White Chocolate Cherry Cookies + settling in

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Eek it’s been 3 months since I’ve been on here!  My transition into real-personhood has been pretty smooth, but blogging definitely takes a backseat to busy work life.  Since I usually take pics of my food in natural light, it’s been difficult to catch you know, “good sun” around a 9-5 work schedule (and more obviously, finding time to even cook/bake).

Since my guacamole post, I’ve moved to a new apartment in a different neighborhood of Chicago and I’ve been working a real job for almost 6 months now.  FINALLY, I’m starting to feel a little more relaxed , but stress from the past few months left me feeling like a chicken running around without its head.  I don’t really know how to describe what I’ve been doing since I’ve moved, but I can say it’s all been a humbling experience! I’ve been learning about super fun stuff like building credit, finding a dentist and making new friends.  (All of these things are still in progress…).

Anyway, I found this recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction a while ago and have been dying to make them.  (As another side note, another thing that is different in Chicago is that everyone I meet seems to be watching their weight and won’t eat sweets! Meaning, my roommate, my co-workers, my friends…. One more reason I haven’t been baking so much is that there is no one around to eat my treats).  I’m a little bummed that they turned out to be so ugly compared to Sally’s pictures, but they are sweet and soft, just like she promised.  Now… just have to find someone to give them away to before I eat the whole batch…

White Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Yields 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on size

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried cranberries (I used dried cherries)

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, but do not preheat oven yet (dough requires chilling).

Mix dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.  Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy and pale in color.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  With the mixer running on low, slowly add in dry ingredients.  Dough should become stiff, but not crumbly.   Do not overmix.  Stir in white chocolate chips and dried fruit (I opted for cherries, I’m sure dried blueberries would work well too).

Make one big ball of dough and cover with saran wrap.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, or as long as 3 days.  Chilling the dough allows the flavors to deepen, aka makes better tasting cookies, so if you have the time, be patient! :)

Almond Poppy Seed Quick Bread

Quick breads are the best. You can throw all the ingredients together in one or two bowls, pour everything into a pan and leave it in the oven for an hour.  There is no annoying whipping of egg whites, chopping of fruit, boiling of sugar or spooning batter into little cups. So easy! And this recipe makes TWO loaves. So more for sharing. Nom.

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I was really excited about this recipe because the only way I’ve ever eaten poppy seeds is in lemon poppy seed muffins. After this recipe, almond is my new favorite flavor.  Everyone who has tried it has had the same reaction: “OMG. Yum. Can I have another slice?”  I made this bread yesterday and one of the loaves is already gone… so if you are in a pinch and really want to impress your family with treat for Easter, make this!

Almond Poppy Seed Bread 4

Almond Poppy Seed Bread
Makes two 9×5″ loaves

Bread:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1 1/3 cup canola oil
3 room temperature eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk, your favorite should be fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

Glaze:
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray two 9×5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, whisk  flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and poppy seeds. Set aside.

In another large mixing bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, milk, and extracts until combined.

Using a wooden spoon, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet mixture into the well and use the spoon or a rubber spatula to combine the ingredients. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean. (Here, if your edges appear to be browning too quickly, top with aluminum foil midway through baking)

When the breads are finished in the oven, make the glaze: In a large bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and both juices until smooth and runny. Add the liquid slowly so the glaze doesn’t become too runny.

Run a butter knife along the edges of each pan, then invert the pans and remove the still-warm loaves. Place the loaves, right side up, onto serving plates and drizzle each one with the glaze. Cool completely before slicing.

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes

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Fresh Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins with Orange Glaze

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Yay, muffins!

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Fresh Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins with Orange Glaze
Makes 12 large muffins

Muffins:
1/2 cup butter or margarine (I used Earth Balance)
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 tablespoon
3/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 cup chocolate chips

Glaze:
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
2-2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400º. Line 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, toss chopped strawberries with one tablespoon of flour, set aside. In small bowl, whisk together butter, milk, vanilla, almond extract and eggs, set aside. In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and stir just until combined (do not over mix). Gently fold in strawberries and chocolate chips. Divide batter over 12 muffins (cups will be quite full).

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before removing from pan to cool on a cooling rack.

To make the glaze, whisk ingredients together until thick and smooth. Dip tops of completed cooled muffins into glaze or pour over the top. Allow to dry before eating, then enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Hidden Ponies

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Coconut Milk Brownies

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It was the name of these brownies is what caught my eye. Coconut milk? My lactose intolerant dream ingredient.  It’s the rich, decadent, magical little fix that makes everything creamy again!  As it turned out, these still contain two entire sticks of butter in addition to the coconut milk, but there’s nothing a Lactaid pill can’t fix, right? Right (hopefully). So I tried them.

