With Sweet Dreams and Even Sweeter Days

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jumbo Fudge Brownies with Perfect Chocolate Frosting

I've been known to be, in the past...in my life.... somewhat of a romantic.

But really, it's not my fault.

It's not.

It all started when I was 12 years old with this scene right here. ( <- click me!)

I was in trouble.  It was out of my control.

When the allure of it all started to wear off, 16 year old me was hit with this whammy. ( <- click me again!)

This scene may or may not have influenced the years of my life from 16-18. We just can't say for sure.

Finally I moved on to college, to bigger and better things where I was confident I could leave my romantic ideas behind me once and for all.  Freshman year in my dorm-room I was then confronted with this. ( <- click me one more time - you know you want to)

But seriously, can we talk about what a great movie "Love Actually" is sometime?  For real.  Great, sounds good, see you there.

As the years have gone by, my ideas of romance have changed and realigned.  All things considered I think I came out from those years pretty unscathed.  My 21 (almost 22) year old ideas of romance?  Hard to define.

But I'm thinking jumbo fudge brownies with perfect chocolate frosting are not the worst place to start.

Because really when romance starts with something as wonderful as these, it's only bound to look up.

I cut myself a half of one of these for dessert one night and was so smitten that the second half was also eaten before the thought of saving it for the next day even came into consideration.

These are truly phenomenal and some of (if not totally) the best brownies I have ever made.  Dense and chewy, with silky chocolate frosting piled high on top.

This is my go-to chocolate icing for cupcakes, cakes, and brownies and it is so simple yet the results are just out of this world.  It layered in pretty swirls over brownies that rival the size of most others I've ever seen make these a definite winner in my book.

But be careful who you make these for and what romance you try to start with them.

If you gift that special someone in your life with these and the next night they wind up outside of your window with a boom box over their head, or show up with signs at your door saying "to me, you are perfect" you can't say you haven't been warned.

These brownies will do things like that to you.

As for me I'm content to cuddle in with a warm cup of tea and one of these and focus on life's real moments - the ones that are far more real and far less cheesy... but maybe if Titanic is playing on TNT I'll still consider flipping by it for a moment.

Baby steps.


Jumbo Fudge Brownies with Perfect Chocolate Frosting
Servings: 18-20 brownies


For brownies:
19 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark cooa powder
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For frosting:
6 Tbsp butter (softened)
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4-1/3 cup milk

To make brownies preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter.  Cool slightly and stir in cocoa powder until combined.  In a separate mixing bowl beat the eggs and sugar until combined.  Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into the egg mixture and stir gradually to combine.  Stir in the vanilla and the cooled chocolate mixture and stir until combined.  Spread into greased pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool completely.

To make frosting in a clean mixing bowl combine butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, and vanilla and cream until smooth.  Add milk a little at a time until desired spreading consistency is reached.  Spread over cooled brownies, cut and enjoy.

Recipe adapted from: Taste of Home

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blackberry Lemon Meringue Pie

Do you ever think about what you owe your life to? (I know this is most likely just me - really I'm aware.)

Sometimes I think about this, not often mind you, but once in awhile definitely.

I owe my life to to an endless parade of events that reaches far back beyond what I could ever possibly know, but in the most recent past I am sure that I owe my existence to a locked door, a Temple University dorm room, a taxi cab ride, and pie.

My mom was completely shy as a young woman (not that you'd know that now) and when working for the bank after college at a branch she normally was never at, got locked out of the building.  Too shy to bang on the door loudly as I probably would have, she turned around to see coming the guy who happened to have the keys to let her in, my dad.

One night, while out at a bridal shower in South Philadelphia my mom-mom and all her girlfriends decided to catch a cab home to North Philadelphia, where she lived.  With so many girls packed in the cab, she ended up sitting right next to the driver and she was the last person to be dropped off.  The driver happened to ask her for her phone number that night, and two weeks later asked her to marry him as well....my grandfather.

My Grammy was a new freshman at Temple University back in the 1950's, being the go-getter that she still is today, when a lot of girls didn't go to college.  While walking down the hallway of her dorm on one of the first weeks, she just so happened to hear a young man playing the piano with his door wide open and she popped her head in just to say hello, less than a year later running away to Delaware to marry this same young man.  My grandfather.

My great-great grandmother ran a boarding house in the early 1900's in western Pennsylvania.  Her cooking and pie-making was well renowned and a hit with the local coal miners.  On the recommendation of his cousin for how great it the place was, a man went to stay at the boarding house on a whim one day and just so happen to fall in love with my great-great grandmother's daughter, my great grandmother, during his stay.... my great grandfather.

