Category Archives: Lauren

Lauren: Orange Cinnamon Rolls

photo (4)Happy holidays friends! Welcome back to Cooking with Copy. It’s been getting quite festive around here lately between the sparkly tree, the music, and the three kinds of cookie dough chilling in the fridge. Sending care packages and buying washi tape have become my new hobbies, and sugar may as well be the base of the food pyramid.

No matter! We’re here to talk about more important things, like what you’re going to serve to overnight guests on Christmas morning. Or to yourself tomorrow morning. Or right now.

See, every overnight at grandma’s house in Indiana ends the same way: with Pillsbury orange cinnamon rolls served on her white mellamine dishes with the green trim, right before loading up the car and heading home. The rolls don’t exist outside of grandma’s house.

Then I watched Joy the Baker’s episode of, “Bonkers Awesome,” featuring The Pioneer Woman, and the world stood still. These were happening—with or without a trip to the Hoosier state.

The moment Joy posted the recipe, the countdown till Project Bun was in the oven (and the end of the workday), began. Having never made a yeasted item in my life—besides that one accidental-and-regrettable Jamie Oliver-fried-pizza-dough situation all those years ago, for which I am still appologizing—the long recipe, complete with dough rising and resting times, seemed ominous.

Orange cinnamon rollsThe truth is, I’m a lazy baker. This explains why cookies spew from my house at such an alarming rate. Yet even I managed to pull through for these. They’re so good, it’s stupid.

Adapted from Joy the Baker’s Bonkers Awesome Pistachio, Orange, Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

Notes:

  • I like mine on the simpler side, but let me know how it goes if you add the pistachios and dark chocolate.
  • This dough is stubborn and took nearly three hours to rise, so fear not if yours isn’t perfectly pillowy after one.
  • If you have a dishwasher, run it once through with the dirty dishes from dough mixing, while the dough does its preliminary rise in a warm place in the kitchen. Once the cycle is finished, unload the dishes and place the covered pot of dough into the now warm-and-empty dishwasher, and close the door. Leave the dough there until it has achieved the desired fluffiness.
  • After the three-hour dough ordeal it was time for bed, so I popped it into the fridge overnight. The rolls still baked perfectly the next morning.
  • Go crazy with the orange zest! I’d recomment zesting two oranges—doubling the amount Joy calls for. In keeping, feel free to layer on the cinnamon and sugar; the more, the better.
  • Baking the rolls in a round pan (which was probably too small) left raw dough in the center of the pan and required much more baking time than the square Pyrex dish. Use the latter if possible.
  • Add 3 (or more tablespoons) of orange juice to the glaze. Just do it.
  • Rolls can be enjoyed equally whether eaten layer by layer, or as one giant blob.
  • Bonus: You will have a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice thanks to the leftover juice from the glaze.

photo (3)They are the perfect way to thank grandma for all the cinnamon rolls she’s made for you over the years. Happy baking!

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Lauren: Homemade Butterfinger candy bites

The bites, before being covered in chocolate.

The bites, before being covered in chocolate.

Have you ever been rudely awakened by the piercing banshee-like screech of the smoke alarm in your place of residence? Caro can attest to the handful of times this happened during our senior year of college. We still haven’t forgotten about you, third floor neighbors with the burnt popcorn habit.

Point being, this happened again today. Several unsuccessful attempts at sleep later, I decided to embrace the early morning wakeup call and do something. Clearly my first thought was to make what I’d been staring at on Pinterest all week—Butterfinger candy.

I’m really into Butterfinger. It’s flaky, and peanutty, and buttery, and seriously, what’s not to like? Upon viewing the candy of my dreams in picture form, and discovering that the recipe only requires three ingredients and a microwave, the decision was made and I got to work.

