Monday, April 29, 2013

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookie Bars

I adore chocolate chip cookies. They are my favorite. When I saw the recipe for these chocolate chip toffee bars, I had to make them right away. And they did not disappoint. They had a chewy interior and a crispy exterior. The toffee chips melted into the center, resulting in a buttery almost caramel-like flavor. They were heavenly! The only thing I would do differently next time is bake them in a 9×13-inch pan  I baked them in an 8×8-inch pan and they were huge! Plus they took almost an hour to bake.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookie Bars
Source: adapted from Smells Like Home

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 sticks butter (melted and cooled)
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg 
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips (any flavor)
3/4 cup toffee bits

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil so that the edges of the foil overhang two sides of the pan. Spray the foil with baking spray and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until thoroughly combined. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until just combined. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the mixture is just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits.

Spread the dough in the bottom of the baking pan and bake on the center rack of the oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the bars when tested. (I had to bake mine for 50 minutes because of how thick the bars were in the 8×8-inch pan; next time I will use a 9×13-inch pan.)

Cool the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then remove the bars using the foil overhang to the wire rack to cool complete. Slice into bars.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Herb-Roasted Chicken & Peppers

I have been waiting for the warm weather. Waiting, waiting, and waiting—to no avail. I think Mother Nature forgot about us in the Northeast. I wanted to grill chicken drums for dinner, but the weather has not been cooperating. The calendar says it's spring, but it's cold. So cold that there was ice outside a few times this week when we woke up. Yep, that's right, ice. So our grilling plans went out the window, and I decided to roast the chicken in the oven instead—mostly to warm up the house. This dinner was simple, yet tasty. I coated the chicken in a mixture of spices and topped it with a yellow pepper, which became sweet like candy when roasted. It was a perfect, comforting Sunday dinner.

Herb-Roasted Chicken & Peppers

10 chicken drums
1 yellow bell pepper (sliced into strips)
3 to 4 tablespoons oil (olive or canola)
1 tablespoon dried crushed rosemary
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Place the chicken and pepper slices in a Ziploc bag with the oil and spices. Shake until well coated. Arrange chicken on a lightly greased sheet pan and top with the pepper slices. Bake for 45 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink inside. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kitty Cake

Every year I bake my godchild a birthday cake. It's always vanilla cake topped with vanilla buttercream. She's not a risk-taker when it comes to food—just like her godmother used to be. Hopefully she'll grow out of that like I did. This year, she asked for a kitty cake and told me her favorite color was purple. I kept it simple and piped an orange cat with a purple bow with the birthday girl's name on top. The cat's tail cascaded down the side of the cake, which was decorated with a purple star border. She loved it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

My friend recently asked me to make cupcakes for another friend's birthday. I was told she liked chocolate and cherry, so I decided to make my go-to vegan chocolate cupcakes topped with cherry buttercream. I tucked a cherry inside each cupcake, and it was fun to watch everyone's surprise when they bit into them. I have to say I wasn't really excited to make these since cherry is not one of my favorite flavors, but they ended up being very delicious. The sweet cherry icing paired perfectly with the chocolate cupcakes and bittersweet chocolate chips.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
Source: Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

Make chocolate cupcakes as directed here, or any other favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, but substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract and drop one to two maraschino cherries into each cupcake before baking. 

Cherry Buttercream
2 sticks butter, room temperature
5–6 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract
2–4 tablespoons 
maraschino cherry juice

Cream the butter and almond extract until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add powdered sugar one cup at a time and cherry juice one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Continue beating on low until smooth and cre