Friday, April 25, 2014

Avocado Pie…Yes, Seriously

I was recently involved in a no-sugar challenge with some classmates and after the three weeks were up, I wasn't really looking to jump back into my old sugar-loving ways, but I still craved something a little bit decadent.  And I was in the mood for tropical.

Then I remembered my friend Bethany showed up to a recent installment of our monthly dinner club with a delightful new dessert…avocado pie.  It was incredible.  And stupidly delicious.  When something is so tasty that it's stupid, then you know you've found a keeper.

Since I was craving it RIGHT NOW, and she was out of town, I couldn't get her recipe, but I could Google.  I stumbled upon THIS recipe and went to town on it.

Now, I did not take a picture because…it wasn't that pretty.  And to be honest, I originally wasn't even going to post this one.  It wasn't the same recipe that my friend had used, and it failed to meet the expectations I had for it.  But those expectations blinded me momentarily (i.e. for two days post creation).  The recipe says to let it set in the fridge for four hours.  I beg to differ.  I think it needs at least 24 hours to truly reach perfection.  So keep that in mind.  It is not a quick-turn-around dessert.  It requires some time, and patience with the fork :)  And throw expectations out the window.  This pie totally rocked once I got over myself.

I also made my own graham cracker pie crust (one package of graham crackers, obliterated and mashed to perfection; 1/2 cup melted butter…pour into pie pan, form, bake for 8-10 minutes at 375, allow to cool before using).  It was really, really good!  I didn't add the sugar that the crust recipe called for because I'm just not into that right now, and it was awesome.

Oh, and the original pie recipe called for sweetened condensed milk.  Have you seen how much sugar is in a can of that?!  I instead searched for a good substitute and the number one sub was coconut milk, which we already had.  Bingo!

This pie tastes like a tropical vacation…subtle, delicious, relaxing, tangy, sweet-ish, but not too sweet.  Pack your flippy floppies and your sunscreen, it's vacation time!


2 medium avocados, pitted, peeled and chopped
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 can (14 ounces) light coconut milk
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
Pinch of salt
Whipped cream for garnish (optional)
1 graham cracker pie crust


-Place avocados and cream cheese in large mixer bowl; beat on medium speed until smooth.  Add coconut milk, lime juice and salt; beat until creamy. 

-Pour into cooled pie crust.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of pie.

-Refrigerate for 24 hours.  This allows it time to set and for the flavors to really come through and shine (otherwise the pie will be really runny and not as flavorful).

I think that this pie actually gets better with time.  Two days after making it, it was in its prime.  The lime and gentle coconut flavor popped perfectly, and the crust was an excellent complement to the flavors.  


Born Again Black Bean Brownies

I may never eat a regular brownie again.  I am converted…a born again brownie eater.

I know, it sounds…gross.  Black bean brownies?  What is this, some kind of sick joke?  Sneaking a legume into a sweet?  What?!

My dear friend Kelly unknowingly inspired me to seek out this insanity :)  I needed to try it.

Well guess what, it happened, and it was amazing!  I snagged my recipe from HERE after spending an hour or so browsing recipes online, trying to find something that sounded suitable, and doable.  I hit the jackpot with this one.

And I forgot to take a picture!  P.S. Mine looked way more awesome than they look in the above link…

I made only minor adjustments, and I stuck to the recommendation that you use a food processor, not a blender.  We have one of those tiny, 3 cup, processors, but it magically fit all of the ingredients in it.  (I blended after adding each ingredient, to make sure there was room for everything.)


1-1/2 cups black beans (1-15-oz can, drained and rinsed well)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup oats (I used old fashioned oats because that's what we had on hand)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup or agave (Honey will work, too; I used maple agave syrup…because that's what we had :))
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-10 oz. package chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips…AH-MAZING…save ~1/4 cup to top brownies)


-Preheat oven to 350 F.
-Combine all ingredients except chips in food processor, and blend until completely smooth.  A blender is allegedly okay to use (according to the author) but she strongly suggested the food processor instead (for taste and texture) so that's what I did.
-Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. [Note: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top (you won't be mad you did).]  [Note: I used a 8x9 Pyrex (glass) dish and it was the perfect size for this recipe.]
-Bake 15-18 minutes, then let cool ~20 minutes before cutting. Makes 9-12 brownies.

This are so delicious!  Geof was even impressed!  Super chocolatey, and the texture is fantastic.  


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Caramel Cake Delight

My lovely friend Rina had a birthday yesterday and Geof and I decided we wanted to do something nice for her.  She was hoping for a caramel cake, so when she mentioned as much the wheels began to spin.  I've only ever made one other cake (plenty of box cakes, but does that count?) so I wasn't sure of my abilities, but ask and ye shall receive!

I set about playing on the interwebs to find a suitable recipe and came upon this looker.  A fully made-from-scratch cake.  Challenge: accepted.

It turned out pretty fantastic!  The recipe is intended for a triple layer 9-inch round cake, but since I only have two cake pans I improvised and used the remaining batter to make cupcakes.  Spiffy.

Three things:

1.  It was delicious, BUT it would not have hurt for the cake to have a little more moistness.  In the future, I would add one box of vanilla instant pudding mix and 8oz. of sour cream.  That combination will produce an insanely moist and dense cake of mind-blowing proportions.

2.  Icing cakes, my secret talent is not.  So it's not very pretty, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

3.  I doubled the icing (which is reflected in my adaptation below) as it wouldn't have been enough for my liking as written in the original recipe.  Turns out it was a lot!  I could have just done a batch and a half and been fine.  But now there's plenty to snack on :)

4. I lied, four things.  Baking a cake "requires" a lot of taste testing, so make sure to eat a normal meal (with plenty of sugar-canceling fiber) before doing so.  I had a major sugar buzz going on an otherwise empty belly!

Okay, now for the good stuff!

I greased and floured my cake pans, but the recipe says to use parchment paper, too.  I did not use parchment paper and they came out just fine.

My first time making caramel…I was positively giddy at the outcome!

Combining the caramel with the sugar to make the frosting.  Mmmmmm.

Ta-da!  Not very pretty, but very tasty!  I don't have a cake plate, so I made the "plate" from scratch, too.  I cut two rounds from thick cardboard, taped them together, then covered it in foil.  How 'bout them apples?


3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (important!)
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
(*For a super moist cake, add: one box instant pudding mix (any flavor depending on what you’re going for), and 8 oz. sour cream.  You won’t regret it!)

Icing (double recipe)
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease three 9-inch-round cake pans and flour insides of pans.

3. Combine flour and baking powder in bowl.

4. Beat butter and sugar in another bowl at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, beating until smooth.

5. At low speed, alternately beat in flour mixture and milk.

6. Beat in vanilla.

7. Scrape into prepared pans, dividing evenly.

8. Bake in 350-degree oven 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.

9. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on racks.

10. Meanwhile, prepare icing…Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Add brown sugar and milk.  Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar.

11. Remove from heat. Cool.

12. Beat confectioners' sugar with milk mixture until smooth.

13. Frost and stack cake layers on cake plate, spreading icing between each layer. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining icing.

Is it healthy?  Uh, no.  BUT, since it's fully made from scratch, you know exactly what's going into it and you can decide on the type of ingredients in order to ensure it's up to snuff.  You never really know what you're getting in a box…

Is it delicious?  YES!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pretty Peppermint Bark

'Tis the season to be merry…and eat delicious treats.  I've been massively inspired in the kitchen ever since the semester ended and I've actually had the time to toil.  With a holiday gathering this evening, I decided to try out a new recipe.

I'm a big fan of peppermint bark and the idea of melting chocolate and smothering it with peppermint sounded positively sinful and exactly the challenge I was in seek of.

Turns out, peppermint bark is quite easy!  And I nailed it on the first try.  A kitchen WIN.  I read through a number of recipes and ultimately decided to test out the easiest sounding one :)  the Below is adapted from HERE.

Peppermint fields forever...



2-12oz packages milk chocolate chips (I used Nestle's Toll House Milk Chocolate Chips)
2-12oz packages white chocolate chips*
2 teaspoons peppermint extract**
1-1/2 cups crushed candy canes/peppermint candy


1. Line a 12x18 inch jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

2. Melt the milk chocolate in a glass or ceramic bowl within a large pot of hot water (do not allow to boil!). Do not overheat or chocolate will scorch. Stir constantly and until it is a smooth and even consistency. Spread the chocolate evenly in the prepared pan; chill until set, about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate in a glass or ceramic bowl within a large pot of hot water (do not allow to boil!). Stir constantly and until it is a smooth and even consistency.  Stir in 1/4-1/2 cup of the crushed candy canes. Spread the white chocolate mixture evenly over the milk chocolate. Sprinkle the remaining candy cane pieces evenly over the white chocolate layer. Chill until set, about 1 hour. Slice into triangles to serve.  Keep refrigerated. 

Easy peasy!  You can heat the chocolate in the microwave, but then it turns into a very labor-intensive endeavor and scorching the ol' cocoa becomes an issue.  Some people suggested a double boiler, but since I don't own such a thing the glass bowl inside a large pot filled with hot water (stove on medium heat throughout) worked wonders and was so darn easy.

*Not all white chocolate is created equal.  Make sure cocoa butter is in the ingredients, and not any sort of vegetable oil.  Good quality white chocolate will use cocoa butter.  Substitutes will wreak havoc on the consistency and you’ll end up chucking the while thing.  I use Guittard white chocolate chips and they were awesome.

**I didn’t use peppermint extract, mostly because we didn’t have any but also because reviews were mixed on the use of it.  Some people said it messed up the consistency, others said it was overkill.  I went with the overkill argument and avoided it.  I’m glad I did.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, March 29, 2013

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Mmmm, pretty :)

I was in search of something unique, refreshing, and with a little kick to it.  And it needed to be a salad. Boom.  THIS popped up and I accepted the challenge.

Easy as can be (the 'hardest' part was peeling all the potatoes), and freaking tasty as all get-out.  I doubled the recipe as I was taking it to a dinner gathering and needed enough for 8.  There was more than enough, and lots of extra dressing.  Which is good, because I like leftover deliciousness, and I really, really dig the red pepper vinaigrette.  Mmm, mmm, mmmmmm.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Note: This is best served warm or at room temperature, though of course you can refrigerate and serve it up to a day later, as long as you take it out of the refrigerator beforehand to take the chill off.  The recipe, as is below, makes about 4 servings.


4 large sweet potatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and ­ quartered
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup sliced scallion
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1 or 2 fresh minced chiles (jalapeño, Thai, serrano, or habanero), or to taste
1/4 cup raisins (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown outside and just tender inside, about 30 minutes. Remove and keep on the pan until ready to dress.

2. Make the dressing while the potatoes cook. Put the remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a blender, along with the vinegar, bell pepper, cumin, and zest if you’re using it. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Purée until smooth.

3. Toss the warm potatoes with the scallion, parsley, chiles, and raisins if you’re using them. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss to coat, adding more if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately or at room temperature.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese

A new twist on an old favorite.  And what a twist!  Geof said he never even would have questioned that there was anything different about the baked dish I served up the other night.  He even knew butternut squash was the main ingredient and still couldn't tell.


I snagged this little gem from HERE one night whilst Googling creative ways to use up the butternut squash taking up residence on our counter.  I have to say, even I would have been fooled by this one, and I'm the cook!

It is unbelievably creamy and delicious.  Holy cow, it's good, and pretty easy.

Note: I had two cans of organic butternut squash in the pantry that I got at Whole Foods this winter (I know, weird, canned butternut squash?  Hello!).  Turns out that was beaucoup convenient (and just as healthy!) I still have that squash sitting on the counter.  Looks like I'll need to find another recipe to use it for.  Oh darn :)


3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
1 1/4 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
2 garlic cloves, peeled (I used 1 tsp. garlic powder)
2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound uncooked cavatappi
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13x9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

5. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture.

6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crunchy Crispy Roasted Snack Beans

Geof recently unknowingly challenged me to create a delicious, healthy, crunchy snack to replace his peanut M&Ms.

Challenge: accepted.

He didn't realize what he did :)

I Googled some simple terms and came up with this gem of a recipe.  YUM!  While it's not sweet (it is, in fact, extremely savory) it fulfills that crunchy, munchy, pop-'em-in-your-mouth need that we all have from time to time (especially when bored).

I grabbed this recipe from HERE and the only modifications I made were using black beans and kidney beans as that's all I had in the pantry at the time, but I'm looking forward to trying other beans!  The black beans are awesomely crunchy and delicious.

Crunchy Crispy Roasted Snack Beans
makes 2-4 servings
total time: approximately 1 hour, 10 minutes
total hands on time: 3 minutes
What you’ll need:
1 can of garbanzo beans
1 can of cannellini beans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
What you’ll do:
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Open both cans of beans and rinse them in a colander, then drain extremely well on paper towels.
3. Transfer beans to a rimmed baking pan. Arrange them in a single layer and pour on the oil, then stir to coat.
4. Mix the spices in small ramekin or bowl; once well-mixed, pour spices on the beans and mix again, shaking the pan around really well.
5. Roast for about an hour, checking once or twice to shake the pan again. The beans are done when they're crunchy. The best test is to try one; if it’s crunchy, it’s done!