You know what I don’t talk about nearly enough for someone who claims to be a guilty pleasure connoisseur?
I love food. Food is great. I totally live to eat (and not the other way around). Last night I made an in-my-head-recipe for vegetable lasagna that was so good I feel compelled to tell everyone I’ve seen since then about it. I always use whole milk, full-fat cheeses (lots of different kinds: provolone, asiago, mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta), and this time I blended a bag of fresh spinach into the ricotta cheese blend – WOWZAH! Look:
It also helps that I was able to use 3 kinds of fresh, organic basil from my husband’s (a.k.a. The Peppermeister) garden.
And as long as we’re on the topic of my culinary prowess, I should tell you I have quite a reputation when it comes to baking. I’m excited to share with you a few of my favorite online dessert recipes, along with some of my trade secrets. I hope you’ll try one (or all) of them out and let me know how it goes!
General Baking Tips (I wouldn’t do this for just anyone, guilty pleasure snookums)
- With rare exceptions, FOLLOW THE RECIPE! People who like to cook sometimes struggle with this baking principle; the order and the measurements make all the difference in baking
- I HIGHLY recommending using AirBake pans for your cookies and keep a close eye once they’re in the oven - cookies still look a little soft/raw in the middle when they’re done (that is, if you like soft, chewy cookies like me)
- The more you try, the better you get! You have no idea how many things I’ve screwed up on the first go ’round
- Don’t worry about having your butter and eggs sit out until they’re room temperature before you start making your recipe if you don’t have time (just soften your butter in the microwave and use cold eggs) – it really doesn’t matter that much, despite what you might have heard!
- Barefoot Contessa would burn me alive for this, but don’t worry about using unsalted butter – just don’t add any additional salt to the recipe if using salted butter
- One thing that DOES matter: real vanilla! I’ve heard real vanilla bean is best, but I’m very happy with McCormick’s pure vanilla extract (NOT imitation)
- If you don’t bake often, be mindful of when your dry ingredients expire/go stale
Black Bottom Cupcakes - you and your family/friends will go into a happy food coma from one of these!
- Use foil muffin tin liners – they peel off easily
- Once cooled, frost with cream cheese icing* and sprinkle with the leftover mini chocolate chips
- Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before serving (like anything with tomato sauce, anything with cream cheese seems to taste better after it ‘settles’)
Thumbprint Cookies - these are soft, buttery and delicious and changed my opinion on thumbprint cookies!
- If rolling in nuts, toast the nuts first (I use my toaster oven and it only takes about a minute) and then chop them into nearly a powder using a mini Cuisinart (if you have one). At Christmastime, I like to roll some in nuts and some in red or green sprinkles (they’re very pretty)
- Make sure you’re using a jam filling that you would want to eat on its own (and remember that some people will only eat seedless jam) – it’s the centerpiece of the cookie. One of my favorites is Dickinson’s Cascade Mountain seedless raspberry jam (I can usually find this brand at any grocery store), but the best I ever had was some random gourmet brand I found at HomeGoods (I really should have written the name down!)
- You do need to grease your baking pans for these (unlike with most other cookies) – it doesn’t really matter if you use a spray or softened butter
Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Raisin Cookies - just like grandma made, if you were lucky enough to live near a grandmother that baked
- You also do need to grease your baking sheets for these
- Remember to buy quick-cooking oats, not old-fashioned (I guess the name of these cookies is pretty misleading!)
- I like to buy raisins that come in a ziploc pouch; they seem fresher/softer
- I’ve determined that it’s the 2 cups of brown sugar that have people react by
sayingscreaming they’re the best oatmeal-raisin cookies they’ve ever had
*My tried and true cream cheese icing recipe
1 bar (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. powdered sugar
Beat butter and cream cheese together using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla, and finally sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time so you don’t turn into one of these guys: