Hey, I Like Your Dessert!

Matt and I headed back to Red Hook for some foodie goods and this time I made sure to stop by Baked on Van Brunt Street. I was not disappointed. Miraculously, I managed to make it home before I cracked open the box (maybe that’s because I had just eaten a lobster roll and mini-key lime pie).

We bought a Nutella cookie, a sweet and salty brownie, and the big winner… the salted caramel bar. Upon taking my first bite of the salted caramel bar, I said, “Oh. Oh wow. That is very, very special.” A shortbread bottom, caramel middle, and chocolate top, sprinkled with flaked sea salt. Heaven.

Baked has a few cookbooks out so many of their recipes have made their way onto the internet. This one in particular looks promising.

image: annies eats

Heads up, it has five sticks of butter. FIVE.

Holiday Cooking Part 1 – S’mores-to-Go

Oh, hello there. I didn’t see you. I was busy gazing at these babies.


These are the perfect holiday party treat. They are easy to make and even easier to eat. My friends Matt and Shara (holla!) brought these to our 3rd Annual Fakesgiving and they were the hit of the party. I made them for a party last week and it took every ounce of will power in me to only eat one before heading out.

The recipe comes from The Pampered Chef and can be found here, but here is a screen shot:

I opted to cut off the screen shot before the nutrition facts because really, who needs nutrition facts on a dessert?

I don’t have too much to add (for once). The only change I made was that I bought Ghirardelli chocolate bars instead of the Hershey-type bar I was supposed to buy. As a result, I had to cut each Ghirardelli square into quarters which took all of thirty seconds.

I find it pretty funny how far The Pampered Chef will go to try to sell you stuff. For instance, the recipe tells you to use their Professional Shears dipped in cold water to cut the marshmallows. Ok… or you could use a knife? Maybe?

I don’t have a Mini Tart Shaper (the shame!) so I used the end of a citrus reamer to press down the bottoms. You could also use a thumb.

Make sure you really spray/grease the heck out of the muffin pan or these suckers aren’t coming out. Mmmm – don’t they look great? How could they possibly get better?

Oh right, by dipping the tops in chocolate.

The recipe makes 24 but they go fast so you may want to play it safe and double it!

Recipe Share

Hey all – I’ve been a busy bee in the kitchen lately trying new some recipes and whipping up some of my favorites. Nothing original, just scouring the web and tweaking where necessary. I thought I’d share and hopefully inspire you to get your booty off the couch and in the kitchen!

Ina Garten’s Roasted Tomato Basil Soup – Great for summer because you can eat it cold.  In a few months enjoy a happy winter weekend by eating it warm with a grilled cheese sandwich. Yum. My tweaks: use half the salt it calls for (Ina Garten if you’re reading this, your cardiologist called, stop using so much salt) and use low sodium chicken stock. Slightly annoying that you have to run this through a food mill. If you don’t have one you could get around that step by removing the tomato skins after you roast them and then running the soup through a blender for a few seconds. You won’t get quite the same consistency, but it would be ok in a pinch.

Ina Garten’s Chicken Salad Veronique – This is chicken salad jazzed up with green grapes and tarragon. I typically don’t like tarragon because it has an anise (licorice) flavor, but it really works here. Again, go easy on the salt. This salad is great on a crispy ciabatta bread.

Giada De Laurentiis’s Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetable – This was surprisingly SO good. The recipe calls for two zucchini and two squash but just use two squash (unless they are freakishly small). There was no way four would have fit in the pan. I didn’t have the dried Italian herb mix it called for – actually that’s not true, I found a jar of it that expired in 2008 – so I just made my own. I combined dried thyme, rosemary and oregano and it was fine. I also used plain mozzarella instead of smoked.

Ina Garten’s Tabbouleh Salad – I made this for the first time about a month ago and I’ve made it four times already. I can’t get enough of it and it’s actually healthy. Great on its own but even better in a warmed up pita. When I saw Ina G make it on her show, she used chicken stock instead of water so that’s what I did the first time. Never again. The chicken flavor was a terrible match for the lemon, herb and vegetable flavors. Since then I just do what the original recipe says and use boiling water. Aside from a little bit of olive oil, there is no fat because it’s just herbs, veggies, and wheat bulgur (very healthy grain that has the consistency of couscous). I also like to add a little avocado just before serving. That negates the no fat thing but come on, it’s avocado!

And of course you can’t forget dessert… Ina Garten’s Peach and Blueberry Crumbles – so good and perfect for summer because you can use up those peaches.  I will definitely tweak this for fall and winter with other fruits (pear and apple?). This one I actually got around to taking a picture of before I put it in the oven but I was so overwhelmed by the delicious smells coming from the kitchen that I forgot to snap a picture of the finished product. Let’s just say it was bubbling and delicious looking. I also did not have the small ramekins that the recipe called for so I made four LARGE crumbles instead of six reasonable portions. I had no trouble finishing the larger one 🙂


Fruit Topped Cheesecake Bars

This recipe comes from the inside of a Philadelphia cream cheese package from more than ten years ago. I even used the ten-year old cream cheese IN the recipe. Kidding.

I know it used to be available on the Philadelphia (Kraft Foods) website, but I couldn’t find it, so you’ll just have to trust me!


2 cups graham cracker crumbs (available in a box in the baking aisle, or you can crush actual crackers yourself)

7 tablespoons of butter, melted

1 cup of sugar

3 packages of cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1/2 cup  mashed banana (1 large, ripe banana)

3 eggs

8-10 strawberries, cut in half

1 banana sliced

1 can (8oz.) pineapple chunks, drained

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl. Use a fork (or the forks God gave you, your hands) to combine the ingredients until the crumbs are moistened and can be pressed into a crust. Press onto the bottom of a rectangular pan (13 x 9-ish).

To soften the cream cheese, microwave for 15-second increments until it’s soft but not melted. With an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, 3/4 cup of sugar, and vanilla until blended. Add eggs and mix until combined.

Stir in mashed banana and pour batter over crust. A note about the banana: even people who don’t like banana, like this cheesecake. The flavor is so mild most people don’t even realize it’s banana.

This is the mashed banana. I mashed it with a fork in a Pyrex cup.

Bake for 30 minutes – the edges should look done but the center can be a LITTLE wiggly. It’s important not to undercook cheesecake so if you’re unsure, give it another 3-5 minutes.

Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours. Cut into bars and top each piece with a strawberry half, banana slice and pineapple chunk. Graciously accept compliments from all who taste it.

Peach Cobbler

Fresh peaches are such a treat and now is a great time to get them. To tell if they’re ripe, smell the spot where the stem is (was). If it smells peachy, it’s good.

A few years ago I went to see Katie Lee Joel do a cooking demonstration at the Viking Cooking School (formerly Loaves and Fishes) in Garden City. At the time she was married to Billy Joel but in case you hadn’t heard, it didn’t work out. Big surprise there.

She was gorgeous and friendly and lovely. I bought her cookbook and one of my favorite recipes is the peach cobbler. The topping is more like a biscuit than a crumble and the focus is really on the peaches. Unfortunately, there is a typo in the recipe so I’ve had to make some executive decisions. The ingredient list calls for one and one quarter cups of sugar, but the directions only have you use one cup. I think the biscuit could be a little sweeter so I decided that the extra quarter cup should go there.

The cookbook is decent, but you can definitely tell that it’s her first one. For example in this recipe it says 4-5 peaches, peeled and sliced. Ok, how thick should they be sliced? Thinly sliced? Thick wedges? Also, peaches are practically impossible to peel, so how about a trick (which I included below, courtesy of Ina Garten)?  If you like southern food, it’s worth a read, otherwise, you can just borrow mine.


5 peaches

1.25 cups of sugar

1 cup of flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup of milk

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon of cornstarch

3/4 cup of boiling water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

To prepare the peaches, bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop the peaches in for 30 seconds. Take them out and put them in a bowl of very cold water to stop the cooking. When they’re cool enough to handle, the peels should slide right off. WARNING: Naked peaches are very slippery! Be careful when you’re slicing them. Slice the peaches into 1/2 inch wedges. Place them in an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the sugar, the flour, the baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the milk and melted butter and mix together. Evenly pour the batter over the peaches.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining sugar with the cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Sprinkle it over the batter. Evenly pour the boiling water over everything. This will mix with the dry ingredients to make a nice sauce for the peaches.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until the top starts to brown. Serve warm. I’ve had it for breakfast for the past three mornings – it’s fruit!

Apple Crumb Cheesecake

So let’s pretend that no one cares about fat, cholesterol, sugar, or cellulite. Pretending? Ok, now you can make these cheesecake bars.

Paula Deen’s Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bar recipe is here. It’s pretty good as is, but it has three sticks of butter and a completely unnecessary caramel sauce. I changed the crust to a graham cracker one and took out the sauce. It’s better (and less fattening).

Crust Ingredients

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (store-bought or homemade)

1/3 cup of butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

Cheesecake Ingredients

2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple Mixture Ingredients

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons of sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (Paula calls for more but I don’t like too much)

Streusel Crumb Topping Ingredients

1 cup flour

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats (I used old-fashioned and they were fine)

1 stick of butter melted

I know it looks like a lot, but it’s not difficult, it’s just a matter of assembling all the parts.

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the crust ingredients and mix together with a fork. Gently press it into a 13×9 pan.

To soften the cream cheese, microwave it for 15-second increments until it’s a little soft. You DON’T want to cook/melt it. Combine the cream cheese with 1/2 sugar and mix on medium speed until they are smooth and combined.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and the teaspoon of vanilla. Mix until it’s a smooth batter consistency. Carefully pour over the crust. Smooth it out with a large spoon but be careful not to scoop up the crumb bottom with it.

Eeek! We’re naked!

Peel and chop the apples and stir them in a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle them over the cheesecake.

Combine the melted butter, flour, brown sugar, and oats and make crumbs with your hands (or a fork if you’re feeling prissy). Sprinkle the crumbs over the apples.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the center is set and a toothpick comes out (mostly) clean. Let cool for 30 minutes or so and refrigerate for several hours before serving.


Chocolate chip bars, where have you been all my life?

At an after school meeting I helped myself to two chocolate chip squares prepared by the Home and Careers teacher. That night I emailed her demanding (delicately requesting) the recipe and on Friday it arrived on my desk. Three batches later I am HOOKED. It’s like a blondie with chocolate chips and it’s chewy and salty and practically perfect. Make them immediately.


1 stick of salted butter (softened)

1/3 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 egg

1 1/4 cups of flour

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

6 ounces of chocolate chips

1/2 cup of chopped nuts (if you want)

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease an 8×8 pan.

The butter needs to be softened so ideally you would have left it on the counter for a day. If you didn’t, cut it into thirds and microwave for ten-second increments until it’s soft. While some of it may melt, you do NOT want a stick of melted butter. That would be bad.

Combine the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a bowl and beat for a minute until the ingredients are combined and the dough is fluffy.

Add one egg and the teaspoon of vanilla and beat on low speed to combine.

In thirds, add the flour, salt, and baking soda. Wait for each third to incorporate before adding the next.

With a large spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips (I only had chunks in the house).  Spread the dough into the pan and sprinkle on a few more chips. Bake for 14-18 minutes. It should be lightly browned and  a toothpick tester should come out clean.

I should have added more chips on top to this one. Let it cool for 20-30 minutes and then cut into squares. Get ready to have a lot more friends after you make these.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

My friend Laura made these for a Super Bowl party last month and I ate one. Ok, two. Let’s be honest, three. And a half.

I wasn’t able to get the exact recipe from her before I had to make them for a work party, so I hunted around online and found them on the Toll House website. The basics of the recipe are fine, but Laura and I both agreed that it could use some more peanut butter on the bottom layer.

Image: Nestle Toll House website

I also ignored their recommendation of putting chips in the bottom half because I think that breaks up the crumbly, peanut buttery, graham cracker goodness of it.

The Toll House website recipe is for a 13×9 baking pan but I only wanted an 8×8 pan so I adjusted the measurements accordingly below.


1 1/4 cups peanut butter plus 3 tablespoons

1 stick of butter, softened

1 1/4 cups of confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)

2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (crush them yourself or buy them in a box)

1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)

Grease the baking dish. In a mixing bowl combine the peanut butter (save the two tablespoons) and the stick of butter. Use an electric mixer to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

Before you start GRADUALLY adding in the sugar, sift it if it’s lumpy. Trader Joe’s makes a powdered sugar from evaporated cane juice and it’s unrefined. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still sugar, but the less refined the better, right? For this I used the regular stuff because Matt hadn’t bought the new kind yet. I’m just letting you know it’s out there, and I’ve since used it with tasty results.

Sifting sugar can be messy. And it sort of makes your kitchen look like a crack den.

So again, you’re gradually adding the sugar and mixing with the electric mixer. Then add the graham cracker crumbs and stir it together with a big spoon.

Spread the mixture into the greased baking pan and get cracking on the topping. Make yourself a double boiler by setting a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (about an inch). Combine the chocolate chips and remaining peanut butter and stir until the mixture is smooth and shiny. If you really can’t manage with the double boiler, microwave the chocolate and peanut butter in 30-second increments, stirring quite a bit between heatings.

Pour the mixture over the bottom and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour and then cut it up into small bars. Yes, you heard me correctly – no baking!

Then come over and clean up my kitchen.