Chocolate Pecan Pie

photo 3There are many reasons to love the holidays: time off from work/school, snowy weather, family gatherings, festive decorations, and food. I’m sure it’s no surprise that my favorite aspect of winter celebrations is the latter on this long list, but I’m prepared to be even more specific. I love, I mean am practically obsessed with, holiday desserts, and pie is on the top of the list.

I recently attended a book signing by Rose Levy Beranbaum where she detailed her latest book, The Baking Bible, practically a Godsend. Hearing her speak was both compelling and inspiring; I simply couldn’t wait to go home and bake. I absolutely recommend buying the book because there are countless tips and tricks for baking lovers, as well as hundreds of pages of detailed recipes and mouth-watering pictures. However, I did a little research and managed to find an online version of one of her most valuable baking formulas: Cream Cheese Crust. While I was used to using either butter or shortening for my pie crusts (and, honestly, have even used a store-bought crust from time), the cream cheese addition in this recipe made for a truly beautiful, flaky crust. I used the Cream Cheese Crust for all of my Turkey Day pies and they were a huge success – not a crumb lasted through the weekend.

photo 2This recipe was a variation of my typical holiday pecan pie; I’ll admit, I was just a tad nervous and anxious about straying from tradition. But my decision was soon vindicated. This scrumptious confection was a huge crowd pleaser among the friends and family at my own Thanksgiving feast. The slightly salty, savory pecans are complimented perfectly by rich and melty chocolate pieces, and the flaked coconut adds an awesome texture to the smooth caramel base of the pie. Serve it warm or cold and topped with a dollup of fresh whipped cream – the perfect way to top off a festive celebration.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

  • Pastry for Single Crust-Pie
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • Whipped cream (optional)

Prepare pastry for single-crust pie. Roll out the crust and gently transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold under extra pastry and crimp the edge. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, add eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir to combine.

In pastry shell, layer semisweet chocolate pieces, 1 cup coconut and pecan pieces. Pour egg mixture over all, spreading evenly.

photo 1To prevent over browning, cover edge of pastry shell with foil.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil, then continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes more or until set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and store in refrigerator within 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream.

Namas-tasty!

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Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Kiss Cookies

photo 3Despite this lovely warm weather we’ve been having, I have been deep in fall baking mode. While visiting Chicago last weekend I simply had to do some apple picking; one of the few shortcomings of beautiful Colorado is its lack of apple orchards.  I came home with several humongous honeycrisp apples to make good use of, so of course I had to make one of my Famous Apple Pies.

I also found these delicious Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kisses while at the grocery store a few days ago. I was momentarily distracted by the shock that Hershey’s actually made a flavor of chocolate treat that I had yet to try… but within moments I had a great idea for a new autumn recipe.

photo 4These adorable Kiss Cookies are tasty and festive – call them “Wicked Witches Hats” and they are perfect themed treats for a Halloween party. The deep chocolate flavor of the cookies pairs perfectly with the rich and sinful sweetness of the spicey Kisses. They are delicious straight from the oven when the Kiss is slightly melty, but can be stored for up to two weeks in an airtight container. This recipe makes about three dozen cookies and can easily be doubled – or even tripled – for a big event!

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Kiss Cookies

  • ⅓ cup butter, softened (5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ⅔ cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 36 Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kisses

photo 1Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the Greek yogurt and egg and beat until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture until just incorporated.

Using tablespoonfuls of dough, gently roll cookies into balls. Place 2 inches apart onto a non-stick (dark) baking sheet. If your baking sheet is not non-stick, line to sheet with parchment paper.

photo 2Bake cookies for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes. During this time, unwrap the Hershey’s Kisses. Place one Hershey’s Kiss on top of each cookie, pressing down gently. Do not move the cookies until they are completely cool and the kiss has a chance to set.

Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Namas-tasty!