Homemade Butterfinger candy bar/bite:

(adapted very slightly from Six Sisters’ Stuff, although I was initially hooked by this photo from Daydream Kitchen)

Ingredients and supplies:

  • 1 lb. bag of regular candy corn
  • (one) 16 oz. jar of peanut butter—Note: I’d go with a natural peanut butter because there is so much sweetness coming from the candy corn and chocolate (this is my favorite).
  • 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips. Guittard chocolate chips. Or candy coating as the recipe calls for. I had no idea what that meant and didn’t feel like leaving my house if it turned out to be something I didn’t own, so, my laziness, and thus chocolate chips, won.
  • 9×9 in. baking dish—try to use Pyrex so that it can change temperature quickly and drastically without cracking.
  • Wax paper
  • Access to a freezer
  • Access to a microwave
  • A microwave-safe vessel in which to melt candy corn
  • Some sort of double boiling contraption—mine is very low-tech. Read: a pot with two inches of water in it, topped with a steel mixing bowl to house the chocolate
  • spatula/wooden spoon—NOT A WHISK. DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE I DID! I.E. believing that the candy corn will ever liquify. While it certainly melts down and becomes pliable, it at no point actually liquifies, and if you try to stir with a whisk, the huge glob of candy becomes lodged within the cage of the whisk. So, STAY AWAY FROM THE WHISK.

Recipe:

  1. Use wax paper to line the bottom and sides (so that some overhangs the edge) of the 9×9 baking dish.
  2. Dump the contents of the bag of candy corn into a microwave-safe vessel, and microwave it on high for one minute.
  3. Remove the vessel and stir. Then place it back in the microwave and continue to microwave for 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until the candy corn totally melts.
  4. Stir peanut butter into the mixture and try to mix it as evenly as possible with the melted candy corn.
  5. Dump mixture into wax paper-coated baking dish and smooth out the top as evenly as possible with a wooden spoon/spatula. When that falls short, place another sheet of wax paper over the top of the mixture to press it into a flat-ish slab.
  6. Remove the top sheet of wax paper and place the dish to the side to wait for it to cool completely. Or, if you’re as impatient as I am, put it into the refrigerator or freezer until it has completely cooled.
  7. Once the mixture has cooled, remove it from the dish. I ran hot water over the bottom and edges of my Pyrex dish so that the mixture and wax paper would free themselves from the glass, and then inverted it onto a cutting board. I also ran a knife along one edge—between the candy and the dish—which dislodged the candy brick in one try. Once free, remove the wax paper.
  8. You may have to wait for the block to warm up a bit, but once it is cut-able (yes, that is now a word), cut into bars or wee bites like I did, and either melt the chocolate/candy coating in a double boiler and dip the flaky bars (mine didn’t have enough structural integrity to be dipped) into the melted chocolate, or, lay the pieces on a cooling rack with a washable cutting board (all of mine are plastic, don’t use a butcher block for this)/wax paper/parchment/foil/whatever underneath it to catch chocolate drips, and use a spoon to haphazardly paint chocolate onto the bars.
  9. Refreeze/refrigerate for the chocolate to harder, or, if you decided to forgo chocolate, eat!
The finished bites.

The finished bites.

I couldn’t quite believe how much this tasted like authentic Butterfinger. I also have zero idea how someone ever thought up this recipe, and figured candy corn would provide the correct texture, but it does, and they’re great, and you should try them immediately if not sooner. Now get out and enjoy the beautiful day! And Target’s 2 bags-for-$5 sale on candy corn.

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Lauren: Summer Break is Over and We’re Officially One Year Old

Hello, and welcome back to Cooking with Copy. Our blog baby is celebrating its first birthday, so please help us blow out its imaginary birthday candle!

It has been a whirlwind/tornado of a summer and I’m glad to be back here with you. There were birthdays, and birthdays, and oh, did I mention birthdays? There were big family dinners upon big family dinners. There were holidays, anniversaries, baby showers, births, bridal showers, retirement concerts, parties, weddings, Blogshop, Ravinia concerts, trips to Portland, OR,  New York, NY, St. Louis, MO, Holland, MI, Madison, WI, and several trips to South Bend, IN, there were conventions (the National Stationery Show and the American Library Association Annual Conference), internships, and interviews, there were visits from friends and sisters and nephews and brothers-in-law, from my brother’s Argentine mothers-in-law and even from California cousins, and, most recently, there were weeks upon weeks (upon weeks, we’re still going) of packing and moving my grandparents into their new condo.

With only two weekends without plans, visitors, or travel from May until now, it’s no wonder my room looks like I’m the one moving. In between all of the plans this summer I found way too many pockets of time during which I made way too much food. This actually worked out for the best as there was almost always a guest, a workman, a party, or a special event that benefited from the food, but let’s just say I’ve met my butter/sugar/chocolate/carb quota for the year.

