SNEAK PEEK

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Oh hey, what’s that? I’m working on my next post, and I wanted to give you guys a sneak peek. I was hoping to have it up a lot sooner, but I officially came down with The Sick. It seems that everyone at work is sick, and not just “Oh, I have a cold” sick. Like, out for three days, voices are totally not right, eyes are glassy and not good sick. I’ve been having some sinusitis and allergy issues myself for the past week and a half, but I was feeling just fine other than the debilitating headaches. I went to the doctor and he gave me some antibiotics for the sinusitis that was slowly festering. I was hoping those antibiotics would keep me in a safety bubble. Well, then George came down with The Sick. He’s traveling tomorrow so I made him to go the doctor, and he’s thankfully getting better. And I have been living in my happy safety bubble the whole time. That is, up until this morning. I woke up and my right nostril was unusually stuffy. Not good. And then it seems that at 7:00ish it hit even more. Nooooooo, please God please let this be a quick passing thing! So anyway, I digress. While I’m sitting here blowing my nose every 6 1/2 minutes, I will hopefully have a post up about these soon. Spoiler alert: if you follow me on Instagram (because you should. I’m @mlpenner519), you totally know what this is by now. Recipe coming soon. Promise.

MILKSHAKE MONDAY: BARELY BOOZY HOMEMADE SHAMROCK SHAKE

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Does anyone else have fond memories of Shamrocks Shakes or is it just me? You know, the McDonald’s pastel green, mint-flavored shakes that pop up in March in honor of St. Patrick’s Day? I can hear you now, “Ohhhh yeeeaahhhh…those things…” For some reason I loved them when I growing up. It’s not like I’m an especially huge fan of mint-flavored sweets but the idea of them just makes me all smiley.

The story behind the Shamrock Shake is actually pretty awesome! The shake was created as a promotional item to raise money for charity. Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill had a daughter suffering from leukemia, and after seeing all of the families who travelled to visit their young, sick loved ones but had no place to stay, Hill and other team members decided that something had to be done to raise money to fix this. Thus, the seasonal shake was added to the menu and the first Ronald McDonald House was built from the profits. Cool, huh? Talk about “pimpin’ joy! You can read all the details here on Irish Central. (Also, if you’re confused about this “pimpin’ joy thing, it all started with the Bobby Bones Show out of Nashville. You can read more about the awesome movement here. #pimpinjoy)

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Image via Irishcentral.com // Image by McDonald’s. I’m lovin’ it.

The last time I got a Shamrock Shake it wasn’t quite as magical as I remember, unfortunately. They’re in the new (i.e. not circa 1989) McDonald’s clear cups and it was marbled in color because the green minty flavoring wasn’t mixed in that well and it was just such a bummer! And is it just me, but does its green color look a little weirder than it used to? It was my first Shamrock Shake in YEARS and here it was, all its magical glory stripped away. Le sigh. It’s all about the presentation, people!

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This year, this girl’s doin’ it for herself.

Ice cream. Milk. Creme de menthe. Bada bing, bada boom! I chose to use creme de menthe as my mint flavor because I have it in my cabinet. Yes, it’s that cut and dry. Also, I didn’t think straight up peppermint extract would do the trick because the shamrock shake is NOT just straight, clean, peppermint flavor. And it’s not really straight spearmint either. So what do you do? Other references online mention using mint syrup, like a coffee-flavoring. If you want to go that route, go ahead. But we’re more likely to use booze (hello, creme de menthe in hot cocoa is kind of awesome) so c’est la vie. It’s also what supplied the green coloring, as our creme de menthe is the bright green stuff, as opposed to the colorless kind. If you want to pump up the color, add a few delicate drops of green food coloring.

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: : : BARELY BOOZY HOMEMADE SHAMROCK SHAKE : : :
• 2 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream
• 1 1/2 TBSP creme de methe
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/4 TSP mint extract (whatever you have—peppermint, spearmint, etc. It’s just a light dosage to pump up the flavor)

: : : For Sprinkle Rim & Garnish : : :
• 2-3 TBSP chocolate syrup
• 3 TBSP sprinkles
• whipped cream
• cherry or raspberry (I had raspberries so there you go)
• cute straws are a bonus!