Densely Delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

photo 4Yesterday was a dreary, drizzly, chilly day in Denver — aka the PERFECT opportunity for some more fall baking! I decided to make some chocolately pumpkin bars to curl up by the fire with. These dense treats are rich, moist, and full of pumpkin spice flavor and chocolate in every bite, almost like nibbling on a hunk of fudge! They are easy to make in mere minutes and can be enjoyed solo or with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Densely Delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

adapted from Avery Cooks

  • photo 1-11/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus more for sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter. Let cool for one minute. Add the egg, pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and whisk until smooth.

photo 2Add the flour and stir until just combined, don’t overmix! Stir in chocolate chips.

Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Evenly sprinkle with chocolate chips, as few or as many as you would like 🙂

photo 3-1Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow bars to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. I found that the flavor was intensified after sitting in the pan overnight, and I did not cut them into bars right away. Bars continue to get softer and moister for about 3 days after baking. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Namas-tasty!

(Bikini-Ready) Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

2014-05-26 21.03.32Howdy readers! I have to tell y’all, I am so so sOoOoO excited to share this recipe with you. Now that summer weather is FINALLY here, I’ve really been trying to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits and cutting out fatty foods. Key word here: trying. But let’s face it, the better we eat, the better we feel when it’s time to shed those clothes and bear our bikini bods… and that’s worth giving up the potato chips for, am I right?!

So, this is why I am unbelievably happy to have found this recipe for some seriously delicious cookies that are 100% guilt-free! Believe it or not, this recipe calls for no flour, sugar, oil, or flour. Zero, zilch, NADA. How is this even possible?!

These cookies use ripe bananas, peanut butter, unsweetened applesauce, and oats to create an awesomely moist and soft texture with a flavor that is to die for. Just add some spices to jazz them up and extra goodies like dried coconut and chocolate chips — as few or as many as suites your fancy!

Feel free to hit the beach or the pool and bring a couple of these waist-conscious snacks along with you. Just be prepared for the jealous stares 🙂

(Bikini-Ready) Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 C. reduced-fat peanut butter
  • 2/3 C. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (sometimes if I’m feeling a little crazy I substitute dark rum… sounds weird but adds a whole other layer of flavor!)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • Dash of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 C. quick or old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 C. semisweet chocolate chips
  • If desired, you can also add 1/4 C. of nuts, dried fruit or unsweetened shredded coconut!

2014-05-26 20.25.43Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the peanut butter, applesauce, vanilla, and spices into the bananas.  Add in the oats, nuts, chocolate chips, and coconut; stir until well combined. Batter will seem a little wet, but this is OK!Spoon a rounded 2 tbsp. of the cookie mixture onto the lined baking sheet, leaving an inch or two between each and flatten slightly. Place a few more chocolate chips on top of each cookie, if desired. Bake for 20-30 minutes and allow to cool slightly.

Namas-tasty!

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

2014-02-09 15.47.02Happy Friday, readers! Let me just say, it feels great to be writing to you all again! I know I have been distant lately, but I really want to work on our relationship. 😉

Things have gotten a little chaotic…. the past month or so has been a blur of trying circumstances and tough decisions, and that’s not to mention my hectic daily work schedule and quite a bit of travel mixed in. I have no doubt that life, fickle as it is, has thrown some lemons at some of you in the past few weeks, too!

I admit that, under these kind of circumstances, my first instinct is to drop those activities that I usually deem less “urgent” than my daily to-do list; for me, these include working out, reading for pleasure, and, of course, cooking.  I have done little of any of these tasks in the past few weeks, meaning that, on top of just generally feeling stressed, I noticed that I have also been just plain unhappy. That is, until I finally got a much-needed reality check from a friend and reader: “You can’t stop cooking your way through life!”

My friend was completely right. I realized that when life gets crazy, the absolute last thing anyone should do is drop those activities that provide the most happiness; they are what drive us to keep wading through the muck to get to the other side of the turmoil. So, I have decided to rededicate myself to the cause I set out to write this blog about, and I empower you to do the same, readers. We can get through this together!

2014-02-09 15.20.21As of today, I am officially recommitting myself to being kind to my body, both by feeding it well and by exercising it regularly. I will continue to search for and find pleasure even in the most unexpected places. And, finally, I pledge to keep cooking through the crazy! And to document it all here on these (virtual) pages.  While we each, of course, will have our own goals and means to achieve them, the end result is, hopefully, exactly the same: happiness and inner peace.