I was never the "start planning your future wedding" type of girl growing up, and truthfully still am not today.  But once in awhile, when I let my mind wander, I think about all of these seemingly random occurrences that lead to me being here, and I think to myself "I wonder what one day looking back, my own story will be."  

When I think about all these things I find it fitting that, not only does my entire mother's side of my family existence in some respect depend on how well known my great-great grandmother's cooking and baking and hospitality was, but also that I'm using the same rolling pin she used to make the pies that ultimately drew my great grandfather in, to still craft my own pies today.

I'll tell you, it sure does put a lot of pressure on my own pie making though.

While I'm not sure my pies will ever have the crazy effect on my own life and family as hers did, I still love nothing more than making a pie from scratch.  This summer I was all about the pies and every week you could find me shoving a new one under everyone's noses.  There was no end in sight.

This pie recipe as written, was a little fussy and overcomplicated, but I put my own spin on it and made some steps easier for you, and it resulted in an even better pie than the original in my opinion. 

 If you're really strapped for time, you can always use a premade pie crust - but I beg you to try your own, so worth it!  You could always also replace the meringue topping with some fresh whipped cream.

Not in the mood for blackberries?  Substitute raspberries or blueberries instead.  This pie is versatile and not uber complicated in the way that I've written it.  Any way you try it is bound to be great.  But do try it, it's a taste of summer even when the weather might be changing into fall.

As for me, I am truly lucky to be a product of all the love and stories about my family that I know about, and I'm sure countless others that I don't.  One day when I do figure out my own story of how I met the person I end up with, I'll be sure to let you know.  I only hope that when I reach that point I'm able to emulate all that these wonderful people in my family have put before me; the ideals of sticking with it through good times and bad, and just always making it work.

For now though, these people and their stories of hope and never knowing what's right around the corner for you in life, are more than enough.  


Blackberry Lemon Meringue Pie
Servings: 8-10


1 batch pie crust prebaked and cool
1/2-3/4  jar seedless blackberry jam
1 cup fresh blackberries
1- 1 1/2 cups store bought lemon curd

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup water

Pre-bake pie crust as instructed.  Let cool.  Smooth thin layer of blackberry jam all in the bottom of the crust.  Spoon lemon curd on top and smooth.  Refrigerate.  

To make meringue preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.  Beat until soft peaks form.  Stir sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan on medium hear until sugar dissolves.  Boil without stirring (only swirling the pan as needed) 6-8 min.  Beat in salt to egg whites.  Slowly pour hot syrup into egg mixture as it is beating (BE CAREFUL - THE MIXTURE IS EXTREMELY HOT).  Beat until cool (about 4 min).  Spoon over pie and scatter blackberries around it.  Bake pie until meringue is toasted 3-5 min.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 min until serving.

If using whipped cream instead of meringue, beat 1/2 cup heavy cream with 1-2 Tbsp powdered sugar and 1-2 tsp vanilla extract until slightly stiff and has desired consistency (I like my whipped cream on the stiff side)  Spoon over chilled pie and scatter blackberries around.  Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from: Bon Appetit

Thursday, September 15, 2011

3 Ingredient Homemade Butterfingers

I look at a lot of recipes.  Somehow this practice has snuck its way into my everyday life.

From the pile of cookbooks sitting next to my bed I peruse some nights before falling asleep, to the countless more lined up in my laundry room downstairs, to the food blogs I follow if not every day than close to it.

So it has been very rare lately that I see something that shocks me, or even surprises me.  I absolutely love baking, but with a pretty packed schedule I'm lucky if I see something that inspires me enough to make it at some point during that week, let alone that day, let alone right that instant.

The other day while taking 5 minutes to flip through some food blogs before I went out to lunch, I stumbled across these.  

I was stopped... literally in my tracks.

I was also hesitant, the idea almost seemed ludicrous.  Mix melted candy corn and peanut butter, then dip the pieces in chocolate, and these creations are supposed to be exact replicas of my beloved butterfinger candies?

However the pictures I saw looked exactly like butterfingers, and I knew that if these were a success that they had the potential to be some of the greatest things I have ever made, not only due to ease of directions but also due to the end result.

When I took these out of the freezer and got ready to dip them in chocolate I literally was dying to see how they were.  After dipping them and another 10 minutes of torture while they were in the freezer for a second time, I finally grabbed one out and took a bite.

For someone that writes a food blog, I wish I had the words to adequately describe these.  It's kind of my job right?

But I don't.

These are some of the best things (if not the best thing) I have ever made in the 2+ years of this baking marathon.

If you ever make something off of this blog, make these.  You will literally be blown away.

They are pretty much exact replicas of the butterfinger bars we all love so much.  Flavor wise, texture wise, everything.  And they were some of the easiest things to crank out ever.

