Books & Cookies!


Hey there– It’s reading weather around here– cooler, calling for mugs of tea and books on the couch.  I wonder if you’re in the middle of a good book these days.  What are you reading??!

“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.”
– Lena Dunham

If you’re a reader (and I think a lot of you are!), get read to be charmed by Anne Bogel’s new book, I’d Rather Be Reading, the Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life. You’ll see yourself on these pages in chapters like Confess Your Literary Sins or Bookworm Problems (so funny!).
Here’s a quote from Anne:
“It took me thirty-five years to find my twin… We’re no bound by blood or formal ties. We’ve never shared a last name or an address or Thanksgiving dinner. Our twinness is confined to our reading lives: she’s that remarkable reader whose taste bears an astonishing resemblance to my own.”
The good news is that Anne also has a well curated book blog at Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Check it out!!

I discovered Kate Morton this year and am starting to make my way though her engaging stories.  Mostly recently, The House at Riverton.  In this book, is the recounting of a 98 year old woman with the family who lived in the house and the tragic death that shaped their history.  It was written before Downton Abbey but feels very much the same in detail and characters (I wonder if Julian Fellowes read the book!).  The narrator tells the stories of Hannah and Emmeline, sisters, whom she served as a lady’s maid.  The story pulls you along right until the end when the mystery unfolds. Now I’m waiting for her newest book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter!

I have a special affinity for Fatiima MIrza’s book A Place for Us. Rafiq and Lyla are the parents of 3 grown children who were raised in their conservative Muslim family in the Bay Area.  When the oldest daughter marries, the prodigal son, Amar, returns to the family.  Different family members recount incidents in the the growing up years of the children with tenderness and sometimes sorrow.  I loved the parents hearts for their three children and the last section of the book, the father’s recounting of his interactions with his son, had tears streaming down my face.  Beautiful complicated characters and the beautiful telling of one family’s story.

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain describes of the tumultuous love affair and marriage of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway.  Mostly told from the point of view of Martha, third of Hemingway’s four wives.  She is a writer and journalist and strong personality who comes to love Hemingway when they are both war correspondents, in war torn Madrid, as Franco captures the country.  They made their home together in a writer’s get away in Cuba and travel and write around the world.  Fascinating picture of their relationship– and of course, it sent me to Wikipedia to see home much of the story was actual.  MacLain also wrote The Paris Wife, the telling of Hemingway’s first marriage, also a worthwhile book.

Last month’s book for our was Lit group was Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward.  This story was a difficult one, narrated by sturdy 13 year old Jojo and his drug using mother Leonie.  Living in southern Mississippi with Jojo’s grandparents, they set off on a road trip to collect Jojo’s father who is being released from prison.  The story is populated by Jojo’s younger sister, his steady grandfather, Pop, an ailing grandmother and a pair of ghosts from the past.  The book is at points disturbing and at others hopeful.  Not an easy book, but a worthwhile one.  Winner of the National Book Award.

I’ll end with a sweet story, Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce.  Emmeline is a young woman, living with her best friend Bunty, in war torn London during WWII.  She spends her nights at the phone bank for the Auxilary Fire Services, which responds to nightly bombings.  And by day, she is the assistant to crotchety Mrs. Bird, an advice columnist for a women’s magazine.  When Mrs. Bird discards letters from people who truly need help, Emmy can’t help responding to them.  It’s a story of deep loss and firm loyalties, of the courage of two young women.  I’m not sure why, but this book reminds me of a 1940’s Katherine Hepburn movie– girls with spunk!  Very enjoyable

   To read more book notes (all my books from the the last 3 years)–
Click on Booklist

 

 

And to go with a good afternoon read on the couch, it’s pretty essential to include a mug of hot tea and perhaps a plate of cookies.  Here’s a chewy chocolaty cookie that came out of our kitchen this week.  You might like them along with a good book…

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES
3/4 cup butter (1  1/2 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa*
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup whole oats (uncooked!)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar to make a creamy paste.  Then beat in the egg, water and vanilla.  When that’s blended, mix in the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and oats.  And finally beat in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop the batter by large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray (or has a silpat mat).  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until they feel firm.  Let them cool a couple minutes on the cookie sheet before you lift them onto a cooking rack.  So chocolaty good!