So, readers, I hope you enjoy making (and eating) these delicious strawberry chocolate chip muffins as much as I did, and prepare yourselves for the landslide of yummy, joy-inducing and (hopefully semi-) healthy recipes coming your way in the coming days and weeks!

2014-02-09 15.47.37Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

Adapted from Damn Delicious

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup strong coffee, cooled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup diced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

2014-02-09 15.21.15Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.

In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together butter, coffee, sugars, egg and vanilla. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined (do not over mix). Add strawberries and chocolate chips and gently toss with rubber spatula to combine.

2014-02-09 15.29.18Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin tray. Place into oven and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Namas-tasty!

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

2014-02-01 09.17.49WOW, I don’t know about you but I’ve had about as much as snow as I need for a lifetime this winter! If I have to dig out my car from a mountain of snow one more time…. I don’t even want to see the movie Frozen, which everybody (well, mostly those of the age 3-11 demographic, as that’s pretty much the majority of the folks that I hang out with these days) claims is the movie of the decade!

Pretty much the ONLY advantage of cold, snowy, drizzly, wet, slushy weather is that I get to bake to my hearts content. Not only does it warm my kitchen (AKA my entire apartment, since it’s basically just one big room), but, as I like to think, it gives me a little extra insulation 🙂

I decided during the last storm to whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I wanted to make them a little more hearty (and healthy) by adding some oats and, again, substituting the vegetable oil for applesauce (yes, I know, there is still butter in the recipe. Sometimes you just have to indulge!). These turned out super yummy and were a major mood boost/substitute for sunshine; I hope you try them out at home as well!

2014-01-27 17.24.43Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups oats (I typically use quick cook oats but only had old fashioned on hand this time; you can use either. With old fashioned the cookies still turned out fine, they just have a slightly crunchier consistency)
  • 6 ounces (half a bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease cookie sheets.

2014-01-27 17.18.33Melt butter in the microwave and cool slightly to avoid cooking the eggs. Add the applesauce, sugar, brown sugar and eggs and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Add the oats and chocolate chips and mix until just combined.

Drop onto cookie sheets in heaping teaspoon size dollops, about 1 1/2 inches apart.

2014-01-27 17.54.25Bake on the top oven rack until the edges just start to turn brown and the center is barely set–about 12 minutes or so. Time will vary slightly by oven.

Keep an eye on them, and rotate the pan halfway through if they look like they are browning unevenly.

Namas-tasty!

Guilt-Free Banana Chocolate Fudge Muffins

2014-01-15 20.14.07Happy hump day, readers! Today I decided I needed a little pick-me-up to get me through the rest of this busy week. Chocolate usually does the trick, but I wanted something that I could eat a couple of without instantly feeling the need to make a dash to the gym (which, much to my dismay, isn’t always possible thanks to this lovely — make that disgusting — weather Chicago has been experiencing lately).

2014-01-15 21.20.39You all know how much I love “healthifying” recipes by replacing oil and butter with unsweetened applesauce; these yummy, fudgy chocolate muffins accomplish not only that, but they allowed me to utilize some bananas that I had on hand that were slightly past my preferred stage of ripeness. Guilt-free and nutritionally delicious, eat one for breakfast, dessert or even a mid-day snack!

No-Guilt Banana Chocolate Fudge Muffins

adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

  • 3 large, very ripe bananas
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus more for topping

2014-01-15 19.55.03Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with baking cups. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas until there are no more big lumps. Stir in the sugar, egg, and applesauce with a whisk. Fold the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder into the wet ingredients. Lightly mix to combine (in order to obtain nice fluffy muffins, it is important NOT to overmix). Fold in chocolate chips. Don’t worry if the batter is slightly chunky.

Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups, filling all the way to the top. Bake for 17-19 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

2014-01-15 20.14.25Once the muffins are out of the oven, top with a few more chocolate chips, if desired. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Muffins stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Namas-tasty!