Friday, July 19, 2013

Sun Dried Tomato Mini Biscuits with Feta Cheese

       I got a request for horderves or hors d'oeuvres or however you spell those.  So I took the opportunity to bake mini biscuits.  I used a recipe from Baking Bites and scooped the dough out with a small cookie scoop.  
        These biscuits are dressed up with sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese, flavors I like to use at any opportunity.  They work very well with the buttery biscuit and give it a bolder taste.  
          The biscuits turned out soft and tender, like a perfect biscuit.  They'd make a perfect appetizer or side dish.  Also, you can use the dough to make larger biscuits.  Just form larger mounds or roll the dough out and cut out circles.  They look a bit like cookies because of their size and shape, but I still don't get why some people call cookies "biscuits". 

First, whisk together the dry ingredients.

Cut in the butter with your fingers or a pastry blender. The butter pieces should be pea sized so that when they bake and evaporate, they make air pockets.
Stir in half the buttermilk.
Then stir in the rest of the milk, the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and the feta cheese. Don't over mix.
Scoop onto a baking sheet and bake.
Cool and enjoy!

Sun Dried Tomato Biscuits with Feta Cheese

makes about 24 mini biscuits


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dill. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or your fingertips until the butter is in pea-sized clumps.
  3. Stir in 1/2 cup buttermilk to moisten dough, then stir in sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese and remaining buttermilk. Mix until the dough comes together.
  4. Scoop onto a baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Blondies with Cinnamon Topping

      I went to Hawaii once when I was around 7 years old I think.  All I can remember are the macadamia nuts.  

      We went into a macadamia nut factory and got free samples of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, and I was addicted.  When we brought some home, I always sneaked a couple into my mouth when no one was looking. 

       On that trip, I also discovered my favorite cookie flavor ever: white chocolate macadamia nut (I've only had those cookies a couple of times, though, and they can't beat a classic oatmeal raisin).
        White chocolate macadamia nut cookies are best gooey, and this blondie is kind of like that.  Before I made these, my opinion of blondies wasn't that great.  I never made them before, and the one blondie that I ever ate was dry.  But now I realized that they really are like brownies without the cocoa powder; they are gooey and rich, and they don't need any leavening.  

          I sprinkled some cinnamon-sugar on top because it's wonderful and delicious and like edible fairy dust.  It makes these blondies unforgettable.   

           Making these blondies is very simple:

Melt some butter in a saucepan.   
Whisk in some brown sugar until smooth.
Pour the mixture into a bowl and beat in an egg.  And yes, I used a fork for all of my  whisking and beating.
Stir in the vanilla.
Stir in flour and salt. 
Toast some chopped macadamia nuts.
Stir those in with the white chocolate.
Make the cinnamon topping.
Spread batter into pan.
Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.
Bake for about 20 minutes and let cool for about half an hour.
Cut into squares and serve.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Blondies w/ Cinnamon Topping

makes 16 squares
adapted from Smitten Kitchen


1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup (218 grams) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch salt
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cups white chocolate pieces
3/4 cups macadamia nuts
For the topping:
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs light brown sugar
1 tbs white sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.  Butter an 8x8" or 9x9" baking pan.  Line with a piece of parchment paper and butter the parchment.  Place macadamia nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes, until light brown.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the brown sugar until smooth.  Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a large bowl.
  3. Beat in the egg until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Then, stir in the flour and salt until just combined.  Add the white chocolate and nuts and stir until evenly mixed. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon.
  4. Whisk together the ingredients for the topping and sprinkle it over the blondie batter.  Bake for 20 minutes and let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Cut into 16 squares and serve. 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cherry Almond Granola Bars

          I recently went on a camping trip, which for me means two things: s'mores and granola bars.

           Granola bars are perfect for traveling and snacking, and their oaty flavor is kind of addicting.  I especially like the soft, chewy kind of granola bars since they don't leave a lot of crumbs.  I decided to try to make my own granola bars, and they turned out like a granola bar should turn out.

           I made chewy cherry almond granola bars.  Cherry and almond is another one of those classic flavor combos.  The tartness of the dried cherries paired well with the sweet honey and the almonds added a nice crunch to the chewy granola bar.

