My Favorite Brownies


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When I began to bake more seriously (more seriously=from scratch), I wanted to find a good brownie recipe, because brownies are possibly my favorite sweet thing.  Seriously, if I had to pick just one sweet to eat the rest of my life (and when is that scenario ever valid), it'd be the brownie.  Chocolatey, rich, and dense, brownies are what I usually crave.  When I started trying out different scratch recipes, my results were always good but never what I really wanted.  Maybe the chocolate flavor wasn't as intense as I'd like, or maybe they seemed a little dry or too cake like.  I was disappointed- I actually preferred boxed mixes to scratch.  Last year, however, my go steady recipe was posted on smittenkitchen.com.  Deb from SK posted this recipe and made the statement that people who prefer box mix brownies would love these, and that piqued my interest.  So, I made a batch, and I can't tell you how many times since I've made these.  I've made them and nearly eaten an entire pan by myself (oh, the shame!) and I've also made them for friends and get-togethers.  Intensely dark, fudgy, and rich, it's OK that this recipe only makes an 8x8 pan, because you really can't eat that much at one time. 

The only change I ever make to this recipe is to be lazy and to stick the ingredients into a pot directly rather than in a bowl set over a pot or pan of simmering water.  Think peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate no bake cookie method.  The mixture remains grainy the whole time you do it that way, but I feel like the end result is just as good.  I also never put nuts in mine.  Also, while I usually advocate weighing baked good ingredients, here I just measure them.  They come out spectacular every time.

So, if you like brownies so fudgy you're wondering if there's any stuck to your teeth long after you've finished, try these.  If you think "those Ghirardelli brownies are good," try these.  If you want brownie fame, make these.  I think I hear my brownie pan calling. 

Best Cocoa Brownies
from smittenkitchen.com, adapted from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added. [Note, many people who have tried this recipe have found that this step works just fine in the microwave.]

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.


  • Don't skip the parchment or aluminum foil thing.  It makes a huge difference in brownie removal and pan cleanup.
  • My thanks goes to my friend Dawna, who taught me this trick- to cut any brownies, use a plastic knife.  I can't tell you why it works, but it works like a charm every time.  The cuts are much cleaner than anything I have ever done with a metal knife.

Ginger-Soy Salmon and Bok Choy



I am not sure if I've admitted that I have a problem.  I am a recipe junkie.  I have files, magazines, and books full of recipes, many of which have just laid around, collecting dust.  I've never counted, but I am sure the number is up into the thousands.  I do try to mitigate this problem by testing out at least one new recipe a week, and the last few weeks I've upped the ante to two or three.  Living dangerously is what I'm all about.

So, anyway, in going through my files for something a little different, I came across today's recipe, which hails from the September 16th, 2008 issue of Woman's Day magazine.  Like me, my mom is a recipe junkie, who subscribes to Woman's Day, so I tore this recipe out of the magazine and put it in my file.  Luckily this week its day had come to shine. 

On to the actual dish- this one is really healthy, being loaded down with vegetables and the excellent meat choice of salmon.  The worst part of this dish in terms of health is the orange marmalade.  This meal is fairly affordable but not in the bargain basement, so if you can make it using items you have on hand already, you'll be benefitted if cost is an issue.  I also liked that all ingredients (even the bok choy) were available at my local grocery store and Wal-Mart.  The taste was solid- it wasn't such a favorite among Drew and me that we'll be making this a lot more frequently, but he's not a huge asian flavors fan anyway.  You get a good balance of sweet and savory with the marmalade-soy glaze, and the vegetables are so flavorful and fresh.  My one complaint about the flavor is that the shiitake mushrooms, which have an incredible flavor, are barely detectable here.  They are such a star and it felt like a waste to not be able to enjoy them.

In terms of preparation, I recommend thawing your salmon before baking/broiling.  I didn't and the cook time was much longer and the glaze that dripped off the salmon carmelized in the pan.  This recipe was originally in a section of one pot meals, but you can get dinner on the table almost twice as fast if you broil or bake the salmon while stir frying the vegetables.  I also think I prefer baking to broiling for the greater amount of control I get, but maybe that's just me.  The magazine suggests serving with rice, and I'd agree that rice would be good.  Eating the leftovers the next day (which I enjoyed more than the first day), I thought about how ramen or other noodles might be really good, too.

Below you'll find the recipe, with the link to its page on the Woman's Day website. 

Ginger-Soy Salmon and Bok Choy
from Woman's Day

2 tsp canola oil

2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 lbs bok choy, halved lengthwise, then sliced crosswise in 1-in. strips
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
4 salmon fillets (5 to 6 oz each)
3 reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp orange marmalade
Garnish: toasted sesame seeds

Heat broiler. Heat oil in a large, deep ovenproof nonstick skillet. Add 1 Tbsp ginger and the garlic; cook over low heat a few seconds until fragrant.

Add bok choy, mushrooms and carrots. Stir-fry 4 to 6 minutes, until bok choy and carrots are crisp-tender. Remove to a serving bowl; cover to keep warm.

Place salmon skin side down in skillet. In a small cup, mix remaining 1 Tbsp ginger, the soy sauce and marmalade. Spoon about half of soy sauce mixture over salmon.

Broil 4 to 6 minutes until salmon is just cooked through. Drizzle with remaining soy sauce mixture and serve with the vegetables. Garnish with sesame seeds, if desired.

Chicken and Spinach Casserole


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Last week I had the dilemma of a lot of aging spinach in my fridge.  Not wanting to waste it, I looked in my recipes and found a good one that not only utilized spinach, but also some leftover bread I had.  This casserole recipe comes from the October 2010 issue of, guess, where, Everyday Food.  I almost hesitated sharing this with you because I am starting to sound like a paid advertiser.  I'm not.  I am, however, enjoying many of the recipes from the magazine issues I have recently purchased.  I should also point out that my husband gets props for doing the bulk of the work on this recipe.  I wasn't feeling that great so he stepped up while I played sous chef.  Thanks, Drew!

This recipe comes together quickly because it utilizes already cooked chicken.  It's perfect for using up leftovers.  A quick sauté of the vegetables and a short time in the oven is all it takes to get dinner to your table.  Serve this with a side of carrots or a baked potato, or, you know, whatever suits you.  I also think that chopped broccoli in place of the spinach would be nice, but I haven't tested that one out. 

I will post this recipe as I made it, along with a link to its webpage on the Martha Stewart website so you can see the original recipe.  

Chicken and Spinach Casserole
from Everyday Food, October 2010

2 cups torn bread (I used sourdough and it was great!)
2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 cups, packed, fresh spinach
1 med. yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 Tb. all purpose flour
3/4 c. 2% milk
3/4 c. half and half
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup shredded chicken

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine bread with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt. Set aside. In a medium pot, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil over medium-high. Add spinach; season with salt. Cook, stirring, until wilted, 2 minutes. Transfer to a colander, let cool, then squeeze out water. Coarsely chop.

Wipe pot clean and heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil over medium. Add onion, garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes.

Add broth to pot and cook until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in half-and-half. Add lemon juice and bring mixture to a boil over high.

Remove from heat and stir in chopped spinach and chicken; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and top with bread pieces. Bake until bread is golden brown and mixture is bubbling, 8 to 10 minutes.

  • I think that you could probably skip the first step by purchasing a 10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawing it, and squeezing it dry, but the fresh is nice. 
  • I am not sure what the recipe would have been like if I had used all half and half, as the recipe suggested, but with the combination of half and half and 2% milk, it was still nice and creamy.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies


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Just judging by the title, if you're a chocolate lover, you  know these cookies are going to be good.  Truffle fans likely don't even need a description, but if you like chocolate, then you need this recipe.  I got it in an e-mail sent out by allrecipes.com last week and decided to make these delightful little cookies for my funny valentine.  I have since been able to share them with a few others, who also enjoyed them. 

These cookies are a bit funny (funny weird and not funny ha-ha), because when you first make the dough it is more like a batter; while very viscous, it is way looser than most cookie doughs.  After a chill period in the fridge, however, it hardens and is a glossy dough.  Once baked and cooled, they are an absolute indulgence- intensely chocolatey, fudgy, and they melt in your mouth.  Mine is watering just by thinking about them! 

Make these in small cookies- they really are like a truffle so all you need is a little bit.  The link to the recipe is the recipe title itself; I will write the recipe here as I made the cookies. 

Chocolate Truffle Cookies
by user Kevin Barr from allrecipes.com

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate (chips or chopped blocks)
6 Tb butter
3 eggs
Scant 1 cup sugar (just slightly less than 1 cup)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c all purpose flour
2 tb. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In the microwave or over a double boiler, melt the unsweetened, bittersweet, 1 cup semisweet chocolate, and the butter, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  In a mixer bowl, whip eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla and the melted cooled chocolate mixture.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually stir into the chocolate mixture.  Fold in the remaining chocolate chips.  Cover the dough and chill it for at least an hour or overnight. 

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350.  Roll chilled dough into 1 inch balls.  Place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake 9-11 minutes in the preheated oven.  Allow the cookies to cool at least 5 minutes on the baking pan placed on a wire rack before removing the cookies to allow to cool completely. 

Oat Scones



Continuing my kick with the Jan/Feb issue of Everyday Food, I bring you a healthy breakfast recipe from page 68.  I first tried scones in college, and loved them.  They're a biscuity muffin, and their dense, crumbly texture always goes great with coffee, tea, or even cold milk. 

These particular scones come together quickly and easily, and it's a lot like mixing up a quickbread.  You don't need an electric mixer; a wisk and rubber scraper work nicely to incorporate everything.  The recipe itself is also somewhat flexible.  I have made these twice in the last week, and the first time I used dried fruit, as the recipe suggests.  The second time, however, I used frozen blueberries, and the result was no less delicious.  The oats lend a nice bite and texture to the scone, as well as a health boost.  The whole wheat flour gives you a whisper of nuttiness.  They are relatively low in fat and sugar, making them a better alternative to a doughnut or biscuit.  Make them the night before and store them in an airtight container.  They're the best fast food breakfast you could want. 

I will post the recipe as it is written in the magazine and post my own changes below in notes. 

Raisin and Oat Scones
from Everyday Food, Jan/Feb 2011 issue

3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
3 Tb. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins or dried cherries
2 tsp. fennel seed (optional)
3 Tb. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar, oats, raisins, and fennel seed, if using.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and melted butter until combined and then add to the flour mixture.  Stir until the batter is evenly moistened (do not overmix).  Drop batter by 1/3 cupfuls, 2 inches apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through.  Let scones cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. 

  • As stated in the description, the first time I used dried cherries instead of raisins, and the second time I used frozen blueberries.  I imagine that most any dried fruit would work here; just snip or cut larger pieces so that each piece of dried fruit is about the size of a raisin. 
  • A note on using frozen fruit here: if you use frozen fruit rather than dried, keep it frozen.  Fold the fruit in after the other ingredients are mixed.  Due to the shorter baking time, your blueberries will still be chilled even out of the oven.  When the scones cool completely, however, you won't notice a thing, and reheating them works well, too. 
  • I used light brown sugar in place of dark brown because it's what I had. 

Molten Chocolate Cakes



In honor of Valentine's day, I wanted to give you a recipe that is easy but extremely rewarding  in terms of taste, one you could make for someone you love who loves chocolate.  Molten chocolate cakes are usually relegated to restaurant menus, and I think a lot of home cooks and bakers have a slight fear of making them and not meeting with success.  Fortunately for this recipe, I think it would be hard to fail.  Drew and I made these last Valentine's day (I think) and loved them.  In fact, though it's only 8:30 in the morning, I could go for one right now.  Sigh. 

Not being a food blogger back then, I didn't take pictures of the process, so I only have one picture to show you, but the people at Kraft Foods have an instructional video and everything if you feel you need more of a visual, so the recipe title will be the link to that video and the recipe on the Kraft website. 

If you plan to stay in and cook at home for V-day, what are you preparing/did you prepare?  Just curious- post in the comments by clicking on the baloon with a number at the top of the post.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Molten Chocolate Cake
from Kraft Foods

4 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate

1/2 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
6 Tbsp. flour

BUTTER 4 small custard cups; place on baking sheet.
MICROWAVE chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1 min. or until butter is melted; whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Add whole eggs and egg yolks; mix well. Stir in flour. Spoon into prepared cups.
BAKE 13 to 14 min. or until sides of desserts are firm but centers are still soft. Let stand 1 min. Carefully run small spatula or knife around cakes to loosen; invert into dessert plates. Serve warm with whipped cream. 

Roasted Beef, Mushroom, and Barley Soup



I have just today eaten some of the leftovers of this soup, which I made last night and wanted to tell you about ASAP.  If you like beefy soups, try this one.  It's a speedier version of my very favorite soup, which I have yet to post for you.  You'll just have to stay in suspense a while longer.  Mwa ha ha ha ha.  This one also comes from the October 2010 Everyday Food and I have had the recipe bookmarked to be made since I first flipped through those pages.

First, you roast beef, shallots, and mushrooms in the oven to concentrate and deepen the flavors of these three ingredients.  THIS IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA!  You then add them, along with barley to liquid, and after a brief cooking in a pot, you come out with this magical bowl of comfort food. 

This recipe is easy and probably somewhat adaptable.  It's on the lesser economical side (for me, anyway), but is still fairly inexpensive in the grand scheme.  Only you know your own food budget.  I'll post the recipe, along with a link to its corner of the Martha Stewart website, and post what changes I made to the original recipe in my notes section. 

Roasted Beef, Mushroom, and Barley Soup
from October 2010 Everyday Food

1 pound sirloin steak, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps halved
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together steak, mushrooms, shallots, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until beef and mushrooms are browned, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a medium pot and add broth and barley. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high, then reduce heat and simmer until barley is soft, about 12 minutes. To serve, season to taste with salt and pepper and top with parsley, if desired.

  • Because I do try to balance economy and quality, I opted for beef stew meat instead.  It was $2 or $3 less per pound than sirloin.  It had a little more prep because it's a fattier, somewhat tougher cut of meat.  If you like less work, go with the sirloin. 
  • I used beef broth in place of chicken.  I do not regret that decision.  In fact, I think it may have made it better.
  • To save time, I used the sliced cremini mushrooms.
  • Serve this with some crusty bread, cheese toast, or a side salad.  It's so good! 

Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters


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First off, I'd like to say congrats to all those Packers fans out there, and my consolations to all Steelers fans.  I had intentions of posting Superbowl recipes for you, but guess who forgot to take pictures?  Instead of posting about the wings I made, I'll give you the link.  Try these chicken wings from the October 2010 issue of Everyday Food.  They're real winners, no matter what team is playing.

Now, onto what I have made in recent history that I did take pictures of: peanut butter and oatmeal chocolate chipsters from Dorie Greenspan.  This recipe comes from Baking: From My Home To Yours and is a great cookie recipe that combines three of my favorites into one.  It's a pretty straightforward cookie recipe in that you beat the fats (butter and peanut butter) together with the sugars and then add in the eggs, the dry ingredients, and the chocolate chips. 

I made one or two dozen the first day I made this dough and portioned out the rest and froze it for later convenient use.  The dough definitely benefits from sitting around a while (flavors melding, less flattening in the oven) but does fine if you use it right away, too.  Try these when you need a sweet treat!

Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters
from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan

3 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 1/2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks (I used chocolate chips)

Getting Ready: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. (I only baked one batch at a time on the center rack. In fact I baked one dozen and then froze the dough and did not reuse it for another week. I then let the dough thaw and baked the rest one batch at a time)

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips.

If you have the time, cover and chill the dough for about 2 hours or for up to one day. (Chilling the dough will give you more evenly shaped cookies.) If the dough is not chilled, drop rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets. If the dough is chilled, scoop up rounded tablespoons, roll the balls between your palms and place them 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press the chilled balls gently with the heel of your hand until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be golden and just firm around the edges. Lift the cookies onto cooling racks with a wide metal spatula - they'll firm as they cool.

  • On peanut butters- the new natural peanut butters that look just like regular peanut butter will work fine here (I think I used Great Value Natural Creamy) but don't use the kind that you grind yourself or the natural, need to stir kind.  You just won't get the same result. 
  • I did use the spices called for, but I think in the future I wouldn't.  That may just be my preference but I didn't like the nutmeg and cinnamon combined with the peanut butter and chocolate chip.  Let me know if you try this out without them.

Mushroom and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole


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This is the recipe I wanted to post on Monday but couldn't because I couldn't find it online (ironically now I have) and I forgot the hard copy when I actually got to the internet.  This recipe also comes from Everyday Food magazine, the January/February 2011 issue.  It and the black bean soup recipe I posted last week are two recipes in a series of five in which give you a menu, recipes, and shopping list for one week's worth of dinners.  While some of the dinners are completely separate from others, these two were tied together in that you soak the black beans for the soup and cook them a while, and then you're supposed to reserve 1 1/2 cups of the beans without their liquid for the casserole, and that's just what I did.

This casserole was easy, healthy, affordable, and really good.  I did make some changes, so I will post the recipe as I made it and give you a link (click on the recipe title) for the original recipe. 

Mushroom and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole
adapted from Everyday Food, issue 79 (Jan/Feb 2011)

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 lb. cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1/4 cup diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 cups or 1 can black beans, cooked and drained (also rinsed if canned)
1 cup corn (either frozen and thawed, or drained and rinsed from a can
5 tortillas, cut in half (I used flour tortillas)
2 cups salsa
1 1/4 cups monterrey jack cheese (approx. 4 oz)

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they're browned, about 7 minutes.  About 3 minutes into the cooking time, add the onion.  Add garlic and cayenne to the pot; season all with salt and pepper.  Add the beans and corn and stir to combine.  Cook until everything is warmed through, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

2.  Arrange three tortilla halves in an 8"x11" or 2 quart baking dish.  Top with half the bean mixture and 1/2 cup salsa and then sprinkle on 1/3 of the cheese.  Repeat this layer.  Top with three more tortilla halves and the remaining salsa and cheese.  Cover with foil and bake until the center is hot and the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.  Uncover and bake until the cheese is bubbling, about 5 mintues.