*I used Hershey’s dark chocolate cocoa

 

And here’s a couple other cookie recipes that could accompany your reading:


Chocolate Toffee Slice and Bake Cookies


Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies


Lemon Nut Shortbread Cookies

 

And to finish up– a few of my favorite pictures of people reading:
     
The Lady in the Polka Dot Pants by Rae Andrews
Self Portrait by Michelle Ranta


Little Girl and her bedtime books– Claire Fletcher


Daniel Gerhartz

   
Yuri Petrovic Kugach
Young Clergyman Reading by Martinus Rorbye


Henry Loved Eating all sorts of books!  Oliver Jeffers

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
– Henry David Thoreau

The brilliant painting at the top of the post is by Karen Cooper.  thanks.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with PB Cream Cheese Frosting


Hello all– Peanut Butter & Chocolate– goes together like peaches & cream or bacon & eggs.  It’s just a pretty irresistible combination.  I’m imagining this could be a hit at your 4th of July Bar-b-que!!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPCAKES WITH PB CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Cupcakes:
1 chocolate cake mix
vegetable oil
water
3 eggs
1/3 cup peanut butter

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1 box powdered sugar (about 3  2/3 cups)
1/2 tsp.vanilla
3 to 4 tab. milk

Make the cake mix according to the recipe on the box. (Mine used 1/2 cup oil, 1  1/4 cup water and 3 eggs.)  Use an electric mixer– and also add in the 1/3 cup peanut butter.

Use cupcake paper liners in cupcake pans to make 24 cupcakes.  Fill the cupcake cups 1/2 full with batter and the pop them into a 350 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until the cupcakes are firm to the touch.

Let the cupcakes cool before you frost them.

To make the frosting, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, 1/2 cup peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Add the milk, a little at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

Top the cupcakes with frosting and dig in!

Toffee Cookie Bars


Hello there– You know that addicting toffee that people make at Christmas?? So so delicious!  Just in case you’re reading Tammy, it was the best Christmas gift — I’m remembering that jarful you gifted us.

Well, this is the cookie version of that toffee, more crumbly and tender, but studded with almonds and toffee bits, topped with chocolate.  It really is delish, in that toffee candy sort of way!

TOFFEE COOKIE BARS
6  tab. butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup plain toffee bits, divided*
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup whole toasted almonds, chopped

With an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and powdered sugar until it forms a thick paste.  Then beat in the flour and salt until it looks like sandy crumbs.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the toffee bits.

Spray a 9″ square baking dish (or 11″x7″ baking dish) with cooking spray and then spread the crumb mixture into the dish.  Pat it down to make a smooth even surface.

Bake the cookie layer at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips over the cookie layer when it comes out of the oven.  Let them sit 5 minutes to soften and then use a broad knife to spread the chocolate evenly over the cookie layer.
Sprinkle on the chopped almonds and remaining 1/4 cup toffee bits.

Let the cookie bars sit until they cool to room temperature and then cut them into neat little squares.

Best Basic Bundt Cake!


Hey there– Here’s a little cake recipe everyone should have up their sleeve.  Easy, quick and it always comes out moist and tender– and so so chocolatey!

And thanks Trisha (the world’s best neighbor) for the loan of the bundt pan.  I can always count on Trisha to borrow an egg or some butter when I’m out.  And there’s the time she let me use her oven in the middle of her kitchen remodel on the morning when my oven went out and 20 ladies were coming for breakfast!!  I hit the neighbor jackpot with Trisha!

BEST BASIC BUNDT CAKE

Cake:
1 chocolate cake mix
1 box instant chocolate pudding (3.9 oz. size)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
4 eggs
1 packet instant coffee (about a tablespoon)
2 cups chocolate chips

Glaze:
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tab. butter
1 cup chocolate chips

So easy– with an electric mixer beat together the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, oil, water, eggs and instant coffee for 4 minutes.  Then stir in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into a bundt pan (or any tube baking pan) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Put it into a 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes– until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely before you invert it onto a pretty plate.

To make the glaze, heat the butter and cream in a sauce pan until it just starts to simmer.  Turn off the heat and stir in the 1 cup chocolate chips.  Keep stirring briskly for 3 or 4 minutes to temper the chocolate.
Drizzle it over the cooled cake.  Yummm!