So, now that summer is coming to a close, are you ready to get this show back on the road with an epic 5-month-in-the-making recipe roundup? Great, let’s go!

Note: I didn’t take a photo of everything, but all of the recipes here link back to their original posts which do include beautiful photos.

Birthday baking:

  • Confetti Waffles
Simply make the batter according to the box directions and throw sprinkles in right before pouring batter into the iron.

Make the batter according to the directions on the box and throw sprinkles in right before pouring the batter into the iron.

Cupcake Puppy Chow (sans powdered sugar) comes together in 10 minutes.

Cupcake Puppy Chow (pre-powdered sugar coat) comes together in 10 minutes.

Notes: Omit butter, and add 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. vanilla extract to the melted almond bark/extract/heavy cream mixture

Grandma’s visits:

IMG_1715

Notes: This is just an ENORMOUS chocolate bar and would be better with twice the coconut and 1/3 the chocolate.

Father’s Day:

Baby shower:

Basic sangria is perfect for just about any summer event.

Things I learned this summer: Nothing makes women as thirsty as a baby shower. We had to refill the container twice.

Family dinners:

Make sure the buckle is THOROUGHLY cooked when you remove it from the oven. You may need to bake it longer than Tracy specifies. This one was totally raw in the middle.

Make sure the buckle is THOROUGHLY cooked when you remove it from the oven. You may need to bake it longer than Tracy specifies. The first one had to be thrown out because it was totally raw, adding baking time saved the second one though.

I CANNOT STOP EATING THESE AND IT'S A PROBLEM BECAUSE THEY TAKE FIVE MINUTES TO MAKE!!!

I CANNOT STOP EATING THESE AND IT’S A PROBLEM BECAUSE THEY ONLY TAKE FIVE MINUTES TO MAKE

Note: Make sure to freeze the chips until the last possible second so they don’t melt. Major, major bonus points if you use Guittard Milk Chocolate Chips. Can’t say enough good things about Guittard, every chip I’ve tried has been fantastic. I am totally willing to be a brand ambassador. Guittard, get at me.

Momofuku Milk Bar's birthday cake elevates your typical confetti to new heights.

Momofuku Milk Bar’s birthday cake elevates the typical confetti cake to new heights with a richer and more complex flavor than boxed versions.

This is crack. Do not make this if you don't want to risk eating the entire contents of the pan.

THIS IS CRACK. Consider yourself warned.

Notes: I bet a combo of confetti crumb and the confetti cake above would make kick-ass mix-ins in a homemade cake batter or vanilla ice cream…just saying.

Thai beef (sans fried egg) that every single person I've made it for, has loved.

Thai beef (here without the fried egg) has yet to meet a hater.

Notes: This recipe is easy, fast, and unique. It’s my fallback for nights when I don’t want to think about what to make.

These were just an excuse to injest a LOT of mini m&ms.

Let’s face it, these were just an excuse to ingest a LOT of mini M&Ms. Don’t look at me like that.

I used Marionberry jam because my sister brought us some as a gift, but you can use any kind of jam you'd like.

My sister brought us a jar of marionberry jam from Oregon which I was dying to use for these, but you can use any kind of jam/jelly you’d like.

  1. Sautee the kale until slightly soft and brighter green.
  2. Finish cooking and scrambling your eggs (or in my case, egg whites) and put into a bowl.
  3. Sprinkle cheese (I like mozzarella) on top.
  4. Get Excited.
  5. Eat.
Shortbread with peaches.

Butter with peaches, what’s not to like? Plus I’m a sucker for this red/orange/yellow color combo.

Peanut butter chip and chocolate chip granola bars.

A little too sweet, but worth a try with brown rice syrup instead of butter. They’re also perfect for shipping across the country.

Very poppy seed-y

Very poppy seed-y, kinda too sweet.

It's 93 degrees outside but this week I pretended it was fall with these frosted pumpkin cookies/cakes. They're really muffies, not cookies, and the frosting is too sweet, but they received recipe requests from people at my dad's office so here you go.

It might be 93 degrees outside but I pretended it was fall with these frosted pumpkin cookies/cakes. They’re really just glorified muffies, not cookies, and the frosting is too sweet and doesn’t fully set, but they received recipe requests from people at my dad’s office so here you go.

Happy September and welcome back.

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Lauren: Linda’s Lemon Drizzle Cake

lemoncakewhole

I couldn’t cut into this cake because it was a gift, but look at the photo below to see the bright yellow interior.

Who likes Costco? MEMEME!!! Well sort of. Walking through the aisles and sneaking all sorts of delicious samples and Lululemon-esque yoga pants for $25 is great. But who needs a year’s supply of fruit snacks (my mother)? Or Cheerios (won’t they go stale?) Or lemons? Buying produce or dairy in bulk makes no sense to me unless you’re throwing a party. But that didn’t stop my mom from buying a bag containing enough lemons to last Martha a month (and that’s saying a lot).

I assumed this bag of lemons would simply waste away into little white shrivels since we’d never use that many before they went bad, but I was wrong. So wrong. In fact I personally used up the entire contents in three days. And it was all because of a recipe I found in a magazine.

While I’m not sure that I’ve ever read an issue of Town & Country, the April 2013 cover featured Allison Williams and, as the huge “Girls” fan that I am, that was that. Next thing I knew I’d paid for it, read the issue, and was zesting six lemons in the kitchen at 10 p.m.

The recipe is called Linda’s Lemon Drizzle Cake but I’ve renamed it the Lemony Snicket Cake because you can’t say the word lemony without me thinking of my beloved Mr. Snicket (and I’m not kidding, I was OBSESSED with these books and in fifth grade dressed as Violet Baudelaire for Halloween).

The cake is really easy to make, is doused in the most deliciously sweet-tart glaze EVER, and makes your kitchen smell like a dream. Even my niece was into it. What you don’t see: how she then reached out to grab some and had to be restrained. Not unlike me…

Anyway, are you ready for this recipe? Here we go!

Linda’s Lemon Drizzle Cake (or the Lemony Snicket Cake)—slightly adapted from the April 2013 issue of Town & Country magazine

Serves 6 (which means you get a rather large slice, SCORE!)

Ingredients:

  • Flour for dusting the pan
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 3/4 cup superfine (granulated) sugar
  • 2 large free-range eggs, beaten
  • finely grated zest and juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose or light spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • a toothpick

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and butter and flour a 9-inch nonstick loaf pan.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter and superfine sugar together with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the eggs and mix until light and fluffy. Stir in the lemon zest, flour, and baking powder, and mix well. Add 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and mix well again. Then beat in the milk.
  3. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, mix the remaining lemon juice and the confectioner’s sugar together in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, preferably one with a pour spout, to make the glaze.
  5. When it’s ready, take the cake out of the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate WITH A LIP/RIM. Otherwise the glaze will run off of the plate and all over the countertop, floor, etc. Pierce the top of the cake all over with a thin skewer/toothpick. Spoon/pour the lemon glaze carefully and evenly all over the cake until all of it is absorbed. It may look as though your cake is sitting in a puddle but give it a few hours and it’ll soak up all of that sweet and tart glaze.
  6. EAT!!!

Lemons are bright and sour and, essentially summer in fruit form. If you too like citrusy, not-too-sweet desserts that can be eaten at any time of day, then please, go to Costco and buy yourself an economy sized bag of lemons to make this cake. I promise, this is all you’ll have left:

The first cake that I made for my family, one day after I baked it.

The first cake that I made for my family, one day after I baked it.

Lemony Snicket Cake would also make a delightful Mother’s Day breakfast, not unlike these Valrhona Dark Chocolate and Orange Buttermilk Scones. Just saying.

Until next time, happy Mother’s Day!

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Lauren: Cornbread four ways

From left to right: Joy the Baker's cornbread, grandma's buttermilk cornbread, Martha Stewart's buttermilk cornbread

From left to right: Joy the Baker’s cornbread, grandma’s buttermilk cornbread, Martha Stewart’s buttermilk cornbread

No, that’s not a typo. I did spend last weekend making four kinds of cornbread, the first one just wasn’t good enough to be photographed. The recipe requirements for this trial were that what I made needed to be cornbread, include buttermilk, and preferably, not be sweet. Let’s just say I changed my tune as the baking went on. And on and on and on.

The impulse struck on Friday when I could no longer resist the siren song of Matthew Amster-Burton’s recipe from Spilled Milk. I wasn’t in the mood for any sticky, gluey, muffin-like corn business and it was an exciting prospect to, for the first time, try a true, totally-savory, Southern-style cornbread with absolutely zero sugar or flour. The recipe called for an 8 in. skillet and silly me, I thought the fact that mine was about 10 in. wouldn’t matter. Yeah, no. Instead of thick and substantial, the finished product was thin, about a centimeter tall—more of a corn cracker than bread—and extremely bitter. Straight into the trash it went, sans photo. One plus for the recipe: you preheat the skillet (with oil in it) in the preheating oven, and when you pour the batter into the skillet it sizzles and starts cooking IMMEDIATELY. Not shocking. Nonetheless, my inner second grader found it exciting to behold.

Up next, the second trial and the palest of the bunch: Martha Stewart’s buttermilk cornbread. While better than contender one, due to the addition of 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour, this bread was still pretty dry and not something I’d repeat after discovering breads three and four.

For the third recipe I trusted my first instincts, ignored up until that point, and went with the classic, moist and just-sweet-enough, grandma’s buttermilk cornbread from allrecipes.com which has an impressive 3,305 reviews, most of which are five-star. It was quite good, looked and tasted like the iconic cornbread with its golden color, and was the closest to the cornbread of my dreams I’ve found yet. We polished off about half the recipe. They’re especially delightful with butter.

Joy the Baker’s brown butter rosemary orange cornbread was the gold medalist of the Cornbread Taste Test of 2013. Fourth time was a charm (and my second time making this recipe) and only the three pieces in this photo avoided consumption (as in being eaten, not getting TB) and that was only because I hid them for photo purposes. The difference, and probably unfair advantage of this recipe? The additions of 1/3 cup of sugar, orange juice, orange zest, fresh rosemary, and browned butter which make this baby a star. The other secret: using instant polenta instead of cornmeal! The polenta I used was much finer and easier to chew than the cornmeal in the other three recipes.

From top to bottom: Joy the Baker's cornbread, grandma's buttermilk cornbread, Martha Stewart's buttermilk cornbread

From top to bottom: Joy the Baker’s cornbread, grandma’s buttermilk cornbread, Martha Stewart’s buttermilk cornbread

Well, I’m over cornbread now for at least the next year, so until next week I’m going to roll to bed. Enjoy your heat wave/ice storm/snow/tornado, and have a great weekend!

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Lauren: Cheese Crack(ers)

cheesestarsI beamed down from the planet Cheese. Seriously. During my junior year of college I nearly subsisted on wedges of Laughing Cow Light Cheese alone. Well those and salads, but come on, we all know salad is just an excuse for cheese. I feel similarly about my daily egg whites. What fun are they without shredded mozzarella? Most recently I’ve embraced eating Granny Smith apples with a few bits of cheddar. You could say cheese is my crack.

It makes sense then that from the moment Molly Yeh posted about her homemade sriracha gouda cheese-its, I needed them. My random interest in crackers was slow to catch fire as you might imagine as they are arguably the world’s most boring food. First I read about Joy’s sharp cheddar cheese (and chili cheese) crackers, then Molly Wizenberg’s oatcakes. And by the time Molly Yeh posted about her cheese-its, which feature my all-time favorite—SMOKED GOUDA—my cracker-love was blazing.

I made three different kinds of cheese crackers last week. Yeh’s, and both of Joy’s. This crunchy kitchen showdown yielded one reigning champ—a hybrid. It mixes many of the ingredients in Joy’s chili cheese crackers with Yeh’s dough base and baking times.

Ready to cook some crack?