1. Place all ingredients in pitcher of blender.

2. Whiz blender for a few seconds, just enough to get everything well-mixed but not overly runny.

3. If garnishing, skip to next steps. If not, pour into glasses and enjoy!

If garnishing…
1. Place chocolate syrup on shallow dish, like a saucer for a teacup. Place sprinkles on second shallow dish.

2. Dip glasses in chocolate syrup, then dip in sprinkles. Carefully turn glasses over so sprinkles stay in place.

3. Carefully pour milkshake mix into each glass. You did it without making a mess? Yay! Good job!

4. Top with whipped cream and cherry or raspberry. Grab a few straws. Cheers!

The painful part of talking about McDonald’s milkshakes is that it makes me want the fries. That is something I haven’t indulged in in…well…a really long time. Dang. Distract yourself, ML. Think about puppies. Rainbows. Salads taste just like french fries (yeah, right).

On another note, how do you guys feel about a semi-regular milkshake feature? Because doesn’t Milkshake Monday feel like a good way to brighten up a case of the Mondays?? What do you think? Are you into it? Or not at all?

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE PIE

Hello.

This is a chocolate chip cookie pie.

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Do you ever have one of those days that’s not really a bad day, it’s a just-fine-day, but it’s just so darn busy/all-over-the-place that you’re like “I NEED A DRINK,”?? Yeah, today was one of those days. After so many hours of being here-there-and-everywhere, you just need to rush home, sip on some whiskey and let your brain chill out. That, however, is not the reason I made this cookie pie. It just happens to be a fabulous leftover that makes my whiskey-sippin’, brain-chillin’, How I Met Your Mother-watching evening that much better.

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It all started when I was cleaning out our bookcase this weekend. Do you have an Ikea Expedit bookcase? Of course you do, because apparently the entire world does. Our Expedit tends to be a major workhorse with each and every cubby chock full of stuff (mostly cookbooks, lots of magazines, random design books, and blog props) but those things tend to look better when they’re clean and organized! Time to reevaluate what we have—what we want to keep vs sell vs donate. As I was cruising through our random assortment of cookbooks we just happened to acquire, I flipped through the pages of one book and passed this recipe—Chocolate Chunk Cookie Pie. Nothing else in the book enticed me at the time so I tore that page out and tossed the book aside to give away (I know, I know, that’s probably terrible but whatever). That pie, however, was quickly escalating to MUST EAT NOW status. That was on Sunday.

I made the pie Monday night. George’s parents were coming into town for a conference and they’d be over for dinner Tuesday night. Do I hear an opportunity for dessert knocking? This seemed like an easy and delicious recipe, so…why not?

Smart decision. It’s fabulous. George gave it a very emphatic “Oh my God.” It’s as delicious as a chocolate chip cookie, but ooey-gooier and who wouldn’t want that?? And yes, it’s totally easy.  I’ll give you some quick notes on what I did, why I did it, and get to this recipe before I ramble on any longer.

PS: This is the book: Favorite Brand Name Baking. And you will be happy to know that I have decided to keep it…a least a little while longer. 🙂

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The original recipe calls for a refrigerated pie crust. I didn't love that idea; for some reason it didn't seem to mesh well in my head. Instead, I went the route of an Oreo pie crust. Mine is homemade because I had Oreo pieces I should use (a bag of these from GFS). If you want to use store-bought, knock yourself out.
The recipe needs salt. The original doesn't have any, and I added 1/4 teaspoon, being careful not to add too much since this was my first time making it. Guess what. It needs more. Anywhere from 1/2 tsp to maybe even a whole 1 tsp would be acceptable, depending on your salty chocolate chip cookie preference.
I used a springform pan because I like how it releases the pie cleanly, and I don't have to dig into a pie pan. There's no necessity for this, other than preference.
I don't use springform pans all that often, so I conveniently forget how they can drip and ooze things like butter. Do yourself a favor and prevent a smoky oven by putting a cookie sheet under your pan if you do indeed use a springform (or even tart) structure.
Sprinkles. I can't resist the urge to use sprinkles. They're cute and fun, and that's really the only explanation I have. Because obviously.

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: : : PIE CRUST : : :
Note, I used a 9.5″ springform pan
• 3 cups ground-up, crushed-to-a-pulp Oreos. Since I already had the pieces, I don’t know how many whole Oreos this requires.
• 1/3 cup melted butter

1. In a large bowl, combine crushed Oreos and melted butter thoroughly.

2. In pie pan/springform pan/tart pan, press mixture tightly to the bottom and sides of pan. If using a taller pan (like a springform), don’t worry about making it all the way up the sides. A partial side crust is totally fine.

3. No need to pre-bake. Nice, right?

 

: : : CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE PIE FILLING : : :
Adapted from Favorite Brand Name Baking
• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1/2 cup flour
• 1/2 tsp salt, at least
• 1/2-1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped (amount depends on your preference)
• 1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles (optional)
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (totally optional)

1. Heat oven to 325°. Mix flour and salt in a small bowl, and whisk to sift.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy (about 4 minutes).  Add vanilla and eggs; beat well.

3. Slowly add the flour and salt mixture, beating until incorporated. Gently stir in chopped chocolate and rainbow sprinkles/nuts if using.

4. Pour mixture into pie crust and pop into the oven. If using a springform or tart pan, make sure to place a cookie sheet underneath it.

5. Bake for 45-60 minutes, but please be vigilant in checking on the pie. The original recipe said to bake for 65-70 minutes, but my pie took about 45-50 minutes to bake. Not all ovens are created equal, and not all ovens are accurate in their temperatures. The pie is finished when a toothpick or cake tester is inserted in the center and comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake, as that will prevent the pie from being ooey gooey!

6. Remove from oven. Cool on a wire rack. Dig the heck in.

I will also mention that this pie tastes waaaay better warm. I’m a huge proponent of warm baked goods. If you’re eating leftover pieces, then pop them in the microwave for a few seconds. Trust me. It’s worth it.

CHILI ORANGE KETTLE CORN & TEQUILA NEW FASHIONEDS

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It’s the end of February/beginning of March. You know what that means? Besides the fact that the weather will be a complete guessing game for the next 30 days? THE OSCARS ARE THIS SUNDAY!!! It’s like the Super Bowl of Awards Season! As usual, I have not seen a single movie. Nope, not even Frozen (though it’s on the list, just like the rest of them). Can I be honest with you? I can’t stay awake during movies. Especially if we’re watching at home. Sure, we could go to the theatre but a) that’s really expensive anymore and b) I feel like the show times never work out well with our schedule. That means watching at home, which is totally fine, but turning the lights out means my eyes close and I’m knocked out on one end of the couch, trying to convince George “No, I’m awake, I’m watching. Yuh-huh. I am.” I’d like to blame my father for this. He’s excellent at falling asleep while watching TV and movies. I inherited this skill from him. So eventually, hopefully, we’ll watch some of these fine films. In the meantime, I’ll still mark up my Oscar ballot (thank you, Kate Spade for this adorable version) and savor every moment of red carpet goodness I can get until next year.

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It’s also an excellent reason to get festive, and we all know how I feel about that! Do you know where I found the recipe for this popcorn? The official Oscars website. Wild, I know. Imagine that, popcorn for a show about movies! How did I ever find it there (#sarcasm, fyi)? I was actually trying to find out if there’s an Oscars cocktail (there is, sorta). Lo and behold, I found a whole slew of party recipes on the Academy’s website. Like this popcorn. Like this delicious popcorn that’s just slightly weird, and makes people cock their heads to the side in consideration of the components, and then delights with its perfect blend of flavors. It’s just unique enough to be different, but totally approachable and tame enough for all kinds of taste buds. Isn’t that what you want in a party food? A crowd-pleaser? Ding ding ding, we have a winner! We’ve actually tweaked it just a little bit to make the flavors even better. You’re welcome.

And of course, we have a drink to accompany this popcorn. This, however, is not an Oscar-sanctioned bev. No, this is straight from our kitchen to yours. Inspired by the chile-orange combo, I thought “Hey, how about doing a classic orange cocktail, but with a twist? Like an Old Fashioned, but with tequila instead of whiskey?” It’s just crazy enough to work. Plus, thanks to the orange zest, I had a naked orange sitting around the kitchen. I mean, I could eat it… or I could make a drink with it. Alcohol wins. It always wins. We’re calling it a “new fashioned” because of the newfangled tequila twist.

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 : : : CHILE ORANGE KETTLE CORN : : :
Adapted from Oscars.org
Serves 2-10, depending on the likelihood of people stuffing their faces

• ¾ cup popcorn kernels
• ¼ cup canola oil
• 4 tablespoons sugar
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 3 tablespoons butter, melted
• zest of 1 orange

1. In a large pot or stockpot with lid over medium-high heat, combine the popcorn, oil, sugar, chili powder, and salt. Shake constantly. (Note: The original recipe called for medium heat but I had to use high heat due to my pan’s size and structure. I didn’t feel like standing over my stove for 20 minutes to make popcorn. Use whatever heat level works for you and pay attention to your pot!)

2. When the popcorn begins to pop, lower the heat to the next level down. Continue to shake until the popping begins to slow.

3. Transfer popcorn to a large bowl—you’ll need to toss the popcorn around. Drizzle with the melted butter and orange zest and toss to coat.

4. Grab a handful and stuff your face. 🙂

TeqNewFash_022614_Details: : : FRESH CITRUS TEQUILA NEW FASHIONED : : :
Serves 2

• 4 oz good tequila
• 2 slices of an orange (I used a cara cara orange for this)
• 2 oz fresh orange juice (use the same orange above, just juice the rest)
• 1 oz (2 TBSP) simple syrup
• 4 dashes Angostura bitters
• 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters or other fancy bitters like Fee Brothers Orange or Grapefruit
• Club soda (about 4 oz)

1. In two cocktail glasses, muddle in each: 1 slice of orange and 1 TBSP simple syrup.

2. In cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour in contents from one cocktail glass. Add 2 oz tequila and 1 oz orange juice; shake shake shake! Shake the cocktail until cold, about 20 good shakes. Strain into cocktail glass filled with ce. Repeat with the other glass and remainder of ingredients. You could also combine everything into one shaker and just divide it among the two glasses in the end. It’s up to you.

3. After cocktails have been shaken and strained back into the glasses, add dashes of bitters and top with club soda. Give it a quick stir, and sip away!

So who will be tuning into the Oscars tomorrow? Who will be watching the red carpet? Lupita Nyong’o has been seriously CRUSHING the fashion scene lately so I can’t wait to see what she wears to the ball. And of course, Jennifer Lawrence. J.Law, what Dior dress will you wear and what crazy thing will you say that makes us fall in love with you all over again? Only one short day until we find out!

 

KOUIGN AMANN: TRADER JOE’S PRODUCT REVIEW

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Trader Joe’s is my happy place. One of them, anyway. (C.Wonder, Pinterest, Stars Hollow, and beachy places also qualify. And I’m pretty sure I would love the Hamptons.) There’s just something about TJ’s that makes me cheerful, calm, and peaceful, even when it’s a busy Saturday and surely the occupancy level is over the legal limit. The employees are always so friendly, the prices are so reasonable, and everything just seems good somehow, you know? I can’t get enough, I just wish there were more locations in Columbus!

I was there two weeks ago. While passing the frozen desserts (ogling chocolate ice cream, who am I kidding) when my eyes spotted a much more intriguing temptress: Kouign Amann. Frozen. Ready to bake after a few hours of “proofing.” A box of 4 for $3.99. YOINK. In my cart that box went.

So before I go any further, surely some of you are like “Kou-what????” Kouign amann is pronounced like “queen yah-mahn.” The Trader Joe’s box told me that, but you can also find that information online. I think the first time I saw this pastry was on the Cooking Channel or Food Network. I don’t really remember much, only that it was buttery, full of flaky layers, involved caramelized sugar, and what else do I really need to know?? As David Lebovitz says, “Is there anything more fabulous than something created through the wonder and miracle of caramelization?” Kouign amann is a French thing, hailing from the region of Brittany which is why you might see this referred to as a “Breton” cake. While variations differ (is it a cake with a dense crumb or layered and flakey like a croissant?), the general consensus seems to be bananas over the flaky version. It all starts with a bread dough, and then it’s folded a bunch of times, rolled together, folded, rinse-and-repeat, with butter lovingly schmeared between each laminated layer, just like croissants. In terms of delicious factor on a scale of 1-10, it sounds like a solid 12. But it sounds tiring, doesn’t it? Oy vey.

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That’s why I love Trader Joe’s for bringing us a boxed version. All I have to do is remember to leave it out before I go to bed so the dough can “proof,” i.e. rise. One of these days I may be crazy enough to make my own attempt, but right now, who has time for that? Especially at $4 for a box of four! #gimmegimme

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We ate these like literally 5 minutes ago. They were good. Like so good that maybe we should’ve made all four just for the two of us and then just devoured them out of food-happiness. But not really because that’s a terrible idea. That thing about being a 12 on a scale of 1-10? Totally holds up. I even brought out some ganache I had in the refrigerator from a cupcake project two days prior, and you know what? We didn’t need it. It actually distracted from the delicious pastries. So keep them plain. I might try a smidge of jam with them next time, but I’ll bet you $5 (that’s more than they cost!) I’m going to say the same thing again.

