. Add butter and pulse a few more times until thoroughly incorporated. Press firmly into the bottom of a 9×13 pan.

MakingCrust

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition and just until blended.

AddingEggs

Chop remaining cookies. (I just break them apart with my fingers.) Gently stir 1 ½ cups of the chopped cookies into your cream cheese batter.

MeasuringOreos

Pour over the crust and sprinkle with remaining chopped cookies.

Bake 45 minutes or until the center is almost set. In my oven, it takes 50 minutes. Cool then refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

FinishedCheesecake

Note: The package sizes for Oreos have changed since I started making this, so to get the right amount, you’re going to have to buy a bag of what they call Family Size; the regular size package won’t give you enough cookies.

Bag Of Oreos

Crispy Gnocchi with Basil Pesto

Last week, I professed my love for basil, shared with you a recipe for pesto and promised to give you something this week you could use with that pesto. I have five words for you: Crispy Gnocchi with Basil Pesto.

You’re going to take that delicious pesto you made – you did make it, right? – and use it to gently coat some pan-friend gnocchi.  Again, this recipe comes from the Two Peas & Their Pod blog.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (1 lb.) package potato gnocchi (Or, if you have the time, make homemade gnocchi)
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving.

Cook the gnocchi according to package instructions. Drain completely. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the gnocchi in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden and crisp, about 3-4 minutes.

GnocchiInPan

You’re going to be tempted to take a peek at them – I was – but don’t. Let them be. After three or four minutes, turn the gnocchi and cook, turning occasionally, until golden and crisp, about 3 more minutes.

BrownedGnocchi

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the pesto. You might have leftover pesto. Serve warm and garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired. As you can see, I also made a salad to accompany my beautiful pesto-kissed gnocchi.FinishedGnocchi

Wow. This was so delicious. But don’t take my word for it. Ask He Who Must Be Fed. He won’t steer you wrong.

Perfect Pesto

BasilPlantI love basil. I love basil so much that I have tried and tried over the years to grow it. However, much to my culinary chagrin, I have failed. Until. This. Year.

I don’t know what I did right, but I finally managed to successfully grow basil, and it’s beautiful.

What comes next? Well, making homemade pesto, of course.

There are tons of pesto recipes out there. I used one from the Two Peas & Their Pod blog.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

PestoInFoodProcessor1Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the cheese and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

You’re done.

Next time, I’ll share with you what wonderful  dinner I made with my pesto. He Who Must Be Fed was delighted.