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cake (for Easter)

Hey all– It’s the day after Easter here.  Spending the morning stashing bunnies and plastic eggs away for next year.  And toasting up some leftover biscuits and jam for breakfast.

And sending off this Easter Cake recipe to you.  It’s cherries and chocolate nestled into a white cake, with cherry cream cheese frosting.  Add a few Cadbury eggs on top (or birthday candles for a different occasion) and it’s ready to go!

CHERRY CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE

Cake:
1 white cake mix
canola oil
3 eggs
water
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped to tiny bits

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. amaretto (or vanilla)
1 pound box powdered sugar (3  3/4 cups)
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped fine
2 tsp. juice from the cherry jar
garnish: Cadbury Easter eggs

With an electric mixer, make the cake mix according to the directions on the box (mine added 1/3 cup oil, 1 cup water and 3 eggs).  Beat for 2 minutes.  Then stir in the chocolate chips and chopped cherries.

Spoon the batter into 2   9″ cake pans (or a 9″x 13″ pan) that has been spray with cooking spray.  Pop it into a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake layers are golden and firm to the touch.  Let the cakes cool completely before you frost them.

To make the frosting, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, cream cheese, amaretto, powdered sugar, chopped cherries and cherry juice.  (Start on the lowest setting or the powdered sugar will fly out of the bowl!)  Beat until it is all smooth and creamy, with little cherry bits here and there.

Spread frosting on the first layer.  Top it with the second layer and then frost the top and sides.  So pink and pretty!

Chocolate Toffee Caramel Cake

Hello all–  We’re still in Wisconsin here.  And still waiting for snow.  I checked the weather report today and it’s suppose to snow later in the week, the day after we leave!!  Meanwhile it’s sunny with a cold wind that will take your breath away!  OK, that’s all for the weather report– will send along more Wisconsin news (and photos!) in a couple days…

So now here’s the cake– crunchy toffee bits, tiny his of chocolate and caramel sauce and wrapped in and around a moist tender cake.  With a scoop of ice cream, just grand!  I think you’d like it!

CHOCOLATE TOFFEE CARAMEL CAKE
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1  1/2 cups canola oil
5 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
8 oz. bag toffee bits
1  1/4 cup mini chocolate chips*
1 cup caramel sauce

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the brown sugar, white sugar, oil land eggs.  Add in the flour, baking powder and salt and keep beating.  Beat in the milk.  And finally, fold in the  mini chocolate chips (save out 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top the finished cake)  and toffee bits (save a handful to sprinkle on the cake later).

Spoon the batter into a large bundt pan or tube pan that has been sprayed well with cooking spray.  Pop it into a 325 degree over for 80 or 90 minute (!!) until the cake is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for at least an hour.

Remove the cake to a large plate and Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top and sprinkle on the reserved mini chocolate chips and toffee bits.

* I like mini chocolate chips more than the standard size, because they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake and spread the chocolate more uniformly.

Strawberries & Cream Chocolate Cake

Hi everyone– Happy to say the strawberry stands around here have opened up for the season!  I don’t know about you, but when the strawberries appear, it seems like spring is here.  So we’re putting them to good use with this creamy strawberry filled triple fudgy  chocolate cake.

STRAWBERRIES & CREAM CHOCOLATE CAKE

Cake:
1 chocolate cake mix*
water
canola oil
3 eggs
1 cup mini chocolate chips**
1 cup hot fudge sauce

Topping:
2 cups strawberries, cut to small bits
1 pint heavy whipping cream (2 cups)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
1 big pretty strawberry for garnish

Using an electric mixer, make the cake according to the directions on the box.  (Mine used 1  1/4 cups water, 1/2 oil and 3 eggs.)  Stir in the cup of mini chocolate chips.  (Save the hot fudge for later)

Spoon the batter into a 9″x 13″ baking dish*** that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  And bake the cake about 25 minutes until it is firm to the touch on top.

Poke holes into the top of the warm cake and drizzle in the cup of hot fudge to fill the holes and coat the top of the cake.  (You may need to warm the fudge sauce 30 seconds in the microwave to make it pourable).

Let the cake cool completely before adding the topping!!

Remove the leaves and cut the strawberries to small bits and set aside.  With an electric mixer beat the cream, pudding mix and powdered sugar until it is thick and set (the whisk attachment works best for this).  Stir in the strawberry bits and spoon the cream onto the top of the cooled cake.  Garnish with a single pretty sliced strawberry.