I stood in my kitchen with this candy bar in my mouth, dumbfounded, thinking "How did this happen?".  I still don't have the answer to that.  All these years the secret to perfect homemade butterfingers was sitting right in front of me every Halloween season, and I never knew.

But let me tell you, I am so glad I know now.

I won't admit the number of these I ate in my kitchen that day, but I will admit that I gave the rest of the batch away just to get them away from me.  These defy willpower, at least in my book apparently.

So this fall, while candy corn is cheap and plentiful, grab a bag and make these.

I'm not sure the next time I'll find a recipe so astonishing again, so take my word for it.  You will not be disappointed.

As for me, I already have a second batch in the plans for this weekend.

I have a feeling these are going to be in my life for a long time.

You're welcome.

3 Ingredient Homemade Butterfingers
Servings: 20-30 mini bars

-16 oz candy corn
- 16 oz creamy peanut butter
- 2-3 cups milk or dark chocolate (I used dark)

Line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan with wax paper.  Melt the candy corn in the microwave in a medium bowl, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth.  Stir in the peanut butter until equally distributed and smooth.  Pour into prepared pan and smooth.  Place in the freezer for 10-20 minutes until firm.  In the meantime line a large baking sheet with wax paper.  Take the bars out of the pan and cut into mini butterfinger size bars (I just eyeballed it - you can too!).  Melt the chocolate in a clean medium bowl in the microwave stirring every 30 seconds until smooth.  Using a fork dip each butterfinger into the chocolate, turning to cover completely.  Take out of chocolate with fork and tap lightly on the side of the bowl for excess chocolate to fall off.  Place on wax paper lined baking sheet.  Continue with butterfingers until all are dipped.  (If at any point your chocolate becomes too hard to dip, simply return to the microwave and heat for another 10-15 seconds and stir.  Do this throughout the process as needed.)  When all bars have been dipped, place them in the freezer for an additional 5-10 minutes.  Enjoy.

Recipe adapted from: Ruf Love

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blueberry Baked French Toast

Things you may or may not know.

I'm 21 years old.

I have a queen size bed that I spread out in with a dozen big pillows.... only occasionally sharing it with Ted.

I fill my showers with girly smelling shampoos. 

I dance to practically every song I hear, whether it be in public or private.

I wear sundresses.

I make sweet french toast breakfast casseroles out of savory ingredients, just because I can.

And let me tell you, boy are they out of this world.

Instead of bread being the base of this, it's filled with two bags of pita chips.  This is just going to have to be another one of those times when you just trust me.

After sitting in the egg/milk mixture in the fridge overnight, the chips take on this magical quality. It tastes just like french toast.

Only better.

I made this french toast casserole for my family over the summer the day before I went down the shore with my mom and our family friends.  It was so well received that my family friends made me make it for them too, only 4 days later.

I like them, so I made it happen.

It's a funny thing that happens when I like you, I always wanna make you breakfast and dessert.

The rest of the day you're on your own.

This casserole was just as amazing the second time and not a crumb remained.

So just trust me on this one. Trust me on this one. TRUST ME ON THIS ONE.


(Trust me on this one)

Make this today and you won't be disappointed.

Blueberry Baked French Toast
Servings: 8-10


For casserole:
-2 regular sized bags Stacy’s pita chips – simply naked (or other plain pita chips in 7-8oz bags)
-7 large eggs
-2 cups milk (preferably whole or 2%)
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 tablespoons vanilla extract

For topping:
- 6 oz fresh blueberries
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
-1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 stick unsalted butter

(Note: be sure to start this recipe the night before you want to serve it!)  
Generously butter a 9x13 baking dish with butter (really butter it - when you think you have enough add more).  Pour in pita chips and smush down with hands slightly.  Whisk eggs, milk, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl.  Pour over pita chips, making sure to cover as much as possible.  Cover with tinfoil and set in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning, take out of the refrigerator 30 min before you want to bake it.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash blueberries and sprinkle over the top.  In a bowl mix together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Cut in butter and mix together with pastry cutter (or two knives) until butter pieces are small like the size of peas and well distributed throughout the dry ingredients.  Sprinkle all over the top of the casserole.  Bake uncovered 35-45 min.  Cut into squares and serve drizzled with maple syrup.  Prepare to be wowed.

Recipe adapted from: The Pioneer Woman

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bugs on a Picnic Cupcakes

I love my backyard.  It's one of my consolations of living away from my beloved city for the time being. Whenever I'm down, sitting out back usually does the trick and puts me back in a good mood in no time.

From my immediate backyard where I have countless memories of get togethers and parties and time spent with people I love, to my pool area where I spent many a summer growing up lounging and playing.