These babies really do pack in the calories– coconut milk, butter, and entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips? But more calories can only mean one thing, MORE FLAVOR! Once again, my housemates approve, and I am happy to present to you, another dense, fudgy, and delicious brownie recipe.

Coconut Milk Brownies 1
Coconut Milk Brownies
Makes on 9×13″ pan

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup coconut milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2-2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 baking dish.  In small saucepan over low heat, melt butter completely. Stir in sugar and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow sugar mixture to boil. Add the chocolate chips and stir until melted.

Pour butter mixture into a large bowl or stand mixer and beat in coconut milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and flour. Gradually add to the wet mixture and mix until well combined. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 35-45 minutes, until a tester comes out mostly clean. Let cool on a wire rack until completely cool.

While the brownies are baking, make the frosting by whipping the butter until lighter in color. Add the vanilla and coconut milk and beat until combined. Slowly add the cocoa powder and mix until combined. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until frosting has reached desired consistency. Spread over brownies once completely cooled.

Recipe from A Duck’s Oven

Coconut Oil White Chocolate Chip Cookies

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My god, Averie is good.  Coconut oil instead of butter? Why didn’t I think of that? My lactose-intolerant self leaped for joy when I found these  butter-less cookies.  After trying this recipe from Averie Cooks, I’m pretty sure I’ll be making a trip to Costco to get one of those gallon-sized tubs of coconut oil…

These are best eaten straight from the oven– they’re chewy, gooey and really sweet, just how I like my cookies!  I had a little bit of trouble with the dough— it was super dry and crumbly so next time I think I will reduce the flour and increase the oil a bit.  Just a tip!

Coconut Oil White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 15 cookies

1/2 cup coconut oil, softened (softened to the consistency of soft butter; not rock hard and not runny or melted)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup bread flour (I subbed all purpose flour here)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 ounces) white chocolate chips

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine coconut oil, egg, sugars, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed to cream until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Note – Coconut oil should be the consistency of soft butter like you’d use to cream with sugar and eggs in traditional cookies. If coconut oil is rock hard, microwave it in a small bowl for 5 to 10 seconds or just until it begins to soften. If coconut oil is runny or melted, place it in the freezer momentarily until it firms up. A tiny amount of runniness is fine; it’s an oil and that happens. But do not use melted or purely liquid coconut oil because you can’t effectively cream a liquid; it would be like trying to cream liquid butter.

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flours, baking soda, salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Add the white chocolate and beat momentarily to incorporate or fold in by hand.

Divide dough into approximately 15 equal-sized pieces. Place dough mounds on a large plate, and slightly flatten each mound. Very important to get the dough mounds in the exact shape you want to bake them in because after chilling, flattening or re-shaping them is very difficult. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours; up to 5 days. Do not bake these cookies with dough that has not been properly chilled because they will spread.

Preheat oven to 350°F, line or grease a baking sheet. Place dough on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart; I bake a maximum of 8 per sheet. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until tops have just set, even if slightly undercooked and glossy in the center. They firm up as they cool and I recommend the lower end of the baking range because they taste best when softer and paler. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes before moving. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

Recipe from Averie Cooks

Lemon-y Lemon Bars

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Happy spring break everyone! I realize I fell off the blogging radar for a bit, but don’t worry because I’m back with an AWESOME lemon bar recipe for you to try.

I was going to lie to you all and say that I was too busy with homework and papers to update PITK, but seriously, when has school ever stopped me from baking?  The truth is, I have been in sort of a baking rut for a while.  Despite the hundreds of recipes I have bookmarked, pinned and favorited on Foodgawker and Tastespotting,  nothing was really catching my interest.  Something must have been seriously wrong with me, right? Anyway, a few days ago, I decided to just pick a recipe and get back into the swing of things… this is what I ended up with!

These lemon bars are actually tart and taste lemony, and it’s because the lemon filling contains a full cup of fresh lemon juice.  My housemates approve– one of them commented that they are some of the best she’d ever had!  If you’re looking to incorporate a little splash of summer into the dreary winter… this is surely the recipe for you :).

Perfect Lemon Bars
Makes one 8×8 pan

Crust
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Filling
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed and strained
3 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil.
Make the crust. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Cut butter into chunks and add to flour mixture. Blend in with an electric mixer at low speed until mixture forms coarse, sandy crumbs. Pour into pan and press mixture down (with your fingers or the back of a spoon) into an even layer.
Bake for 16-19 minutes, until just lightly browned around the edges.

While crust is baking, make filling. Whisk together all filling ingredients in a large bowl.
When the crust comes out of the oven and is still hot, pour in filling mixture.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until filling is set and does not jiggle when the pan is gently shaken.
Cool completely before slicing.
Top slices with confectioners’ sugar to serve.