You can serve it right away, but if it sits in the fridge for an hour or two the topping will set up more firmly. Enjoy!!

*I like Betty Crocker Triple Chocolate cake mix
**Mini chocolate chips are best because they don’t sink to the bottom, like the regular size ones.
***In place of a 9″x 13″ baking dish, I used an 11″ springform pan.  If you don’t have one of those on hand and want round cakes– put the batter in two 9″ cake pans.

French Chocolate Cake and a Good Book!


Bonjour!  Just finished reading On Rue Tatin, Susan Loomis’ story of her family’s move to a town in Normandy, where they renovated a 12th century Convent to make their home and immersed themselves in the luxury of French cooking.  The book is studded with recipes.  Here is her favorite chocolate cake!  It’s sort of a cross between a brownie and a chocolate souffle!

FRENCH CHOCOLATE CAKE
(Originally known as “Gateau au Chocolate de Mamie Jacqueline”)

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (a rounded cup full)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
pinch salt
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
powdered sugar for garnish

Melt the chocolate in a large microwave proof mixing bowl– about 90 seconds.  Stir until smooth.  If the chocolate still has lumps, microwave it 10 seconds more and stir again.  Then immediately stir in the butter so it will melt with the warm chocolate.

When that is all blended, whisk in 1 cup of sugar (minus 1 tablespoon of sugar saved for later).  Next mix in the flour and 1/4 teaspoon of  salt until it is all combined.

Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into the bowl with the chocolate mixture and the whites into another clean mixing bowl.  Stir in the egg yolks.  And then whisk the eggs white along with the tablespoon of sugar and pinch of salt– until the egg whites are glossy and soft peaks form.  (The whisk attachment on my hand mixer worked well, took a little over 4 minutes)

Fold he egg whites into the chocolate cake batter until it is thoroughly blended and then spoon it into a 9″ cake pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake it up at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until the cake is firm to the touch and  sharp knife inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake cool to lukewarm and then shift powdered sugar over the top of the cake.  So good warm with a bit of ice cream!

Susan Loomis sort of has my dream life– She moved to Paris as a young woman and attended La Varenne École de Cuisine, a cooking school for Americans.  She found friends and small shops with tempting foods all over the city.  Later when she returned home she met, loved and married a sculptor, Michael Loomis and eventually the two found their way back to France where they purchased an ancient convent building in Louviers, a charming town in Normandy.  It took a long a grueling renovation to make the place a home for them and their small son.  But through the years they encountered a large circle of people, from the surly priest next door to warm shop keepers, farmers at the market, the florist sisters across the street and many others who became close friends. I was totally charmed by the book, wanted to write to Susan and ask if I could drop in and stay for the summer!  If you like glorious food, beautiful countryside, and wandering cobbled streets, I think you’d like this book as much as I have.

P.S. Each chapter includes recipes from the author, including a version of this cake!

Cherry Chocolate Banana Bread

Hi there– Well, if you love banana bread and also are fond of cherry bread and, of course, it’s a given you probably are crazy about chocolate chip bread, then here you go!!  All three breads rolled into one!

Made this for friends on a Sunday morning and there wasn’t a crumb left.  I thought you might like a Sunday morning treat too.

CHERRY CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD
1 cup dried cherries*
2 ripe bananas
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unflavored yogurt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tab. amaretto (or 1 tsp. vanilla)**
1  1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Pour the dried cherries in a heat proof bowl and covered them with hot water for 5 minutes.  Drain in a strainer and set aside.

In a mixing bowl mash the bananas until they are a creamy pulp.  Then sit-in the oil, yogurt, brown sugar, egg and amaretto until it’s all blended.  Next mix in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally stir in the chocolate chips and drained cherries.

Spoon the batter into a standard 9″x 5″ bread pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray (I used two half size pans for 2 loaves).

Bake it all up at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.  Let it cool for 30 minutes or more before you slice it.  Enjoy!

*I used cherry flavored dried cranberries, because I had them sitting in the cupboard.
** Use amaretto in place of almond extract because you can find a large bottle that will last forever for less than a tiny bottle of almond extract.

Mocha Cheesecake

Hi there all–  Here’s a cheesecake made for a game night with friends– lots of talk, laughs and a dose of noisy competitiveness!  Finished off with a couple cheesecakes.

This desert has two layers of creamy cheesecake, one coffee flavored, one chocolate, topped with a creamy chocolate ganache.  Pretty irresistible!

MOCHA CHEESECAKE

Crust:
1 prepared Oreo piecrust*
2 tab. butter, melted

Filling:
2 tab. instant coffee granules
1 tab. boiling water
1 cup chocolate chips
32 oz. cream cheese (4 –8 oz. packages)
1 cup sugar
3 tab. flour
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Ganache topping:
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tab. butter
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Mix the Oreo crust and the melted butter in the bottom of a 9″ springform pan.  Press the crumbs to make a uniform thin layer covering the bottom of the pan.  Set it into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Dissolve the coffee granules in the boiling water and set aside.

To make the filling, use an electric mixer the beat together the cream cheese and sugar until it’s creamy.  Then beat in the flour, eggs and sour cream.  Divide the batter evenly between two bowls.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes and then stir until it is smooth.  Fold the chocolate into the fist bowl of batter until it is thoroughly blended.

Stir the dissolved coffee granules into the second bowl of batter until it is all incorporated.

Spoon the chocolate batter over the crust and smooth out the top.  Add the coffee batter over the top and spread it evenly over the top.

Pop the cheesecake into a 350 oven for 50 to 60 minutes until it is firm to the touch and just a little wobbly when you shake it.  Open the oven door, turn off the heat and let the cheese cake sit 1 hour in the cooling oven.  Then take it out, slide a sharp knife around the edge to loosen the cheesecake from the pan and set it into the fridge for 3 or 4 hours.

To make the ganaches, heat the whipping cream and butter in a small pan on the stove until it just starts to simmer.  Take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips and beat for 3 or 4 minutes until it’s glossy.  Let it cool and when you’re ready to serve up the cheese cake, drizzle it over the top.  Delish!

*The recipe I worked from used 20 Oreo cookies, crushed.  But getting the pre-made Oreo crust was cheaper and already to use.

Chocolate Cream Cake with Ganache Frosting

Hello there–  We are gliding into Christmas here.  Ani sent out an all family spread sheet– with arrival, exit dates for everyone.  Larry is off to do his shepherd part in the church’s Bethlehem walk for the next four nights.  Charlotte just came in the door from shopping with her dad, clutching a bag of Christmas gifts.  And I’m baking (of course!).

We had this cake with friends recently.  And I’m here to convince you to give it a try if you are responsible for dessert at a Christmas gathering ahead.  It’s deeply richly chocolate.  And the the cream filling is heavenly!  The berries are a nice little sweet touch on top– a cake fit for a Christmas celebration!!

CHOCOLATE CREAM CAKE WITH GANACE FROSTING

Cake:
1 chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
water
1/2 cup canola oil
1 packet instant coffee

Filling:
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup powdered sugar

Frosting:
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tab. butter
1 1/3 cup chocolate chips
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 package), room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Garnish:
blackberries
mint leaves

Make the chocolate cake according to the directions on the box (mine used 3 eggs, water & 1/2 cup oil).  Add the instant coffee as you mix it up (for a little richness). Bake the cake in three 8″ or 9″ cake pans.  Cool them completely before adding filling or frosting!

To make the filling, whip the 2 cups of whipping cream, pudding mix and 1 cup powdered sugar with an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks.  Set it into the fridge to set up firm for about 15 minutes (0r more).

To make the frosting,  pour the 1/2 cup whipping cream and butter into a saucepan.  Heat it on the stove top until it starts to simmer and the butter is melted. Take it off the heat.  Drop in the chocolate chips and whisk it all together until the chocolate chips melt.  Set it aside to cool completely.

Then take the cooled chocolate mixture (ganache) and use an electric mixer to beat it together the cream cheese, 2 cups powdered sugar and vanilla.

To put the cake all together– Set one of the cake layers on a pretty plate.  Top it with half of the whipped cream filling.  Add the second later and top with the rest of the filling.  Add the third cake layer and the frost the top and sides with the chocolate frosting.

Set it into the fridge until to set it all up.  Take it out about 30 minutes before you want to serve it and garnish with berries and greenery (I used mint leaves because it grows like a weed in our yard).  So pretty!!

Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies (Gluten Free)

Hi Cookie Lovers– I almost hesitate to call these cookies.  With no flour and with an unusual mix of ingredients, they are more like candy!!  But what they truly are is chewy chocolaty delicious!!

Making them for my Monday ladies tonight, and trundling the leftovers up with me to visit the kids in San Francisco this week.  A grandma should always arrive with a bag of treats!

CHOCOLATE SEA SALT COOKIES
3 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
sea salt

Stir together the sugar, cocoa and salt,  Then stir in the eggs, vanilla and oil until it is all blended.  Finally fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spoon globs of batter at least 2″ apart (they really spread in the oven!) onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment (so that they don’t stick).  Lightly sprinkle with just a little sea salt on each cookie.

Bake them up at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Let them cool on the parchment to firm up before you take them off of the pan. Makes about 2 dozen.  Enjoy!!

Chocolate Walnut Pie Bars

Hi there– I sure wish you could meet my Monday night ladies.  They come in the door in around 7:00 each week.  I can hear them talking and laughing as they come up the steps.  There are hugs and cups of coffee and when I finally get them to settle in, there is time to read and pray together. It’s a bright spot in my week.

And, of course, we eat.  This week it’s these pie bars– nutty and sweet (a little like my ladies!)

CHOCOLATE WALNUT PIE BARS

Crust:
1  1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted

Filling:
3 eggs
1  1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tab. melted butter
1  1/2 cups chocolate chips
1  1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped

To make the crust, mix together the flour and 1/4 cup brown sugar.  Then fold in the melted 1/2 cup butter until it’s all crumbly.  Press the mixture into 9″x 13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s lightly browned.

While that’s baking, stir together the filling– beat the 3 eggs in a mixing bowl, then stir in the brown sugar and vanilla.  Then mix in the butter, chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spoon the filling carefully over the crust, covering it from edge to edge.  Bake it in the same 350 even for 25 to 30 minutes longer, until the filling is set.  Let it cool completely and then cute into tidy bars!

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Hello there– I know, I know you shouldn’t start a new recipe with a disclaimer– But if you are a blogger (this means you, all my blog-buddies), you know the sometimes photos aren’t what you’d hoped.  But I loved these tender, creamy cupcakes!!- so I’m sending along the recipe and you’ll have to imagine how pretty (and delicious) they were! OK??

TIRAMISU CUPCAKES

cupcakes:
chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
water
1 pack instant coffee crystals (about 1 tsp.)
1 tsp. coffee liqueur  (like Kahlua)

Topping:
1 pint whipped cream
2 tsp. instant vanilla pudding powder
tsp. powdered sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese
unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix the cake mix according to the directions on the box.  (Mine used 3 eggs, 1/2 cup oil and 1 1/4 cup water).  Add in the instant coffee and coffee liqueur and beat for two minutes with an electric mixer.

Pour the batter into 24 paper cupcake liners in cupcake pans.  Pop them in a 350 degree oven and bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until they are firm to the touch.  Let them cool completely.

With an electric mixer, beat the whipped cream along with the pudding powder and powdered sugar  –until it is stiff and set.  With a spoon, fold in the mascarpone cheese.

Top each cooled cupcake with a large dollop of the cream & mascarpone mixture.  And then dust the cocoa over the cream through a small sieve.  Refrigerate the cupcakes if you are making them way ahead…  So delish!

 

Triple Chocolate Poke Cake

Hello all– I’m wondering how many cooks out there have a secret stash of chocolate hidden away in their kitchen.  I know I do.  Tucked away in the hutch drawer, just enough chocolate for a nibble now and then when I’m flagging and could use a little chocolate encouragement.

If you fall in this same category– I think you would be fond of this cake.  Chocolate cake, laden with drizzles of hot fudge, topped with chocolate whipped cream and chocolate curls. Is that enough chocolate??  Trust me.  It’s chocolatey good.

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE POKE CAKE

Cake:
1 dark chocolate cake mix
3.9 oz. pkg. instant chocolate fudge pudding mix
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup sour cream

Filling:
12 oz. jar of hot fudge sauce*

Topping:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 tab. unsweetened cocoa (dark version best)
2 tsp. instant vanilla pudding mix**
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 large chocolate bar

With an electric mixer, beat the cake ingredients– cake mix, pudding, mix, eggs, vanilla, water, oil and sour cream for 2 minutes until well blended and fluffy.

Spoon the batter into a 9″x 13″ baking dish (or I used a 10 1/2″ round springform pan so I could remove it from the pan for serving) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake it up at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is firm to the touch.

When you take the cake from the oven, immediately poke holes in the top with the handle end of a wooden spoon.  Drizzle the hot fudge sauce into the poked holes (you may need to microwave the hot fudge  for 1 or 2 minutes to make it thin enough).

Let the cake cool completely!!

To make the topping, use an electric mixer (the whisk attachment works best) to beat the cream, unsweetened cocoa, vanilla pudding mix and powdered sugar.  Spoon the chocolate whipped cream over the cooled cake and set it in the fridge 30 minutes or more to set well.

Use a potato peeler to peel small shavings from the shorter end of a large chocolate bar.  And sprinkle them over the cake before you serve it.  Enjoy!!

*I like Hershey’s hot fudge sauce (but you will have to microwave it for a couple minutes to make it thin enough to drizzle onto the cake.
**I always use vanilla instant pudding mix when whipping cream.  It acts as a stabilizer to the cream will hold up fluffy and firm.

Squirrel Bars


Hi friends–  Don’t ask me how this recipe got the quirky name –Squirrel Bars.  This recipe is an old favorite and dear to my heart because it came from my beloved Aunt Mary Ann.  Maybe the squirrels in my yard would like them– all those peanuts!

And I’m pretty sure you would like them too.  Quick to make and delicious as the best kind of peanut butter-chocolate cookie.

SQUIRREL BARS
1/2 cup peanut butter*
1/3 cup butter (2/3 stick)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cup chocolate chips (8 oz.)

With an electric mixer beat together the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Then blend in the flour, baking powder and salt.

Spread the thick dough in to a 9″x 13″ baking dish** that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and put the baking dish into a 350 degree oven for just 3 minutes!!

Take the squirrel bars out of the oven and swirl the melted chocolate chips into the top of the batter.  Pop it back into the oven for 20 more minute until the bars are cooked through.

Let the squirrel bars cool a few minutes before you cut them into bars– delicious with a scoop of ice cream!

*I like super chunky peanut butter — the little peanuts add a nice texture.
**In these pictures I made just half of a recipe and cooked it up in a 9″ pie dish and cut it into wedges.

Chocolate Cherry Cake

Hi friends– Last weekend was a cake-o-rama around here.  My sis and I made cakes for a big family baby shower– anticipating baby Wyatt’s coming to the big wide world soon!  And our dear younger friends Travis & Bekah were married in this most hopeful happy wedding– simply beautiful.  More cake baking!

So here’s my favorite of the bunch.  Fresh cherries in the cake and in the frosting– with rich ganache and cherries on top!

CHOCOLATE CHERRY CAKE

Cake:
1 dark chocolate cake mix
water
canola oil
3 eggs
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted & chopped
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
6 oz. butter (1 1/3 stick)
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. amaretto (or vanilla)
2/3 cup cherries, pitted & chopped very fine

Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tab. butter
1 cup chocolate chips

Garnish:
stemmed fresh cherries

Make the cake according to the directions on the box–mine used 1 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup oil and 3 eggs.  Beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer.  Then fold in the cherries and chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into 3 –9″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes–until they are firm to the touch.  Let them cool completely before adding the frosting!

To make the chocolate ganache, bring the cream and 2 tab. butter to a low simmer in a pan on the stove top.  Take it off the heat and beat in the chocolate chips for 2 or 3 minutes until they are melted and the ganache is glossy.  Let this cool completely before your pour it over the frosting (so you won’t melt the frosting!!)

With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and amaretto (start on the lowest setting so you won’t have powdered sugar flying out of the mixing bowl!).  When that is blended, stir in the cherries with a wooden spoon until they are thoroughly mixed in and the frosting is colored a light pink from the cherries.

Frost the 3 layers of the cooled cake, stacking as you go.  When the ganache is thoroughly cooled drizzle it over the cake letting little streams pour down the sides.  Top with a mound of fresh cherries– Done! and so pretty!