         The granola bars I made don't actually have granola, but use toasted oats instead.  To make the granola bars chewy, I added puffed brown rice, which I found in the "healthy" section of the grocery store.  You could use regular white crispy rice, too.  It's kind of like making rice krispy treats, expect you don't use marshmallows and butter, and you bake the granola bars.

First, you toast some old-fashioned oats.
You stir the oats with the puffed rice, almonds, and cherries.
Then you make a syrupy sort of thing with honey.  This is what holds the bars together.
Bring the syrup to a boil.
Stir into the oat mixture.
Press into a pan.
Bake until golden brown and let cool for a few hours.
Cut into pieces and you have granola bars!
            The granola bars had the right texture, I think, but they had a distinct honey-like flavor and didn't hold together that well.  I suggest that you be careful when storing them.  In the future, I'm definitely going to make more granola bars.  Enjoy!

Cherry Almond Granola Bars

recipe adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner
makes about 2 dozen granola bars


2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup chopped or slivered almonds
1 cup puffed brown rice cereal, or white crispy rice
1 cup dried cherries 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13×9″ baking pan with foil and coat well with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Toss the oats on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
  3. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl and stir in the almonds, puffed rice, and dried fruit.
  4. Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, almond extract, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 300 degrees F, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

                    Sunday, July 7, 2013

                    Banana Split Cupcakes

                         Getting little kids to behave is difficult.  Especially when you're dealing with my little bro, Aideng.  I've managed to gain some respect from him, though, and he kind of listens to me sometimes.  After four years of taking him to the playground and battling him with Nerf swords, we're like best buds.

                           I have this reward system going where Aideng gets a sticker to put in his sticker book every time he does something good, and when he gets ten stickers, he gets a prize.  This time I got him a water slide, because I remember I loved those when I was younger.  With that added to the water guns he's collected and the water balloons he's been treasuring for so long, it was the perfect time for a water party on my front lawn.

                          So Aideng and his little four-year-old buddy spent an afternoon sliding around a sixteen-foot waterslide and pelting each other with water balloons.  Afterwards, they ate these cupcakes.

                          These cupcakes are perfect for Aideng, because he loves chocolate and sprinkles and cherries.  I think he liked them, because he actually finished a whole cupcake this time.  I made these cupcakes to reminisce a banana split, which I actually haven't had in a long time.  They just look so cheery and make me think of summer.

                          These are banana cupcakes filled with a fudge brownie, topped with strawberry whipped cream frosting, dipped in semisweet chocolate ganache, rolled in crushed graham crackers, and then topped with more frosting, sprinkles, and a maraschino cherry.  It has all the flavors you would expect to find in a banana split, and all you need is the ice cream.  Trust me, it's not as complicated as it sounds.  Here's what you do:

                    First, you make a batch of fudge brownie batter. I used half of the Baked brownie recipe, which is my favorite.  It's the same brownie I used here for the nutella swirl brownies I made, except without the nutella part and I took out the espresso powder.
                    Then, half bake the brownies in a mini muffin pan. Just bake them for five minutes, until the edges are a little dry.  You only need 18 brownie bites, so the rest of the batter you can fully bake for delicious brownies.  These are literally half-baked, so to fully bake them, just double the baking time to 10 minutes.
                    Flip the pan over and tap it a few times to get the brownies out. Let them cool for a couple of minutes, then place them on some wax paper and freeze them until solid.  
                    Next, make the banana cupcake batter.  Sift together the dry ingredients. 
                    Puree or mash ripe bananas. 
                    Cream together butter and sugar, and then beat in milk, eggs, and vanilla. 
                    Alternate stirring in the flour and banana to the butter mixture. 
                    Then, fill liners half way with batter.
                    Take a cold brownie and place it on top.  Freezing the brownie keeps it from  over-baking the second time in the oven so that it stays fudgy and moist, like the hot fudge in a banana split.  The banana cupcake batter is also thick enough so that the brownie won't just sink to the bottom of the cupcake.
                    Put another scoop of cupcake batter on top so that it covers the brownie.  
                    Bake the cupcakes until golden brown.  No sign of the brownie, see?
                    And let them cool.
                    To make the strawberry whipped cream frosting, start by creaming together cream cheese, sugar, salt, and stawberry jam. Then whip whipped cream in a separate, chilled bowl to stiff peaks. 

                    Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until thoroughly combined.  The frosting is the consistency of ice cream, and tastes like the whipped cream and strawberry sauce you find on a banana split. 
                    Next, make a simple chocolate ganache with semi-sweet chocolate. 
                    Crumble some graham crackers (I had a few left over from my recent camping trip).
                    Decorating the cupcake is like making a banana split.  First, scoop some ice cream onto the cupcake and  spread it around.  Refrigerate the cupcake for about ten minutes. 
                    Dip the frosting into the warm ganache. 
                    Roll the edges of the cupcake in graham cracker bits.  Then, refrigerate the cupcakes until the chocolate sets.
                    Pipe some some frosting on top.
                    And then just add sprinkles and a cherry.

                    Banana Split Cupcakes

                    makes 18 decorated cupcakes
                    banana cupcake recipe adapted from Baking Bites, brownie recipe adapted from Baked


                    For the brownie:
                    1/2 cup plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour
                    1/2 tsp salt
                    1 tbs dark unsweetened cocoa powder
                    1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
                    5.5 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
                    3/4 cup white sugar
                    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
                    3 eggs, at room temperature (technically, you should use 2.5 eggs, but 3 eggs is fine)
                    1 tsp vanilla extract
                    For the banana cupcake:
                    2 cups all purpose flour
                    1 1/2 tsp baking powder
                    1/2 tsp baking soda
                    1/2 tsp salt
                    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
                    1/2 cup butter, room temperature
                    1 1/4 cup sugar
                    3 large eggs
                    1 tsp vanilla extract
                    2 tbsp milk
                    1 1/4 cup mashed or pureed banana (about 2-1/2 large bananas)
                    For the strawberry whipped cream frosting:
                    8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
                    2 cup confectioners sugar
                    1 tsp vanilla
                    1 tsp salt
                    1/2 cup strawberry jam
                    2 cups heavy whipping cream
                    For finishing:
                    4 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
                    1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
                    3 graham crackers, finely crumbled
                    rainbow sprinkles
                    18 maraschino cherries 


                    1. Make the brownie. Preheat the oven to 350*F. Spray a mini muffin pan with nonstick spray. Whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder in a small bowl.  In a large heat-proof bowl, melt the chocolate and butter over a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Turn off the heat.  Gently stir in the sugars, then take the bowl off the pot.  Stir in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.  Fill 18 cups of the muffin pan with about a teaspoon of batter, and bake for 5 minutes, until the edges are a little dry but the center is still moist.  Flip the pan over onto a cooling rack and tap to remove the brownies.  Let brownies cool, then place on wax paper and freeze for at least one hour.  For extra batter, bake in muffin pan for 10 minutes.
                    2. Make the cupcake batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, and stir in the milk and vanilla. Add half of the flour mixture and stir until combined.  Stir in the banana puree, and then the rest of the flour until no streaks of flour remain.  
                    3. Bake the cupcake.  Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners.  Fill liners halfway with cupcake batter.  Then place a frozen half-baked brownie on top.  Cover the brownie with another scoop of batter.  Bake for 18 minutes, until golden brown, and then place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
                    4. Make the frosting.  Place a glass bowl in a freezer for at least ten minutes, or until chilled.  Place the whipping cream in the chilled bowl and whip on high speed until stiff.  In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, salt, vanilla, and jam, until well combined.  Fold in the whipping cream.
                    5. Prepare the assembly.  Place the semisweet chocolate in a small bowl.  Bring the heavy cream to a simmer, and then pour over the chocolate.  Stir until smooth and set aside.  Place the crumbled graham crackers in another small bowl.  
                    6. Assemble. Take a small scoop of frosting and spread on a cupcake in a mound shape; repeat with the rest of the cupcakes.  Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes.  Dip the frosting into the warm chocolate ganache, then roll the edges of the cupcake in graham cracker crumbs. Refrigerate for a few minutes, until the chocolate sets.  Pipe a small swirl of frosting on top of the ganache.  Decorate with sprinkles and a cherry. Refrigerate until serving.