Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chocolate Chunk Blondies


Chocolate Chunk Blondies

Because I missed last month's Pass the Cook Book Club post, I made extra sure this month that I was able to participate. I was super disappointed in missing last month because the cook book chosen was Bobby Flay and hamburgers-- love Bobby Flay and love hamburgers, so I really wanted to participate last month but it just didn't work out. One of the things I love about this book club is that even if I don't have time to make any of the options given, I still get to see some wonderful blog posts and receive some wonderful recipes that I get to save in hopes of making them one day!

This month's cook book pick was Ina Garten's "Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust" and Jen from Juanita's Cocina chose three terrific looking recipes this month-- gazpacho, ribs, and blondies. I had a hard time choosing between the ribs and the blondies, but the blondies ended up winning because it's easier to make and you know I love desserts.

I ended up making these Chocolate Chunk Blondies two weekends in a row because these were so unbelievably delicious! I made these once for family dinner and again for a family BBQ-- both with ridiculous fanfare and reception. Okay, that might be stretching "just a little" but, no, I think these are now a favorite of anyone who's come into contact with them.

These little gems are seriously like a chocolate chip cookie in a brownie form. I've heard of a lot of people on a quest to find the absolute best chocolate cookies and, with all seriousness, I'd hand them one of these blondies. These blondies are soft, gooey, buttery, and chocolately... they can make you into a very selfish person or a very giving person by either wanting to hoard the whole lot or share the experience in one of the best desserts you've ever had. The blondies in my pictures look a little undone, but trust me they were fully cooked-- that's the consequence of being a food blogger and being so excited to take pictures that you can't wait for them to fully cool down!

Make these blondies and then give out the recipe so that everyone else can make them! (Or hoard them... I have three tucked away in my freezer somewhere...)

If you're interested in learning more about the Pass the Cook Book Club, click the link or the banner below! I'm already looking forward to next month!













Chocolate Chunk Blondies
slightly adapted from Ina Garten's Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature (I used large eggs)
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (original recipe calls for walnuts)
12 oz. bag semisweet chocolate chunks (original recipe calls for 1 1/4 lbs)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 ½ x 12 x 2-inch baking pan. (I used a 9x9 pan the first time I made these and a 9x13 pan the second time I made these and they turned out great both times. I also lined the pan with foil and greased with nonstick cooking spray.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well, scraping down the bowl after each addition. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Fold in the pecans and chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t overbake! The toothpick may have melted chocolate on it but shouldn't have wet batter. Cool completely in the pan and cut into 12 bars.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Avocado Salad with Strawberries and Blueberries




I was recently contact be Latina Bloggers Connect and Avocados from Mexico to make a special post using avocados. I spent several nights not being able to sleep trying to think of all the different things that I can do and alternatives if they don't work out, but then if occurred to me that I should share with you my favorite avocado salad recipe!

Awhile back, my brother brought over a recipe for avocado salad that he wanted my mom to make for our Sunday get together. It was a simple recipe with avocados, strawberries, and a light dressing. It sounded so odd, I originally didn't think it would be very good but the flavors were wonderful together and my family makes the salad often now!

Over time, I've changed the recipe to fit my tastes which is reflected below. (The original recipe didn't include blueberries and used pistachios instead of pine nuts.) Last time I made this, Joe said, "We should eat this all the time and it's super healthy too." He also thinks strawberries are too sour so he liked that I used blueberries.

Don't be turned off by the avocados and the fruit-- they work together perfect! The buttery creaminess of the avocados are perfectly contrasted with the fruit and the dressing really brings out the sweetness of the fruit. This is a great summer salad that only has a few ingredients, and it is fast and easy to put together. And it's gluten-free for any Celiac or gluten-intolerant readers!

There are four things to remember with this recipe: 1) Use avocados that aren't too ripe or mushy. They need a little firmness. 2) Only use enough dressing to coat the fruit. 3) Don't overmix the salad. If you don't follow any of these three steps, the salad can become mushy and get a really weird and unappetizing look and texture. The forth thing is very important as well: Use enough salt! Taste the salad to check if it has enough salt because it really brings out the flavors of the fruits.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! If you'd like to check out other recipes with avocados, you can check out Avocados from Mexico's community page with other several avocado recipes as well as submit your own original avocado recipe!


This post was sponsored by Latina Bloggers Connect and Avocados from Mexico. I did receive compensation from this post, but the content and opinions of this post are entirely my own. 









Avocado Salad with Strawberries and Blueberries

Salad:
1 c. fresh strawberries, diced
1 c. fresh blueberries
2 large avocados, diced (make sure that the avocados aren't too ripe, they need a slight firmness to them)
1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted

Dressing: (You won't use all the dressing)
2 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. honey
1/4. tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground pepper


Directions:

Whisk all the ingredients of the dressing together in a small bowl.

Place all the salad ingredients in a medium or large bowl, then spoon enough dressing over to coat and toss together gently. Start off by only using a couple tablespoons of dressing, then add more to taste. You don't want to use all the dressing because it will become mushy. The secret to this salad is to add enough salt because it brings out all of the flavors, so taste the salad and add more salt and pepper to your liking.

Let sit for a couple minutes so that the the avocados and the fruit marinate a little bit, then serve immediately. This salad isn't good for leftovers.

Because you don't use all the dressing, you can halve the recipe or save the rest to make again.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Red White and Blue Cheesecake Cupcakes (Strawberry and Blueberry)


Red White and Blue Cheesecake Cupcakes

Happy 4th of July! Okay, one day late but you know how it goes. :-) How did you spend your 4th of July? We went to my brother's girlfriend's family BBQ yesterday. They initially were going to have it in the mountains, but because we're in such a severe drought, they closed all the picnic areas for the holiday to help prevent fires.

So we ended up at Tiff's sister's apartment complex where they had an amazing BBQ/pool area. The BBQ area was set up like an outdoor kitchen, complete with a fridge and sink. If I ever get an outdoor kitchen, it would look very similar to that. It was very impressive! So we had massive amounts of BBQ and spent a lot of time in the pool (complete with sunburns to prove it!). It was a very fun celebration! Tiff and I are even thinking of possibly doing another BBQ/pool get together for our birthdays next month. :-)

These lovely and festive cupcakes were my contribution to the BBQ yesterday. I knew that I wanted to make something with red, white, and blue but instead of trying out a new recipe and playing with disaster, I decided to adapt one of my favorite cupcake recipes-- one cupcake recipe that impresses every time I make it. It's actually a combination of two versions of the same recipe appeared on my blog last year, the strawberry cheesecake cupcakes and the blueberry cheesecake cupcakes.

Remember, these aren't actual cheesecakes, just the combination of cheesecake flavors in cupcake form-- the graham cracker crust, the cream cake filled with fruit, and the cream cheese frosting. I love playing with the fruit flavors in this recipe and I love the combination of the strawberries and the blueberries.

The flavors are spectacular and these won't stop being my favorite cupcake recipe anytime soon! Definitely make these for your 4th of July celebration!! If you can't wait until next year, make them anyway! Like now, today, tomorrow, this weekend-- these never disappoint!!














Red White and Blue Cheesecake Cupcakes (Strawberry and Blueberry)
Adapted from The Girl who Ate Everything


Graham Cracker Crust:
2 sleeves of graham cracker crumbs (about 18 whole crackers)
8 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
2 Tbs. of sugar

Cupcakes:
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature ( 1 1/2 sticks)
1 c. + 2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. sour cream
4 large egg whites
1 c. fresh blueberries (plus 48 individual blueberries for garnish)
1 c. fresh strawberries, diced (plus extra for garnish)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8 oz.) packets of cream cheese, room temperature (16 ounces total)
16 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
3 3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin tins with cupcake liners. Mix graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and melted butter together in a medium bowl until all the ingredients are completely incorporated. Sprinkle the graham cracker mixture evenly into the muffin tins, about 1 tablespoon of the crushed graham cracker into the bottom of each prepared muffin tin. Press down using fingers and bake for 3-5 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove immediately from oven and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add the vanilla and beat on a low-speed. Then add half the flour mixture until incorporated then mix in the sour cream or yogurt. Add remaining flour and mix until just blended.

In a medium bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks appear, about 3-4 minutes, be careful not to overbeat. Set aside.

Gently fold 1/3 of the egg into the batter until combined, do not over mix the egg whites or the cake will fall flat. Add remaining egg. Fold in the blueberries and strawberries into the batter. Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 of the way and bake for about 20 minutes depending on your oven. You can test to see if they are done by sticking a toothpick through the center, if it comes out clean it is ready to take out!

For the cream cheese frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar slowly in small batches, beating on low speed until incorporated. Once all sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy. Refrigerate for 1 hour. After one hour, spread icing on cupcakes or use a pastry bag with a star tip. Garnish with two fresh blueberries and two pieces of diced strawberry in the center and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 24 cupcakes.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fluffernutter Rice Krispie Treats



Fluffernutter Rice Krispie Treats

My brother makes fun of me because I make so many peanut butter desserts. And he says I go through phases where I make one peanut butter dessert after another. Apparently he is right and the past two posts kind of attest to that. I absolutely love peanut butter and I didn't realize that there are several people who cannot stand peanut butter... what??? To me peanut butter is a staple and very "American"! So I apologize to all the peanut butter haters for my current peanut butter phase! :-)

These rice krispie treats are a triple threat, seriously. There's peanut butter in the actual rice krispie mixture, it's topped with melted Reese's peanut butter morsels, and more topping of mini Reese's peanut butter cups. This is a Reese's lovers DREAM! No surprise that one of my favorite candies are Reese's, so when I discovered this recipe, I knew I would love these! And they taste just as good as they look!!

Everyone I've shared these with love these too. I've taken these twice to Joe's softball games and the team absolutely devours them. They are a definite favorite!

You can make this recipe gluten-free. According to Hersheys, the peanut butter morsels and the mini Reese's cups are gluten-free. I also discovered the Rice Krispies cereal actually is NOT gluten free... it's wheat free but it contains malt flavoring which is gluten. So if you want to make these gluten-free, make sure you buy the gluten-free version that Rice Krispies have.

I didn't alter the recipe too much, with the exception of using gluten-free Rice Krispies, added more mini marshmallows (about two cups total), and only used one bag of mini Reese's cups (original recipe called for two bags... so if you want it LOADED, use two bags!). These changes are reflected below.

Peanut butter lovers, here's another one just for you!









Fluffernutter Rice Krispie Treats
slightly adapted from Shugary Sweets

5 c. Rice Krispies cereal (for gluten-free, make sure to use the gluten-free Rice Krispies)
1 1/4  - 2 c. mini marshmallows
10 oz. bag regular sized marshmallows
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 bag (10 oz.) Reese's peanut butter morsels, melted
1 bag (8 oz.) Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups

Line a 9x9 pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray or grease foil with butter.

In a large mixing bowl, add cereal and mini marshmallows and toss together.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add marshmallows and lower heat. Stir until marshmallows are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and quickly stir in peanut butter.

Quickly add the melted marshmallow mixture to the cereal mixture and mix well so that everything is well-combined. Pour the mixture into the lined pan and gently even out with a spatula so that the tops are even.

In a microwave safe bowl, add the peanut butter morsels and microwave in 30 second increments until melted and smooth. Quickly pour on top of Rice Krispie treats and smooth into an even layer using the back of a spoon. Allow to cool for a short bit but sprinkle the Mini Peanut Butter Cups on top before the peanut butter layer hardens.

Cool in fridge for about an hour, then cut into squares. Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Makes about 16 large squares!


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