Chili Cheese Crackers

Ingredients:

4 tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature

8 oz. cheddar cheese (I used a 2 year aged block of yellow cheddar)

1 cup all purpose flour whisked with:

  • around 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika (smoked if you have it, I didn’t)
  • Joy also adds ancho chili powder but I didn’t have any
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to bake at 350 degrees and place rack in the upper third of the oven.
  2. Throw all ingredients into an Oscar or other small-ish food processor and mix until it comes together into a dough. You can also mix the dough with a pastry knife if you’re feeling old school or don’t have access to a food processor. It’s just more annoying.
  3. Put a piece of parchment paper down on a flat surface and use a rolling pin to roll out the ball of dough until it’s 1/8 in. thick.
  4. Break out the cookie cutters! I made mini moons, tiny hearts, and small stars. You could also use a pizza cutter à la Molly and make simple rectangles. Collect the scraps and repeat until you’ve used all the dough.
  5. Arrange the cut crackers on the parchment atop a cookie sheet. The crackers don’t expand much in the oven so feel free to use every inch of the parchment.
  6. Bake the crackers in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes. Err on the side of over-baking. They get crunchier the longer they’re in the oven. Until they turn black. Then you’ve probably overdone it.
  7. They get a little greasy since you are melting cheese and butter after all, so I immediately placed the crackers in a single layer on a paper towel after removing them from the oven but this is optional.
  8. Just try to stop eating them.

cheesecrackers2If you’re at all spice-phobic these are your gateway drug. Despite what sounds like an ample amount of hot stuff present, the crackers are quite subtle and the intense cheesiness is what really comes through. The spices just give the crackers a nice toasty flavor. I swear this tastes like the actual recipe for Goldfish.

Until next week, farewell from the land of fromage!

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Lauren: Almond Butter Cup Smoothie

smoothieSometimes you want to spend an hour washing kale leaves for a salad and other times you just want to throw a bunch of stuff in a blender and press liquify. Almonds as this week’s pick allow me this opportunity to rest on my laurels.

You should know that in addition to my temporary sloth, I’m a little odd. I’m one of those people who actually prefers cold things to hot—even in sub-zero conditions. Soup for your cold? Nah, I’ll take ice cream. Oh, it’s -4 outside? Let’s make sno-cones. And for post-workout mid-blizzard munchies? An almond smoothie. It might feel like a brick in your stomach but it’s the best kind of brick. It actually solves the winter “I-can’t-stay-full” predicament and that is reason enough for a prize.

This smoothie, originally from Daniel Sage at Juice Press in New York, has been a fixture in my repertoire for the past few weeks and it is finally time to debut it to you, our lovely readers. While it may not be the prettiest smoothie ever, it sure is tasty, and did I mention it has no added sugar? Yep. None. It’s absolutely bursting with protein and the warming cinnamon thrown in doesn’t hurt either, especially during this latest round of snowstorms. Almonds are the shining stars of this recipe and appear in two forms—butter and milk. I have an odd fascination with grinding my own almond butter at The Fresh Market, but any kind will do. That plus unsweetened cocoa powder (this one is fantastic) and a banana and you’re golden. The recipe suggests adding agave nectar but I don’t see a point.

Now I’m going to go back to wearing my comforter around like that’s a thing. Cheers.

Recipe here. And if you have leftover almond butter lying around, may I recommend The Unrefined Kitchen’s almond butter dark chocolate chip cookies? Haven’t tried them but they look lovely.

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Lauren: Valentine’s Day Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

red velvet cheesecake brownieThe day of red and pink is here at last! Valentine’s Day!

A few weeks ago I tested this recipe from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen for red velvet cheesecake brownies and they changed my life. If you decide to plunge into this dreamworld of butter, sugar, chocolate, and cream cheese, then please follow these tips to achieve brownie bliss.

Whichever kind/percentage of chocolate you use (since the recipe simply calls for “dark chocolate,” (wow, thanks for those ultra specific directions), make sure the bar is something you’d be happy to eat in bar form as the chocolate is the star of the recipe. I made these brownies two times, the first with an organic cream cheese and the second with Philadelphia cream cheese. While the organic version looked like a curdled mess in the mixer, it retained more flavor and was a tangier counter to the chocolatey sweetness than the Philly version. The first bars also received rave reviews and Susan, my resident taste-tester, said, “Lauren, these might actually be one of the best things I have ever eaten.” But you know, take your pick.

Note too that these are FUDGY with a capital F. I had to cook them for several extra minutes (around 10) to achieve even the slightly brown edge described in the recipe due to their intense moisture (sorry!). They are totally worth it though and the recipe is low maintenance and comes together in a hurry—two mega pluses. They do well kept in tupperware in the refrigerator once they’ve cooled since they’re topped with cream cheese, but do let them stand at room temperature for around 10 minutes before serving so that you’ll really be able to taste their flavor.

These decadent bars are the perfect dessert for you, or you + others. You know what, these should only be baked in the event that you’ll serve them to a large group of people or else be prepared to eat the whole pan (which I DO NOT RECOMMEND!).

Some other recipes I considered before settling on this one:

Now go bake with your boo(s)/family/friends/furry companion and share the love that is these brownies. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Lauren: Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

chocolatemintcookiesfinalChocolate and mint are our guests of honor this week. They’re a winning pair, a total classic, a sophisticated gem of a couple. And yet, I wasn’t that excited. This is probably because mint chips, those green chocolate chip look alikes, taste weird and kind of freak me out and because really, how could any chocolate-mint creation top the Thin Mint?

It’s difficult to be sure, and while these cookies do not outshine my Girl Scout cookies of yore, they are pretty awesome. They come from Joy the Baker and they do not disappoint. Perfectly fitting for a week filled with freezing, snowy days, these cookies are a little chilly and a lot chocolatey. Like A LOT. The best tip I have is to use my new favorite thing: Guittard Chocolate Chips (available at The Fresh Market and on Amazon). A thousand times better than anything by Ghirardelli or Nestlé, and so delicious I dare you not to eat them right out of the bag. If I can help it, I will never use anything else.

As per usual Joy writes a clear recipe but do beware of too much mint. Take only slight advantage of the surface tension of the measuring spoon and your cookies may veer a little closer to toothpaste-y than to something you want to intentionally ingest. Make sure to follow the baking time exactly too and you’ll have the perfect chewy-yet-not-undercooked cookie consistency, the one for which people eternally quest. I loved using only milk chocolate chips for this recipe but Joy uses a combination of chips, it could be delicious with dark chocolate too. Try it, let me know!

MAKE ME!

Joy’s recipe won because a) I’m lazy, and b) I had all the ingredients in my house. In a more ambitious mood these Chocolate Mint Wafer (sandwiches) from Martha Stewart would have won in a second.

Now get outside and play in the snow!

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Lauren: Quinoa, Spinach (no-Mac), and Cheese

quinoa and spinach macaroni and cheeseGuys. GUYS! I MADE A ROUX! Tonight I made a roux. It was pretty exciting. I stirred and stirred the butter and flour mixture, added the milk, kept stirring and then ALL OF A SUDDEN—IT WAS A SAUCE! All of this in honor of this week’s ingredient: spinach. Betcha didn’t see that one coming did ya?

When Caro and I were discussing this month’s ingredients a few weeks ago, we were sort of on a vegetable kick. Well, actually, never mind, you’ll see that dream die in about a week. Anyway, we were talking and came up with spinach. That was all well and good, I thought I’d make a salad or maybe the spinach-quinoa patties (like those for example) I keep seeing everywhere. Then. I saw. This.

Caro’s really into the blog Two Peas and their Pod. Remember her easy, customizable, no-bake granola bars from a few weeks ago? Those magical bars that can be modified to fit just about ANY taste? Mmmhmm, those are from Two Peas. When I saw her bars I had to check out the site and while I was there found this magical spinach creation and knew—it was happening.

Tonight it did. There isn’t much to say about this recipe except:

  • Don’t curdle the milk. Just don’t do it. Keep whisking.
  • It helps to have some already-cooked quinoa around. I assumed that a little under two cups of dry quinoa would yield the three cups of cooked quinoa the recipe called for. Um yeah, so I ended up with quinoa for eight. At least. Pre-cook some quinoa and measure out three cups of it while hydrated to avoid this problem.
  • I’m guessing my quinoa proliferation was the reason why once in the oven, the dish didn’t bubble in the recommended amount of time, apart from a few stray bubbles around the edges.
  • Don’t over bake the dish which FOR ONCE I didn’t do, because dry quinoa and cheese is a sad, sad thing.
  • This is not healthy. Just because it’s not pasta does not make it healthy. There is enough whole milk, cheese, and butter to kill at least five people. But I did throw in a bunch of spinach so let’s just pretend.

Now invite everyone over for this quinoa, spinach (no-mac), and cheese (which received rave reviews from my dining mates by the way) and prepare to be the most popular of all your friends.

And let’s be honest; using a cast iron skillet is half the fun.

Recipe here!

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