June 27, 2012

Peanut Butter Chiffon Pie

With White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter and a Biscoff Cookie Crust

Okay, two things that you need to know before this recipe-

One: White Chocolate Wonderful is officially my favorite flavor from Peanut Butter & Co. I would have sworn up and down that it would be Dark Chocolate Dreams, and wasn't even all that interested in trying it, except for the fact that I thought it would go well in this pie. Boy, am I glad I did. That little bit of light sweetness is a perfect complement to the smooth and creamy peanut butter. I'm seriously salivating thinking about it. Yum.

Two: And this may come as a shock to some of you, but I'm not a huge fan of Biscoff cookies. *Pauses for shocked gasps* I mean, they're okay and all- I don't dislike them- but I'm not totally sure why people have been going so completely mad for them. Maybe they're better with coffee, but as we already know, I've never been a coffee drinker. One thing I knew as I tried them for the first time, though; they would make a phenomenal cookie crumb crust. There, they don't disappoint.
A chiffon pie is apparently what you get when pudding and mousse get together and do a little bow-chicka-wow-wow. It's creamy, rich, but with a light, fluffy texture. The light sweetness of the White Chocolate Wonderful filling is contrasted beautifully by the darker, spicy flavor of the Biscoff cookie crust. This. Pie. Is. AWESOME. Trust.

Now if I can only figure out a way to add Nutella, I'll hit the food blogger trifecta.

Peanut Butter Chiffon Pie {Printable Version}
Yield: 8 servings

For the crust:
2 cups Biscoff cookie crumbs
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp. sugar
Pinch salt

For the filling:
¼ cup cold water
1 envelope (1 tbsp.) unflavored gelatin
4 eggs, separated
1 cup White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter*
1 cup milk
2/3 cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar
½ cup heavy whipping cream
White chocolate shavings and whipped cream, to garnish (optional)

Prepare the crust: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Mix all of the crust ingredients together, and pat evenly
into a 9 inch pie pan, allowing it to come up the sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes, and let cool completely
before filling.

For the filling: In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set aside to soften. Add the egg
yolks to a small saucepan and whisk. Add 2/3 cup of the sugar, the peanut butter, and the milk, and
continue to whisk until smooth. Heat the saucepan on medium and bring to a simmer, stirring
constantly, until the mixture is thickened slightly. Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and add the
softened gelatin, stirring until completely dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl and
refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until thickened and completely cool, 1-2 hours.

In a bowl using electric beaters, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl using clean
beaters, whip the egg whites with the remaining 3 tbsp. sugar until stiff. Gently fold the egg whites and
cream into the peanut butter mixture. Fill the prepared crust and top with white chocolate shavings and
whipped cream, if desired. Chill 2 or more hours before serving.

*If using regular peanut butter, increase the sugar to 1 cup.

Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Best of Kitchen Library: Desserts

June 24, 2012

Sunday S'mores: Graham Cracker Marshmallows

Soooo, homemade marshmallows? Easy to make and so much better than the store bought kind. Srsly guys. The only "special" equipment you need is a candy thermometer and a stand mixer. The ingredients are basic and easy to find. It's less than an hour cooking and mixing, and most of that is just watching with very little effort on your part. Then schlop it in a baking dish and let it sit over night. Cut into squares, toss in powdered sugar, and voila! It's also one of the most impressive things that you can tell people.

Sample conversation:
Random person: So what did you do this weekend?
You: Oh, nothing special. Made marshmallows. Watched a couple of movies. You?
RP: You made what now?
You: Marshmallows.
RP: *eyes roll back into head and faints from shock at your awesomosity*

I've been thinking for a while about making marshmallows for Sunday S'mores, but I didn't want to do normal marshmallows. I wanted to do something more s'mores-y. The idea actually came from my brother, who suggested that I fold bits of graham crackers into the marshmallows and dip them in chocolate to make s'mores marshmallows. But I didn't know if the graham cracker bits would get soggy and bits of mushy graham crackers in my marshmallows didn't sound appetizing. So I thought, why not do graham cracker-flavored marshmallows? I know, genius right?
So I did a little research, and you know what I found out? Graham crackers were invented in Bound Brook, New Jersey. You guys. New Jersey is to thank for s'mores! But not just New Jersey; Bound Brook is in my part of New Jersey. Central Jersey (which North and South Jerseyans claim does not exist. Do not trust them.) It's so cool to know that Bound Brook is famous for something other than flooding constantly. (Us locals call it Drowned Brook.)