Triple Chocolate Black Forest Cake

Hello all– Chocolate cake, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce with fresh cherries and cream.  That about sums it up.  Loved this rich and creamy cake and I’m hoping you will too, while cherries are at the market bright and juicy.

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE BLACK FOREST CAKE
1 chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup canola oil
1  1/4 cup water
3 eggs
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate ice cream topping*
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted, chopped
2 tab. almond kirsch or amaretto
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 tab. powdered sugar
2 tab. vanilla instant pudding powder**
garnish: fresh stemmed cherries

With an electric mixer, make the cake according to the directions on the box (mine called for 1/2 cup oil, 1 1/4 cup water & 3 eggs).  Spoon the batter into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish or a 10″ spring form cake pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake the cake according the directions on the box.  Out of the oven let the cake cool completely.  Then poke holes into the cake with the handle end of a wooden spoon.  Drizzle the ice cream topping over the cake and into the holes.  (If the topping is too thick to drizzle, put it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds).

Chop the pitted cherries and mix them in a bowl with the kirsch or amaretto.  Then spoon them evenly over the top of the cake.

Whip the cream with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer until it is well set.  Beat in the powdered sugar and pudding mix.  Then spoon the thickened cream over the cake and set it in the fridge for 30 minutes or more to make sure the cream is firm.

Garnish with the stemmed cherries and then serve it up to friends…

*I used Smuckers Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Topping
**The pudding mix thickens and stabilizes the cream.

Happy Birthday Stu!! (and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake)

Hi Friends!! — starting off here like a blogger should never start– apologizing for the wonky photos.  But this post isn’t really about beautiful food picutres– it’s about celebrating Stu’s 90th birthday!!  He’s the best father-in-law a girls could have– and all his kids and grand-kids and great grand-kids would say the same!!  (Plus I did want to add this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake recipe– because it was so delish!).

   


Photos:  Stu about to blow out those candles, With Helen (his wife of 68 years!) and Kathi– the party thrower!!  Plus The collection of all Stu’s local kids, grand-kids and those little greats!!  We all love you Stu!

And just in case you love chocolate and peanut butter thrown together as much as I do, here’s the cake recipe:

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CAKE

Cake:
1 chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup canola oil
1  1/4 cup water
3 eggs

Peanut butter frosting:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
4  1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
7 to 8 tab. milk

Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tab. butter
8 oz. chocolate chips (1  1/3 cup)

Garnish:
chopped peanut butter cups
birthday candles!!!

Make the cake according to the directions on the box ( mine used 1/2 cup oil,  1 1/4 cup water and 3 eggs). Spoon the batter into three 8″ or 9″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop them into a 350 degree oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until they are firm to the touch.  Let them cool completely before you add the frosting!!

Make the ganache while the cake it cooking and let it cool.  In a sauce pan, bring the milk and butter to a simmer.  Take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips for 2 or 3 minutes until ti’s smooth and shiny.  Let it cool.

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter and vanilla.  Then beat in the powdered sugar and chopped peanuts.  Finally addd the milk one tablespoon full at a time until it is the right consistency–  careful–it’s easy to add too much and have runny frosting!!

To put the cake together– Frost the cake using the peanut butter frosting between, on top and around the 3 layers.  Drizzle the cooled ganache over the top and garnish with chopped peanut butter cups– and candles (!!!) if you have a birthday in the family!

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

Hello all– This is a little chocolate banana muffin that masquerades as a fruit muffin, but really is more of a dessert.  You can make them for breakfast if you want to (no judging here!), but they’d be fine with a cup of coffee after dinner too.  Moist, rich and delicious…

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BANANA MUFFINS
2 bananas, smashed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream (or unflavored yogurt)
1 egg
2 tab. unsweetened cocoa*
1 cup mini chocolate chips, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tab. cornstarch
1 cup flour

Smash the bananas completely in a mixing bowl with a fork. Stir in the brown sugar, vanilla, oil, sour cream and egg.  Then mix in the cocoa and 2/3 cup of the chocolate chips.  Finally stir in the salt, baking powder, cornstarch and flour.

Spoon the batter into 10 to 12 muffin tins lined with muffin papers.**  Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips over the muffins. Pop them into a 350 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes until they are firm to the touch.

*Love Hershey’s dark cocoa
**or spray the muffin pans with cooking spray