To answer anyone’s suspicions, no, we are in no way affiliated with Trader Joe’s. I WISH! Hear that, TJ’s? Call me! No, this is purely out of good ol’ brand loyalty product lovin’ curiosity. So tell us—what are some of your favorite Trader Joe’s products? We could go on and on, but we’d love to know what you love!

BLOOD ORANGE GIN MARTINI

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It’s winter, which generally means citrus season. While in the grocery stores a few days ago I was passing by the piles of citrus, saw the blood oranges, and thought “Hmm, why not?” While many people actually eat blood oranges, I was—of course—planning on juicing the little guy and spiking it with booze. Conveniently, due to Valentine’s Day, George was in the mood for a theme-y red beverage. We also happened to have a few too many limes in the fridge. Therefore, our Blood Orange Gin Martini was born.

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: : : BLOOD ORANGE GIN MARTINI : : :
Serves 2

2 1/2 ounces (3 TBSP) gin
2 ounces Cointreau or triple sec
2 ounces freshly squeeze blood orange juice (1 blood orange)
1 ounce lime juice
4 serious dashes orange bitters (for each drink)

1. Juice blood orange and strain. Do the same for the lime juice if using fresh lime.

2. In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine gin, Cointreau or triple sec, and juices. Shake thoroughly until chilled.

3. Strain into two martini glasses and add 4 dashes of orange bitters to each cocktail.

4. Click, cheers, and drink!

Variations

• For a crowd pleasing punch version, use blood orange soda instead of actual blood orange juice, increasing the quantity of that ingredient by double. Then multiple all ingredients proportionally.

• For a sparkling party bev, distribute the gin-and-juice mixture above among four champagne flutes, then top with sparkling wine.

DARK CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH PUDDING PARFAITS

It’s been a little too long since we last posted something. Our excuse is that work became a little too cray and I was just so tired. While I had photos ready, the posts were only just partially written, so let’s get back to normal and make some content! BTW, it will help if you imagine this post going up 3 days ago. Please and thank you. 🙂

• • •

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Sochi-inspired cookie dough!

Let me tell you how this all started.

I was trying to be a good on-topic blogger and find a Russian recipe or two to bring you in honor of the Winter Olympics. I love being festive. But by the time we found something we wanted to make and then actually had the time to make it the “Yay! Sochi Olympics!” excitement was kind of gone. Celebrating the Olympics several days in isn’t as exciting as celebrating the Opening Ceremony. We did try making a traditional Russian mulled spiced drink and spiking it with some good ol’ fashioned vodka, but it was overly cinnamon-y (my fault)and the addition of alcohol made it taste like cough medicine. Blech. Normally, I would not admit to either of those occurrences but you know what? Them’s the breaks, dude.  So you know what’s coming in the next few posts instead? Desserts, y’all! It’s just how my brain works. In terms of cooking vs baking, I’m a more experienced baker, and generally better with the sweet flavor palette overall. The flavors and combinations (and experimental pairings) just tend to make more sense. Which is kind of ironic b/c in terms of having a sweet tooth, it’s actually rather tame.

Cookie dough just sounded really damn good. Like most of y’all, I love a good chocolate chip cookie, and I’m sorry but who doesn’t love cookie dough? I mean, really??? And isn’t a chocolate chip cookie as American as apple pie? So maybe I can spin this eggless cookie dough as Go Team USA cookie dough? Maybe? I’d be real grateful if you’d just smile and nod. Thank you for your cooperation.

While the cookie dough is all well and good and tasty enough to eat on a spoon, is it worth going through the fuss of making a whole batch of eggless cookie dough if that’s all you’re going to do with it? Even if you will really-honestly-put-the-rest-in-the-freezer-I-swear-I-won’t-eat-it-all-I’ll-only-have-a-few-small-bites? No. Buy a log of the Toll House slice & bake stuff, hunker down in a corner with your feelings and a TV show to binge watch and take that thing down while you cross your fingers that you don’t get sick. (But seriously, that’s maybe not a good idea. And if you do that, then maybe don’t blame me if you do get sick. But I’ve totally almost done it. #ionlyateahalf #tryitatyourownrisk)

Eggless cookie dough can go on to bigger and better things! For instance, a pudding parfait. Eggless cookie dough layered with dark chocolate pudding and topped with a creamy marscapone whipped cream? Oh yeah talk to me baby!  For those of you with serious chocolate cravings, this will do the trick. The chocolate pudding is a rich and luscious cocoa dream. And it just so happens that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner still totally valid to celebrate this weekend! Bingo, it’s a festive recipe after all! Whip this up for someone special or for a small party because this will yield multiples. A few notes before we get started…

 

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I added peanut butter to the cookie dough to deepen the flavor. The extra fat from the PB also makes the dough creamier, thus giving us a better texture for straight-up cookie dough eating. Also, I'm a fiend for peanut butter. #canthelpit #dontjudge If you're allergic, try almond/cashew/etc. butter.
If it's just you and your boo (or even just you b/c you're awesome), cut the pudding recipe in half. The rest of the cookie dough can be stored in the freezer for another day.
Make small parfaits. The components are all delicious, but definitely rich. A smaller portion will be perfect. Promise.
If you don't want to use marscapone for the whipped cream, that's totally okay. You can go with virgin whipped cream, or you can do like the fancy chefs do and mix in some sour cream.
The parfaits will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Just keep your eye on the whipped cream b/c that will be the first part to get funky.
 

ChocPudding-CookieDough-Details

: : : EGGLESS COOKIE DOUGH : : :

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter (if you’re allergic to peanuts, use a salted almond butter)
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 – 1 cup all-purpose flour (depends on how malleable you want the dough)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt. Mix for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.

2. Add in half of flour, mix well. Add in rest of flour. Blend until well incorporated.

3. Fold in chocolate chips.

4. Find a spoon. Go to town. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer.

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: : : DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING : : :
Recipe by Geoffrey Zakarian, Food Network

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 pinches of fine salt
8 large egg yolks

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and milk to a bare simmer. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, vanilla, salt and egg yolks.

2. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper it, whisking all the while. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk until smooth.

3. Pour into glasses or custard cups. Refrigerate until chilled and set, about 3 hours.

: : : MARSCAPONE WHIPPED CREAM : : :
Note: This is for topping a few small parfaits, so you may want to increase the quantity depending on your yield goal.

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 TBSP confectionary sugar
1/4 cup marscapone cheese

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or in a medium bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream until you have soft peaks.

2. Add the confectionary sugar, then continue to beat until you have stiff peaks.

3. Add marscapone, and blend just until marscapone has been uniformly incorporated.

: : : ASSEMBLING THE PARFAITS : : :

Freestyle! I recommend the cookie dough as the bottom layer, pudding as the middle layer (and the thickest), and the whipped cream as the last. To reference my quantities, I used cookie scoops (the slightly larger size, not the weensie size) to measure it out, except for the whipped cream. It’s one scoop of cookie dough pressed down to fill the bottom, three scoops of chocolate pudding, and a dollop of whipped cream.

So tell us! What desserts did you make for Valentine’s Day? Did you make any fun foods for the Olympics? Inquiring minds want to know!

PIZZA BAKLAVA

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“Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear!


Empire Records, circa 1995

That happens to me a lot. I was in the car driving back from the grocery store the other day trying to figure out what to do about some sort of pizza snack/appetizer/mini-something-or-other. I was thinking about how to get it flaky with thin layers and then BAM! It hit me! Pizza baklava!!! It all happened so fast, I couldn’t think about anything else. I know, I know, you’re probably like “Hold the phone, ML. What are you talking about? Pizza baklava? What does that even mean??” I’ll tell you what it means. It means the delicious ingredients of pizza layered between flaky sheets of buttery phyllo dough, that’s what it means.

A few years ago I invented one of my most brilliant inventions (if I do say so myself), Buckeye Baklava. It’s not your typical baklava. No, instead it’s inspired by the beloved peanut butter and chocolate confectionary delicacy native to the exotic land of Ohio. I’ll divulge full details in a blog post another day, but the point of this little story is that embarking on the Buckeye Baklava adventure opened up a new world for me. Baklava is a vehicle that could take me to new and fascinating places. I was full of ideas! I was inspired! But you know what? I was also tired! Baklava takes awhile, man. It’s not hard but it’s definitely not fast. Especially when you’re making it by yourself. So I just never got around to doing all my fancy new baklavas. UNTIL NOW.

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What I did discover is that if I rope George into the making process with me, it goes MUCH faster. Luckily, since he’s so gung-ho on whatever my baklava adventures are at the time, he’s always game to help. I can get the filling ready while he butters the phyllo layers. So of course, this pizza baklava was the perfect opportunity for some kitchen-time-togetherness. Awww, isn’t that just sweet??

So let’s talk about this. Pizza baklava version 1.0 consists of pepperoni and sausage. There’s no point in calling it “pizza” if I’m not going classic for the first test, amiright? I used cubed pepperoni chunks instead of slices to replicate the texture of the typical nut filling more closely. Some caramelized onions add a lovely sweetness to the mixture. Baklava calls for the buttering of every sheet of phyllo dough, but doesn’t this sound like a perfect opportunity for olive oil as well? How about some garlic-infused olive oil mixed with some melted butter? Can I get an AMEN! Also, let’s class it up a little bit with some fresh herbs. My sauce already had a slew of dried basil and oregano, so there was no point in duplicating that effort. Fresh, however, would be a lovely addition to the flavor as well as a garnish.

The ingredients are all pretty basic, so using good quality items is what will make a difference! I started making my own pasta sauce a few months ago so I used that for the baklava. However, store-bought will be just fine. I also had problems finding pepperoni chunks, oddly enough, so I had my deli man slice some ridiculously thick slices (1/4″) of deli-sized pepperoni. Seriously, you’d think I was making pepperoni burger patties.

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::: PIZZA BAKLAVA ::: 

Garlic-Infused Olive Oil & Butter:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 (1 stick) unsalted butter
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped in half

Filling:

3/4 lb (12 oz) pepperoni (in cube/chunk form)
3/4 lb (12 oz) ground italian sausage, uncooked
*Note: Amount of cooked italian sausage needed is 1/2 lb, or 8 oz
12 basil leaves, chopped
1 1/2 springs of oregano, leaves chopped
3/4 cup sauce
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese

Plus…
18 sheets phyllo dough (Usually a standard sized box comes with two rolls. This would be one of those rolls.)
1 1/2 cups sauce (separate from sauce mentioned above)
2 medium shallots, chopped
2 tbsp butter
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. In saucepan over medium heat, combine olive oil, butter, and garlic cloves. Bring to a very gentle simmer, then lower heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, allowing garlic cloves to infuse their flavor into the butter/oil mixture. Do not let garlic cloves burn. Strain into bowl, removing the garlic. Let cool.

2. Chop shallots, then cook over low-medium heat with 2 tbsp butter and pinch of kosher salt. Cook slowly, stirring every few minutes. You want them to become a glorious golden brown. The whole process probably takes 15-20 minutes, so in the meantime…

3. Cook the ground sausage in a skillet, chopping it to fine pieces.

4. In large bowl, combine all filling ingredients (pepperoni, cooked sausage, cheeses, fresh herbs, and sauce).

5. In 13″ x 9″ pan sprayed with non-stick spray, start layering phyllo dough. Place a layer in the pan, then brush with the garlic butter/oil mixture. Then place another layer of phyllo down, then brush with butter. On the THIRD LAYER, brush with the butter/oil and then with a thin layer of pizza sauce. Do this again until you reach the sixth layer.

** NOTE: See structural diagram below for visual! **

6. After you cover layer #6 with oil and sauce, scoop out half of the filling on top and spread over the dough evenly. Sprinkle half of mozzarella cheese on top.

7. Commence layering process. 1 – butter – 2 – butter – 3 – butter – sauce – 4 – butter – 5 – butter – 6 – butter – sauce – rest of filling – rest of mozzarella.

8. Add the last layers of phyllo! Spread top layer with—can you guess?—butter/oil mixture.

9. Grab a sharp knife (carefully, please), and cut this amazing structure into pieces. We cut 15 slices out of it, but you could easily make them smaller to yield more.

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10. Bake at 350° in a preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, rotating half-way through.

11. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Re-cut your pieces. Let oozy greasy cheesiness calm down a bit before removing from the pan, but you do want to serve this warm! (I’m going to be really real with you though—the microwave will reheat these things just fine.)

12. Serve to a hungry crowd!

HIGHLY TECHNICAL STRUCTURAL DIAGRAM

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