Anyway, with the research and all, I decided that I would make a brown sugar and honey marshmallow with a little cinnamon, and then I decided to toss it in graham cracker crumbs instead of powdered sugar.
They have a lovely melt in your mouth texture, and while the honey flavor was a little strong for me, it mellowed out the next day and everything melded into a definite graham cracker flavor.

But of course, this is Sunday S'mores, and s'mores need chocolate. I had a couple ideas. These would be magnificent in hot chocolate, but that's not exactly summery. At The Melting Pot, they have a s'mores fondue that's chocolate marshmallow, and they serve it with graham cracker-crusted marshmallows. But I didn't feel like making fondue, too.

Gosh, it's too bad that I don't have a jar of leftover chocolate spread in the refrigerator that I could melt in the microwave and dip the marshmallows in. Oh wait...
Just please remember that while these are very easy to make, hot sugar can be very dangerous. Pay plenty of attention to what you're doing, avoid distractions, and keep the kids in a different room. As Mad-Eye Moody would say, CONSTANT VIGILANCE.
Graham Cracker Marshmallows {Printable Version}
Yield: 77 marshmallows (in theory)
1 cup cold water
2½ tbsp. (2½ packets) unflavored gelatin
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs (optional)
Non-stick cooking spray
Powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, add ½ cup of the water, gelatin and cinnamon
and let soften. Spray a 7x11” baking dish with cooking spray and sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar.
Set aside.

In a LARGE saucepan, add the remaining ½ cup water, brown sugar, honey, and salt. Heat on low, stirring
constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Heat mixture to boiling. Let boil, without stirring, until
the mixture reaches 240°F (the soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 30 minutes. Remove
from heat.

Start the mixer on low speed, and CAREFULLY add the syrup to the softened gelatin (please utilize a
splatter shield, if available). Increase the speed to high, and whip until the mixture is off-white, fluffy,
and tripled in size, about 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula sprayed with cooking spray, spread the
mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with graham cracker crumbs and press
down lightly (optional). Let sit uncovered overnight.

Dust a cutting board with powdered sugar. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter sprayed with cooking
spray, cut the marshmallows into 1 inch squares. Toss in remaining graham cracker crumbs (optional) or
powdered sugar and serve.

NOTE: The sugar syrup is extremely hot and can be dangerous if not handled correctly. It will boil
violently, so use a large saucepan to avoid spills. Use potholders and splatter shields when necessary,
and always avoid distractions when making any kind of candy.

Recipe by Kim

June 22, 2012

Guest Post: Ginger Macadamia Brownies

I'll be back on Sunday for Sunday S'mores (and no, I have no clue what I'm making yet, thanks for asking), but for now I leave you in the utterly capable hands of the woman herself, C.J. from Food Stories. C.J. was gracious enough to share with us her quest for the perfect "healthy" brownie, and I don't know about you, but these sound pretty awesome to me. Have at it, C.J!

Hello ... I am C.J. from Food Stories and I am so excited to be joining you today to share a fabulous chocolate treat recipe. Thank you, Kim for extending this opportunity!

Just so you know a little bit about me, I am a 40 something, married female that lives on the west coast of the United States. I love food and all things food related. Being a nurse, I especially like the food science/nutritional aspect of food, as well as, typical food preparation, recipes and eating (of course)Consuming fresh, natural, whole and unprocessed food is probably the way that most people should be eating. Unfortunately, I’m a Type II Diabetic so I have to use some processed items to make my diet even half way palatable. Balancing natural foods along with low carb can be daunting but I work hard at it and do my best. 

When Kim and I talked about a guest post, I immediately knew I would be making a brownie recipe. You see, I'm a little OCD about some things and finding a great brownie recipe has eluded me for years. Because of my diabetes, I try to eat lower carb foods. Obviously, some foods just cannot have the carbs removed and still be good. I'm beginning to think that brownies are in this category but I'm not ready to give up yet. Brownies, you won't beat me!. 

I'm not trying to take all the carbs out, just enough so that my pancreas doesn't get tuckered out (FYI ... when you eat carbs, your body produces insulin to "process" the carbs. In Diabetes, your pancreas has trouble doing this)Of course, I haven't tried all the brownie recipes out there but it sure feels like I have. I prefer dense, fudgey, gooey brownies and this is the type of recipe that I'm having difficulty finding, I just want it to fit reasonably within my nutritional plan. And, just for the record, I don't have any issues with the amount of fat or protein in recipes so butter is A-Okay :-) 

So today, I present to you my latest attempt at low-carbing a brownie recipe ... Ginger Macadamia Brownies from Elena Amsterdam's Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

While this recipe is not the gooey, fudgey brownie that I'm searching for, it is very good.
I usually use walnuts in my brownies so macadamia nuts were such a great option.

I have never had ginger in a "sweet" recipe so this was a big change of pace for me. It had a nice zing or zest that I've not had in other recipes which was a nice surprise.
Whew ... Look at those chocolate pieces ... I'm hungry just looking at these pictures :-)

Ginger Macadamia Brownies

  • 2-1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or any vegetable oil)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar free davinci sweetening syrup (or agave nectar, honey)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease a 9x9 baking dish with oil and dust with almond flour.
  • In large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder.
  • In medium bowl,  whisk together the oil, eggs, liquid sweetener, vanilla and ginger.
  • Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and combine thoroughly.
  • Stir in nuts and chocolate.
  • Pour batter into baking dish.
  • Bake 30-35 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Let cool in the baking dish for about an hour.
  • Cut and serve.
  • Makes about 20 brownies (who are we kidding here ... it was nine at our house).
My assessment? 
These are not "the one" but they are really good. They were moist and chocolate-y, the texture was good ... just not gooey and fudgey. I guess my brownie quest continues ...

There you have it ... My latest attempt at finding the perfect brownie. I hope you'll stop by Food Stories and see what other brownie recipes I'm trying or share your own :-)

I'd also like to thank Kim for offering me the opportunity to guest blog!

June 20, 2012

Tell me a story

Today, I'm going to do something a little bit different. Today, I'm going to tell you a story.

It's not an excerpt from one of my novels or a short story. It's not fiction or fantasy or about a cheese man. It's the story of a very special woman. I don't know if I'll do the story justice, but I'm going to try my best.

This woman's name was Yolanda. She was one of eight children. She was born on January 21, 1922. She lived most of her life in a lovely old row house in Brooklyn.
This is not Yolanda, but her youngest grandchild

Yolanda married a wonderful man named Frank. She loved her parents and adored her father-in-law. She thought her mother-in-law was a witch.
Yolanda and Frank's wedding photo
Yolanda and Frank had two children and five grandchildren, although Frank died before the youngest three grandchildren were born.
Yolanda's five grandchildren. Recognize the squalling baby? You should.

Both of Yolanda's children moved to New Jersey to raise their families. Yolanda eventually found her way out there, too, but not for many years to come, not until her health prevented her from living on her own and she moved in with her son. She lived by herself in that old Brooklyn row house, but she was never really alone. Her family could be found all around the neighborhood; her nieces and nephews, her brothers and sisters, many of them still lived in Brooklyn, some just down the street from her. But it wasn't just family that she could rely on for company. Yolanda was a woman with a vibrant personality, a kind heart, and a wicked sense of humor, and she made friends wherever she would go. She treated strangers like friends, and friends like family. Almost everyone who knew her called her Aunt Yo, and they meant it.
Now leaving Brooklyn. Fuhgeddaboudit
Yo always had candy dishes filled with M&M's and a pitcher of iced tea. She had a set of blocks under the living room couch and a back room with some old toys and crayons that always seemed better than the new ones. When her grandchildren came to visit, she'd order fried chicken or pizza, and they'd play cards at the kitchen table. Sometimes, she would make meatballs with her grandchildren. She and her youngest granddaughter would make small ones that they would keep out of the gravy and eat together while they waited for the pasta.
The squalling baby, just a little bit older

When Yo moved in with her son, I'm sure that she regretted not being able to stay in her old Brooklyn neighborhood. I'm sure she missed the schoolchildren that called her Aunt Yo and her frequent visitors, but she was able to spend much more time with her grandchildren. Her daughter's family didn't live too far away, so they were able to see her more often than they could while she was in Brooklyn. Her youngest granddaughter, a teenager now, was able to drive up to see her, and they would play cards, or watch old movies, or watch game show reruns together. But living with her son's family also allowed Yo to be there when her first three great-grandchildren were born, and I'm sure she would have considered that an even trade.
Yolanda's great-grandchildren
My clever readers have probably already figured out that Yo is my grandmother, and the same one for whom I made a strawberry shortcake and some cookie dough truffles. You may have figured out that I'm the youngest granddaughter, the youngest of the five grandchildren. You also probably already figured out the reason that I'm telling her story and the reason that I've been missing the past two weeks.
Yup, the squalling baby and the girl on the steps are me.
Two weeks ago, on June 6th at about a quarter after eleven in the evening, Yolanda died. She was 90 years old.

I've always been jealous of those people that have memories of being in the kitchen with their Italian grandmother, learning to cook at their elbow. The only thing I ever cooked with her were those meatballs, the little ones made just for me. But I still think that I learned my love of cooking from her. She taught me that food was something to be savored, enjoyed, and shared with the people that you love. She taught me that the easiest way to show someone you care is to feed them good food. She taught me that the kitchen is the place for love, laughter, and family.
My grandmother was certainly no saint. She loved the f-word, was a little bit racist, and had an often inappropriate sense of humor, but that was all a part of her charm. The last time I spoke to her, when she was awake and aware, about a week before she died, she held my hand and called me beautiful. I then met a woman that my grandmother had befriended just for the heck of it. She made the nurse laugh, and that same nurse came in to kiss her goodnight before she ended her shift. I also got yelled at for laughing at a joke my uncle had made at my grandmother's expense, but that doesn't count because she was laughing too.
My grandmother, chugging champagne on New Year's Eve. We're classy like that.
If there's one thing that Yo taught us, it's that you don't have to be an angel to be perfect, and you don't have to be perfect to be an angel. Part of me is always shocked to know that the world didn't end on June 7th, that the world wasn't shaken to it's very core. Because there will never be another woman like Yolanda, and I can't help but feel that the world is a much poorer place without her.
The day of the wake, clear as day, there was a rainbow.
Grammy, I love you and I miss you. There's an ache in my chest and an emptiness in my stomach that can't be filled, not even with cupcakes. You loved every piece of jewelery I made, ate everything that I baked, and cheered me on with every word that I wrote. I don't know how I'll keep going without you, but I'll find a way. Because that's what you would want.

June 17, 2012

Guest Post: S'mores Cookies (Sunday S'mores)

Hello and welcome to another Sunday S'mores! I'll be back soon, but until then, I'm leaving you in the best of hands. Today we have a guest post from the incomparable Heidi of Young Grasshopper. Heidi's tons of fun, and I'm so happy she agreed to help out today. Take it away, Heidi!

S'mores Cookies

I'm VERY excited that Kim asked me to pop over to her "place" for Sunday S'Mores. I adore S'mores.... I mean who doesn't? And since it's not always practical to light a campfire.... it's important to have some other avenues to get to that same yumminess!

I searched and searched for a "different" approach to S'mores and ultimately picked this recipe because we've tried to cut white flour out of our diet and so when this popped up in my google search from Bon Appetit I knew it was "the one." Initially, I followed it to the letter but they were just "o.k." and then I saw someone else's post {and I wish I could remember who} with some marshmallow on top so when I baked my second batch I kicked it up and over the top with the recipe below!


for the cookie dough

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk {I didn't have any so I soured a 1/2 cup of milk with a tsp of lemon juice for 15 minutes}
1 TBSP dark molasses
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
for the topping
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with butter flavored nonstick spray. Combine all your dry ingredients in a bowl then add everything else except the topping and mix well. I used my Kitchenaid and I would recommend a beater of some sort because it shredded the marshmallows somewhat.

Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheet, spacing well. Bake cookies for 7 minutes and then quickly {and carefully} top with 3 or 4 mini-marshmallows and 6 or so chocolate chips. Put back in oven for another 7-8 minutes. They will look like a hot mess.... but fear not they'll firm up just fine.
Remove from oven and let cookies cool on sheets 10 minutes before transferring to racks {if there are any left.... they were awesome warm and cool}.

NOTE: I made the dough and baked a batch a day for several days.... it held up well stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
Thanks again Kim for having me and I hope you'll stop by Young Grasshopper to see me...


June 10, 2012

Guest Post: S'mores Milkshake (Sunday S'mores)

Hi all. Due to some personal issues, I won't be able to tend to the blog for a little while. But don't think that means I'm abandoning you. I've asked a few of my fellow Food Stories Award Judges to take over for me until I get back on my feet. These are all truly fabulous ladies, so don't forget to hop on over to their blogs and thank them for helping out.

Taking over today's Sunday S'mores is Jennie, aka The Messy Baker. Jennie's super talented and a total sweetheart, and I'm already drooling over this milkshake. Take it away, Jennie!

Hi. I'm Jennie from The Messy Baker. I was super excited when Kim asked me to guest post for Sunday S'mores. I believe s'mores to be a symbol of summertime. I grew up camping with my family, and we looked forward to evening campfires toasting up marshmallows for gooey s'mores.

I made s'mores milkshakes for today's Sunday S'mores post. They are creamy, chocolatey, and absolutely addictive. I toasted up marshmallows under the broiler, added them to a blender with some rocky road ice cream, graham crackers, and chocolate chips. I gave it a good whiz, and what you end up with is a drinkable s'more. It. Is. Amazing.


S'mores Milkshake


2 cups rocky road ice cream, about 4 generous scoops

1 graham cracker, broken up into quarters

2 tbs. chocolate chips

1 tbs. toasted marshmallow syrup (optional, but totally yummy)

3 marshmallows, toasted

1/4 cup milk


Turn on the oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the marshmallows on the baking sheet and place the sheet under the broiler. Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Warning: Do not take your eye off of the marshmallows! They can and will catch on fire if you leave them under the broiler for too long. If you have a gas stove, feel free to toast your marshmallows over the gas flame.

In the bowl of a blender, add chocolate chips, graham cracker, toasted marshmallows, syrup, ice cream, and milk. Blend until smooth. Add more milk or ice cream depending on how thick you like your shake. Enjoy!


Thank you for allowing to guest post, Kim!


June 3, 2012

Sunday S'mores: Hot & Cold S'mores

Welcome to my first Sunday S'mores post! I'm going to keep this short and sweet today because I'm not entirely sure how long I'll be able to stay coherent. (Migraine medication, yay!).

If you've just stumbled onto this post, every Sunday in June, and possibly the rest of the summer, if it goes well, I'll be doing s'mores-themed treats, and holding a s'mores link-up party.

To start us off, we have Hot & Cold S'mores. When I was little, we used to get this spicy chocolate spread from Suzie's Hot Sauce. I used to make what I would call cold s'mores with it. They don't sell the spread anymore, so I made my own using this recipe from SugarHero. Just add graham crackers and Fluff, and you have a quick and easy summery snack.

And don't forget, the last day to enter my giveaway is tomorrow!
Hot & Cold S'mores {Printable Version}

For the chocolate spread:
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
¼-½ tsp. chili powder*
Pinch salt
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cubed
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Graham crackers
Marshmallow Fluff (or comparable marshmallow crème)

Prepare the chocolate spread: In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar, water, cocoa
powder, chili powder, and salt. Stir until smooth. Continue to heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture
reaches a simmer. Remove the pan from heat and add the butter, chocolate, and vanilla. Stir until the
chocolate and the butter are melted and the mixture is completely smooth. Add to a jar or container
with an airtight lid and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours, until thickened.

To assemble: Generously slather one graham cracker with the chocolate spread and another with Fluff.
Sandwich the two together. Shove in face. Lick fingers. Repeat.

* ¼ tsp. is just enough to get a little heat in the back of your throat. Up it to ½ tsp. if you like spicy, or feel free to omit altogether if you’re not a sweet & spicy fan.

Chocolate spread recipe adapted from SugarHero.com