Recipe adapted from baking bites

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Coconut Banana Bread

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I’ve been on a quick bread binge lately! I apologize to the quick bread haters out there (do those people exist?), but this is my third bread recipe in a row.  I’ve been feeling a bit lazy when it comes to baking and I just love how easy it is to just whip up a simple batter and dump it all into one pan.  This week, the thought of frosting a messy cake or spooning cookie dough onto a sheet made me shudder, so this coconut banana bread is the result of a compromise between my winter blah’s and my constant need for baked goods around the house.

Maybe some of you remember the last banana bread I made.  “America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread”… supposedly the best recipe out there? I disagreed. It was a little too plain for me.  I usually need something a bit more special to please my palate– this is the winning recipe right here!  Coconut banana bread is the moistest, most perfect banana bread I’ve had yet.  Yesterday, I tried a slice that was still a bit warm from the oven– it was delightful.  The crunchy outer crust encases a soft, moist and perfectly sweet interior that is laced with bits of sweet coconut flakes.  This morning I couldn’t even stop myself from sneaking half a slice before my breakfast.  Enjoy!

Coconut Banana Bread
Makes one 9×5 loaf

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup melted organic virgin coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup yogurt (I used SO Delicious Vanilla-Flavored Coconut Milk Yogurt)
1 tsp almond extract
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the coconut oil, sugar, eggs, yogurt, almond extract, vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup coconut. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.

Sprinkle 2 Tbsp shredded coconut into the bottom of the greased loaf pan. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 70-80 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Recipe from Culinary Adventures in the Kitchen

Coconut Banana Bread 3

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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This bread is the bomb.  Pardon my cheesy word choice (I promise I haven’t said that since middle school, maybe), but I’ve seriously never had such rich, chocolate-y zucchini bread in my life.  I tried two recipes: one from Joy of Baking and the other from Taste of Home… this was the winner.

It’s quick to throw together and even faster to disappear if you have a hungry boyfriend and roommates like I do.  This is the third loaf I’ve made since Christmas… I highly recommend it!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Makes one 9×5 loaf

1 1/2 cups zucchini, shredded
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I found that mini chips work best)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×5 loaf pan with cooking spray (or grease with butter/shortening).

In a mixer, combine your oil, sugars and vanilla. Mix in your eggs and shredded zucchini. In a separate bowl, sift together your flours, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder. Slowly add this dry mixture into your wet mixture. Beat until combined. Mix in your chocolate chips.

Scrape your batter prepared loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.

Recipe from Joy of Baking 

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Banana Cranberry Breakfast Bread

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After all the Christmas treats I thought it was time for a “healthier” snack.  I also needed to get rid of some grossly black bananas and the cranberries that have been sitting in my freezer since October.

I’m proud of this recipe. I usually am not able to combine ingredients in a way that produces edible food– I’m a recipe follower– but this time I remembered some of my mom’s tips about health-i-fying recipes and actually made something tasty.

The best part is, it’s not too bad for you, so you don’t even have to feel guilty about eating it for breakfast.

Banana Cranberry Breakfast Bread
Makes one 9×5 loaf

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries**
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (can sub all-purpose or whole wheat, but the texture will be slightly different)
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.  In a medium bowl, mix cranberries in flour, oats, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside

In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugars until light-colored and fluffy.  Add applesauce and blend.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in mashed banana.  Add cranberry/flour mixture to shortening/sugar mixture and stir until just combined.  Spoon batter into prepared pan

Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

**TIP: Any berry can be subbed in here! I imagine apple, peaches and mango would be great too.  Let me know in the comments how your experiments go.**

My recipe, inspired by Allrecipes

Banana Cranberry Breakfast Bread 3

Christmas Cookies Galore: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies 1

I will always admire my mom for her skill in finding unique and fabulous recipes.  Sure, knowing which ingredients combine to make the best tasting treats could be a result of baking experimentation over the years, but I am pretty sure that it’s partly just a gift. She found this gem on a blog that didn’t even include a picture and was intrigued by the raisin-soaking tip (I promise you, it’s the secret to perfect oatmeal raisin cookies!).

I helped her make them for our Christmas celebration and they turned out to be delicious.  In fact, my boyfriend raved about them so much that I made him his own batch the very next day.

So here, I present to you, the only oatmeal raisin cookie recipe you will ever need. Happy baking!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Makes 36-40 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinammon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups oatmeal (quick cooking or old fashioned, not instant)
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Prep: The key is to soak the raisins. This makes all the difference in the world. Beat eggs and vanilla together and then add the raisins, stir. Soak for an hour or two. I just walked by a few times and stirred it while I waited.

Directions: Preheat to 350 F.  Cream butter and sugars with mixer. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Stir the dry ingredients until well blended. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix well. Now add in the egg and raisin mixture. Then add oatmeal and chocolate chips/nuts and combine well. Form into balls on cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes.

Let cool on cookie sheet for 2-5 minutes or until firm enough to transfer to wire rack.

Recipe from Journey to Crunchville