To all the way down back where we have a creek and a tree house my dad and his friend built for me and my friends, the baseball diamond we dug into the ground where wiffle ball was more of a religion than just a game, to the hills we would sled down, the hammocks we would relax on, and the swing sets we would try and swing just a little bit higher each time.  Cracking open pinatas so competitively and having my nextdoor neighbor take us all on fall hayrides for my birthday parties each year, and running out at midnight to beckon a new year, always hoping this would be the year.  For what though, I'm still not quite sure.

And of course the abandoned railroad tracks just beyond, that were always open for exploration, no matter what the time of year.

I could not have chosen a better place to have grown up, watching the seasons change and experiencing what each one had to offer.  My mom and her family were the first people to buy this house back in 1969 and I'm pleased to say both through her childhood and my own, it's been given more life than most homes and backyards get in a much longer time.  I know when I move on I'll really miss it, so for the time being I try to soak up every minute spent out here.

Some of my favorite memories of my backyard are all the summer get togethers we have had throughout the years.  I will admit though, one thing my idyllic backyard is not immune to... is bugs.

And so sprang forth the idea for these adorable and simple cupcakes.  I figured, if you can't beat um, join um.  And I guarantee these bugs are some you won't mind having around.

The best part is, all you need to create these cute cupcakes is a bag of peanut m&m's, some sliced almonds, and a can of chocolate frosting.

I went for more realistic bug creations (I'm a science girl remember ;D) but really, the sky is the limit where your imagination is involved.

I myself went with...

Some regular black ants.

Some red fire ants, which thankfully I've only run into in Florida, not here.

And some bumble bees.

As well as some plain green cupcakes as grass just to round it out.  I went with a standard chocolate cupcake to emulate the look of dirt with basic buttercream tinted green.  These could not be easier and were so much fun to put together.

So even though summer may be almost over and the time of summer BBQs outback are drawing to a close for now, at least I have the changing leaves and crisp air and the bonfires to look forward to in the fall.  Somehow, I think I'll survive.


Bugs on a Picnic Cupcakes
Servings: 12

12 Chocolate Cupcakes baked in paper liners
1 Batch of Basic Buttercream (tinted green)
1 can of chocolate frosting

Bake cupcakes as directed and let cool completely.  Frost with green buttercream and roll in green sprinkles if desired.  For black ants, place three brown peanut m&ms end to end on a cupcake.  Place chocolate frosting in a plastic bag with a corner snipped.  Draw legs on each ant and antennae if desired. For fire ants continue same process but with red peanut m&ms instead.  For bumble bees, place two yellow peanut m&ms on a cupcake and draw lines across with chocolate frosting.  Place two almonds with the smaller side inward on each side of the m&m to look like wings.  Serve and enjoy.

Recipe: A Mary Original

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Toasted Walnuts and Honey

Remember that time you loved me?

That time you trusted me?

The time I shoved that baked good under your nose so lovingly and after you took a bite you looked at me and said, "Mary, that was one of the best things I've ever eaten."?

Yea that time.

Do you remember it?  I do.

I need you to channel all of the feelings you were feeling for me and my baking in that moment, and take a leap of faith here, and just trust me on this one.

This is goat cheese ice cream.

Yea.... I said goat cheese.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that this will be universally adored.  Or that it's the same run of the mill chocolate or vanilla or peanut butter ice cream that we all love so much.

This ice cream is like the cheese and dessert course of your meal, wrapped up together in one spectacular way.  Truth be told, you can taste the goat cheese.  But with the addition of the walnuts along with some lavender honey it wasn't as blatant as I expected it to be.

It left me feeling......for lack of a better word.... swanky.  Like put on high heels and go out to a fancy dinner date in the city swanky.  Like Patrick Dempsey's hair swanky.

So I won't blame you if you stick with your tried and true mint chocolate chip ice cream.  But if you're looking for something different in your life.  Something exciting.

Something swanky.

Give this a try.

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Toasted Walnuts and Honey
Servings: 3 cups

1 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
8 oz goat cheese
6 egg yolks

Crumble the goat cheese in a large bowl and set mesh strainer on top.  Warm the milk and sugar over medium heat in a saucepan.  In a separate bowl whisk egg yolks together.  Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks and then scrape the egg yolks back into the saucepan.  Stir the mixture of medium heat until mixture thickens.  Pour through strainer and mix into goat cheese until melted.  Stir until cool over an ice bath.  Chill mixture in the refrigerator over night and the next day freeze in an ice cream maker according to the instructions.  To serve scatter with toasted walnuts and drizzle with honey.*

*To toast walnuts place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes, stirring once, until fragrant and brown.

Recipe adapted from: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz