Thursday, April 23, 2015

Peanut Butter Brownies (and more!)

Day 101

I’m in a book club. It’s a local group of ladies who invited me to join them last fall, and I’ve had the most fun getting to know them and reading books together. Last weekend, I hosted our Book Chat when we had just finished reading Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time, a murder mystery that takes place at an elephant sanctuary, very similar to the impressive and incredible Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee ( ). Since I’m fairly enamored with elephants and their family bonds, human-like comprehension, and cognition, I was happy to host this one.
Photo by Maggie Kapustin

I love themes too, and a book about elephants afforded me the opportunity to center all of our book club snacks around stereotypical elephant favorites, like nuts and fruits. First, I needed wine, and I wanted a good wine with elephants on the label—a tall order, I knew. I fully recognized that this strange request was very possibly not available in local stores. Nevertheless, anytime I need a special bottle of anything, I call only one place: North Ridge Wine and Spirits, in Ellicott City, Maryland. Our good friend, Brad, is the co-owner of the family-operated business, and he knows his wine. I absolutely love the fact that I can call Brad with a question or request, and he always finds the answer I need. In fact, just to further prove the point to myself, after I called him and he recommended a red wine blend called Petite Petit, I called three other wine stores in the area. I asked the employees the same questions that I asked Brad, and not one of them knew their inventory or where to look for my obscure request. As a customer, I cannot praise Brad and the North Ridge Wine team enough. If you live in the area, it’s the only place you should be shopping. 

With wine accounted-for, I moved on to the menu. We usually meet just before the supper hour, so hors-d’oeuvres are generally sufficient. Although the recipe I’m sharing here today is for peanut butter brownies, I chose to make the cucumber-watermelon-feta salad I showcased on Day 76 of this blog as well as tea sandwiches filled with the curry chicken salad from Day 35. If you’re interested in searching back, have a go; both additions to the table were successful. The peanut butter brownies are Ina Garten’s recipe, but I made them in two spring-form pans for a slightly fancier presentation.   These brownies are incredible. That being said, I should add that, if in a pinch, you could always make a similar-but-not-quite-as-luxurious brownie by buying Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix and making it according to the package directions except to add 1 heaping teaspoon of instant coffee, one teaspoon of vanilla, and ½ tsp. of cinnamon to the batter. Bake as directed, allow to cool, then cover with chocolate peanut butter spread and chopped salted peanuts. 

Ina’s is definitely better, though, so give it a try. Bon Appétit!

Here’s the link for the recipe I used, but, unlike Ina’s recipe, I chose to cover the top of the brownies with chocolate peanut butter spread (found on peanut butter aisle of market, next to Nutella) and to sprinkle them with salted and cocoa-dusted peanuts. 

And, one last thing: if you’re interested in elephants and would like to watch the heart-warming story of an injured elephant named Shirley who was relocated to the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary years ago, click here. You’ll be glad you did. You’ll also get to meet her kind and gentle caretaker, Solomon James, whom you’ll adore right away. Have tissues at the ready.

Ina Garten’s Peanut Swirl Brownies 

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 by 18 by 1½ -inch sheet pan.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the prepared sheet pan. Spoon the peanut butter over the top of the chocolate mixture and using a knife, swirl it through the chocolate mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into large squares.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hearty Tex-Mex Quiche

Day 100

We made it! Recipe number 100 is today! Woohoo! Thanks for continuing to check-in for new recipes as often as you do.

Today’s quiche was inspired by Ree Drummond’s Cowboy Quiche in many ways, but I wanted to make something a little spicier and with more of a Tex-Mex flair. I think I found the right combination. I’m going to make this one for Easter too, so this first try was a test run. I wouldn’t change anything though, and I think you’ll agree.
Photos by Maggie Kapustin

If you love cilantro, bacon, onion, sausage and spice, you’ll want to make this one for your family very soon. Personally, I love making quiche for meals when we have company because it’s easy and foolproof, to some degree. It’s a sort of one pot wonder that always pleases crowds. Even though men often joke that quiche is for women for some reason, I know there’s not a man out there who wouldn’t find today’s recipe adequately hearty and filling. This one will change the way men look at quiche, for sure. On Ree Drummond’s blog for her Cowboy Quiche recipe, she has this hysterical quote:

Real Cowboys eat quiche.” – Aristotle

Honestly, though, what omnivorous human being doesn’t like the utterly sensational  combination of bacon, sausage, cilantro, onions, garlic, hot pepper, eggs, cream, pastry, and cheese? These ingredients melt in your mouth and fill your belly to nap-inducing perfection.

Borrowing The Pioneer Woman’s idea of using a springform pan and using her liquid measures, I must give most of the credit to her husband’s favorite quiche recipe. If you haven’t had the chance to purchase her recipe books, I highly recommend that you find the time to order one. My favorite so far is The Pioneer Woman Cooks, one of her most recent.

For my quiche, I used a store bought, refrigerated crust instead of making my own. Don’t gasp. This saved time and was very tasty. With a dish like quiche, I think it’s  hard to tell the difference since there are so many ingredients fighting for center stage. Of course, if you’re a traditionalist and prefer your homemade pastry crust, go for it. Yours will be even more impressive and delicious!

Here’s to 100 recipes and to the time you’ve dedicated to visiting my site. I really appreciate your readership and I welcome your feedback, always.

Hearty Tex-Mex Quiche
8 Eggs
1 unbaked deep dish pie crust (9-10 inch)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno, finely diced and without seeds/membrane
5 slices bacon, fried and chopped
½ pound hot breakfast sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained well
½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 dash hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1½ cups heavy cream
2 cups sharp cheddar, grated
1 bunch cilantro leaves, washed well and chopped*

Using about 2 tablespoons of the sausage or bacon drippings (or butter if you prefer), sauté the onions until they are soft and caramelized. Add the jalapeno and the garlic and continue to sauté for about 2 more minutes. Add the bacon and sausage, stir, and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Press the pie crust into a fluted deep dish spring form tart pan (or you can use a deep dish pie pan if you don’t have the spring form), carefully pressing against bottom and sides.

Using a whisk, blend the eggs, cream, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce in a large mixing bowl. Add the cheese and chopped cilantro, and stir with a spoon.

Sprinkle the meat mixture into the bottom of the pie crust, then pour the egg and cream mixture on top, making sure to cover the meat. Place the pan on a baking sheet and place a sheet of aluminum foil atop the quiche, just to prevent over-browning.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for about 15-20 minutes or until quiche is just set in the center, but slightly loose.

Remove from oven and allow to set on counter for 15 minutes before removing. If using a springform, remove quiche from pan and place on serving platter. If using a traditional deep dish pan, simply slice with a serrated knife and serve.

*A quick trick: washing cilantro (or any leafy vegetable) is much easier, after the initial rinsing, if you place it in a bowl, thick, bottom stems removed, covered with cold water and a tablespoon or so of vinegar. Allow to rest in vinegar water for about 10 minutes. All of the sand and dirt will drift to the bottom of the bowl. Remove without disrupting the water and rinse once more to remove vinegar. Vinegar works as the perfect astringent for greens and you’ll never have to worry about grit.

Original inspiration for this quiche from the following link:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Decadent Chocolate Cake

Day 99

My daughter, Tate, offered to contribute her  incredibly, superbly, super-dee-dooper wonderfully flavored cake recipe with us. I’ll turn over the reins to her, for now. You won’t be disappointed.

Hi y’all; it’s Tate. 

As a lover of all things sweet, and of all foods with “cake” in their title, I am constantly searching for the perfect dessert. This leads to many dirty baking sheets and one exhausted mixer. My search was suddenly halted after I tried a Nutella Cake recipe I found on Pinterest.
Photo by Taylor Fowler
Yes, Pinterest— I know. Pinterest has a reputation (and a quite accurate one at that) for being untrustworthy in its recipes. And I would say that this recipe was no different, in some ways. The entire dish— the filling, topping, etc.— did not turn out perfectly, but the cake itself was FANTASTIC. It was moist, rich, and so full of that deep chocolate flavor that it practically knocked my socks off. That being said, it also led to me scratching the recipe as a whole, and just using the cake portion of it. That cake, with its moist texture and rich flavor, made me want to scream from the rooftops. 

The best thing about chocolate cake (other than its heavenly flavor) is its versatility. I would encourage you to take this recipe, bask in its glory, and then twist it to suit your own taste buds. You could pair it with any toppings, fillings, mousses, or icings that you desire. I personally like the idea of topping the cake with a coconut cream icing and shaved almonds. YUM. That being said, the choice is yours! 

Before I give you the recipe, though, you should know one thing. One thing that I did not know, and made me feel that my cakes were destined for failure. THE BATTER WILL BE EXTREMELY LOOSE. It will be able to pour almost like buttermilk would— very much still a liquid— just thicker. This is okay; just treat it normally. Pour it in your baking pans, and it will bake as it should. 

Now, drumroll please… 

*Decadent Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
¾  cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
 tsp. vanilla
1 cup boiling water 


1. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom, and grease the sides.
2. Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk together.
3. Add eggs, buttermilk and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Add vanilla to boiling water and add to mixture. Mix well.
5. Pour into two 8-inch cakes pans, about halfway up the pans, and bake at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. 
6. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely. 

*Remember that this recipe is JUST FOR TWO CHOCOLATE CAKES, not for an entire dessert (icing, toppings, etc). That is up to you to decide! Enjoy! 

Original recipe from Pinterest, at this site: