Peanut Butter (Chocolate Chip) Cookies (Gluten Free!)

The simplest cookies ever.

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

Because sometimes life gets very hectic.

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

And baking is a good de-stresser.

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

Oh, and the result – You get to eat the delicious cookies. That helps with the stressful days of life too.

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

And again, we’ll pretend these are healthy. Because you’re going to eat them all very fast (which is also why I recommend you make a double batch, you know, so you can share).

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten Free)

1 cup peanut butter

¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg

½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all ingredients. Scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Fork ‘em in a crisscross fashion for aesthetics. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Variation – add a ton of mini chocolate chips. Skip the forking; the chips are pleasing enough.

Also, you may as well double the recipe, you’re going to need a few extra.

 

A short and sweet recipe for any day of the week:)

Love, B

Cinnamon Roll Sugar Cookies

As I sat in a cafe last week, I observed a guy eat a cinnamon roll that was as big as his face, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many servings it should actually be. He practically shoveled the entire face-sized pastry into his mouth in like two minutes, too. But then, I realized sometimes I eat a ridiculous amount of cookies in one sitting . . . like when I made these cookies, and then ate four immediately. And then, I maybe ate more for breakfast the next morning.

Another thing. Some people completely lack personal space. I was sitting there still, with my feet up on an ottoman, and a guy came up and sat on the ottoman to talk to his friend (the cinnamon roll guy) next to me. He looked at me when I moved my feet a bit, and said “sorry, I just gotta write something quick.” I offered him the whole ottoman, since there were actually no seats left, and he insisted that no, my feet and his bottom should share the ottoman. Now, that was awkward for me. Then the two guys proceeded to have a loud, obnoxious conversation involving inappropriate things. Uncomfortable.

So back to something that just makes sense – cinnamon swirled into sweet, soft, sugar cookies. Add cream cheese. It’s impossible to stop. You’ll probably eat five.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

makes about 2 dozen large cookies

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

4 ½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

8 ounces cream cheese

½ cup powdered sugar

cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or baking mats.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping down the bowl between each. Add the vanilla. Once combined, add the dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed, mixing just until combined. Chill the dough for one hour.

While the cookie dough is chilling, mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar until completely combined.

When the dough is completely chilled, take about half of the dough and roll into a large rectangle about ½ thick. I think it works best to roll the dough between two pieces of parchment or wax paper, which helps the dough to not stick and aids in rolling the dough back up later. The length of the rectangle doesn’t really matter, but the width should be around 12 inches.

When the dough is rolled out, remove the top layer of wax paper, spread with half the cream cheese mixture and sprinkle generously with cinnamon.  Starting with the longer side of the rectangle, roll the cookie dough into a log, removing the bottom piece of wax paper as you roll it up. At this point, if the dough has warmed up a bit, the cookie dough log should be chilled again for about 15 minutes. Slice the log using a very sharp knife, wiping the blade between every few cookies, or using dental floss or thread to cut into ¼ to ½ inch slices. Place cookie slices onto a baking sheet two inches apart (6-8 cookies per pan). Bake for 9 to 10 minutes at 350. Cool on a wire rack.

And here’s some process pictures that might help . . . sorry for the poor quality, it was dark.

Love you guys,

Bre

Scotcheroo Caramel Corn

This week seems like it’s been the longest week ever. Wednesday evening, I realized that it was already 7pm and I had not sat down a single time to eat. (Unless you count eating a granola bar and sipping coffee while driving to class as sitting down for breakfast?) It was just one thing after another after another. So now that it’s friday and the crazy exhausting week is over, I think i can justify the four cookies I just ate…but more about those later.

I don’t have much else to say right now, so lets cut to the chase. Popcorn is a snack. So, caramel corn is a snack too, right? Let’s pretend it it, because I ate way too much of this scotcheroo stuff for it to be a dessert. WAY too much.

But it was just that good. The classic combination of peanut butter, chocolate, and butterscotch isn’t just for crispy bars anymore. Hello crunchy, desserty, popcorny snack.

You should try it. I think you’ll love it.

Scotcheroo Caramel Corn

½ cup popcorn kernels

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup light corn syrup

2 Tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips

½ cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line two pans with parchment paper. Pop the popcorn.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, syrup, butter, and salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately stir in peanut butter and vanilla until smooth. Pour over the popcorn and toss to coat all pieces. Spread the coated popcorn on the pans with parchment paper. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Once popcorn is cooled, melt the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips separately or together, whichever you’d prefer, and drizzle over popcorn.

®

Pita Bread and Hummus

My very first job was an interesting one, to say the least. It was in a small American/Lebanese restaurant that primarily sold gyros. I worked there for two of my high school years, and it was a very unique job, one that I’ve realized I’ll never quite experience again.

When I began working there, I already knew the owner, a friendly man who loved to talk with his customers; He was a very chatty man. And when you got him going, he would get so hooked on whatever story he was telling that he became oblivious to everything else.

He was also a pretty fun boss – my coworkers and I would always be joking around with him (because he was so easy to fool) and he never minded. This, we took advantage of…

One evening, as I was filling up mustard bottles in the back while another employee was washing dishes, our boss came to the back and started chatting with us. He was taking a break and happened to be enjoying an ice cream cone (as he had quite the sweet tooth). While we continued working, he talked and talked, going on and on about some crazy customer or the like, without notice to any of his surroundings. As he was speaking, I walked closer and stood there, nodding my head along to the story as I began squeezing the mustard bottle I was holding onto the top of his ice cream.

He didn’t notice.

He bit into the ice cream.

He made a face.

The face he made that moment he licked the mustard was probably the best thing I experienced the entire time I worked there. It was absolutely hysterical – a combination of surprise, confusion, a “did I just imagine that,” thought, followed by “what the heck was that??” thought, ending with wide eyes and a pucker face. He looked at me, and all he could say was, “my ice cream” as I grinned and held up the mustard bottle.

And that was not the only time we messed with his food. I recall a salty salad and a peppered sandwich as well.

Along with giving me my first job (one I even considered fun occasionally), this restaurant was place I discovered the wonders of pita bread (and feta cheese and kalamata olives). Every time I ate a sandwich there, I would make it with pita bread. Fluffy, bubbly, grilled pita.

Since then, I’ve learned that pita is actually quite simple to make homemade (albeit, sort of a long process). And more delicious, of course. This bread even poofs up and gets pockets in the middle, perfect for stuffing full with veggies and hummus and other delicious stuffs.

Oh yeah, and homemade hummus is super easy and quick to whip up. I make a batch about every week; it’s just that delicious. You should make some!

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Makes about 8 pitas, easily doubles for 16

3 cups whole-wheat flour (all purpose works too)

1¼ cup warm water (about 110-115 degrees F)

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (or one ¼ oz packet)

1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon honey or sugar

Begin by proofing the yeast – dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of the warm water and the tablespoon of honey. Wait about ten minutes until it’s nice and foamy.

Combine the rest of the water, flour, salt, and olive oil in a large bowl. Once the yeast is foamy, mix it in with the flour mixture. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour isn’t forming into the ball, add a bit extra water. Once a ball is formed, place on a work surface covered in flour and begin to knead the dough – press the dough down firmly, fold it in half toward yourself, turn it 90 degrees, and repeat. Once you get the hang of it, it will all be a swift motion. Do this for about ten minutes, until the dough becomes smooth, stretchy and elastic. (You could also do this in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment on low for ten minutes.)

When you’re finished kneading, place the dough ball in a lightly oiled large bowl, rolling it around a bit so the dough has a thin coat of oil all over. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Once doubled, punch the dough down to deflate and divide into 8 balls. Let rest again for 10-20 minutes (they will rise more). While they are resting, place a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. If you don’t have a baking stone, a cookie sheet will work too.

After the dough balls have rested, roll each one out to ¼ inch thick disks. Now, this may seem monotonous, but let the disks rest once again for ten minutes. I tried skipping this step for a few and they didn’t form the big pockets in the middle that we’re aiming for. After they’ve had a nice ten minute nap, place the a few pitas on the hot baking surface, being careful not to burn yourself, and bake for 3 to 6 minutes. They should get nice and puffy in the oven. Remove from oven with kitchen tongs or a fork and cool on a wire rack or kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining dough disks.

Notes: The purpose in kneading for so long is so the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the flour starts to “glutenize”. (I may have made up that word?) The dough will start to become elastic, which is necessary for it to rise properly because the yeast mixes with the other ingredients and releases gases, which stretch the (elastic) dough and form air pockets, giving the bread a lovely texture. So knead away!

Serve with hummus and veggies, make a wrap, or any of your favorite sandwich ingredients!

We also made our own chicken gyros for dinner – pita, grilled chicken, homemade tzatziki, tomatoes, sautéed onions, kalamata olives, and feta cheese! It was delicious.

Hummus

1-2 cloves fresh garlic

1 15oz can fresh chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

¼ cup tahini

2 Tablespoons water

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

Dash of cayenne pepper

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all in a food processor, pulse until desired texture.

Notes:

-If it’s too thick, add extra water or olive oil.

-Add more or less salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper to taste.

-I’ve tried being lazy and used a magic bullet. Trust me when I say food processor, I had to switch and just ended up with even more dirty dishes.

-This is a recipe I have memorized and just guess the quantity of ingredients I pour in whenever I’m making it. To write this recipe though, I did use these exact measurements as I was putting the ingredients in. I just wanted to let you know that the proportions do not need to be exactly these – if you like more of an olive oil taste, add more, if you want less garlic, only put one clove in, etc.

-Try experimenting with different flavor combinations. I personally love the simplicity of this by itself, but variations such as olive, roasted red pepper, or cilantro are really good as well.

-I garnished mine with toasted pine nuts, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil. Perfect.

Pita recipe slightly adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Vanilla Butter Walnut Ice Cream

I keep thinking /wishing/hoping for autumn to be here already. I long for the crisp air and the smell of bonfires, for the oranges and yellows and comfy sweaters. Typically, this desire doesn’t come around until the beginning of September for me, but this year, I think I was wishing for fall all the way back in the beginning of August.

 

I’ve been cheating on September I think, wearing clothes that are much too warm and cozy for the eighty-degree temps we’ve been having. I’ve literally been caught wearing corduroys and cardigans and drinking lots of hot tea…when it’s ninety degrees out.

When my mom mentioned that the high on Saturday was only going to be seventy, I did a little happy dance (which, she thought was an “I have to pee very badly dance”). But, I’m serious about this fall weather thing.

Last week in an attempt to do something that fit the weather so as not to go too crazy with this lingering heat, I made ice cream. Actually, I just had tons of leftover egg yolks that I didn’t want to waste, and a custard-y ice cream was the first thing I thought of. And because I’m so into fall already, it couldn’t be some fresh fruity summery flavor. It needed to be much richer, something that reminded me of fall.

Butter Pecan is probably my all time favorite ice cream. It’s rich and creamy, sweet and salty, and nutty and buttery of course. That’s an autumn-y flavor, right? Maybe I’m just making things up, I really didn’t get much sleep this week, and my brain feels a bit mushy. Let’s pretend it is.

Walnuts! I love walnuts too, more so than pecans. I decided to change up this classic flavor a bit, and walnuts seemed a perfect way to do it. They’re not quite as sweet as pecans, which works well because everything else in this ice cream is super sweet. Toasting the walnuts enhances the nutty flavor and adds a crunchier texture to the ice cream. And while we’re changing up the classic flavor a bit, let’s go ahead and add some vanilla bean too. Vanilla Butter Walnut Ice Cream. Sounds lovely, I think.

And tastes lovely too.

Vanilla Butter Walnut Ice Cream

Adapted from Whisk Kid

2 cups walnuts, chopped coarsely

2 Tablespoons butter

¼ teaspoon salt

 

1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar

1 vanilla bean

2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons butter

 

Combine heavy cream and milk in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean and whisk into the cream and milk. Let this sit and meddle together for awhile – about fifteen minutes or so.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan. When melted, add walnuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are nice and toasty. It should take 10-15 minutes, but watch closely so as not to burn them. Set aside to cool.

In a small mixing bowl, combine ½ cup of the brown sugar with the egg yolks. Whisk well and set aside.

Add the other 1 cup of the brown sugar to the vanilla cream mixture. Cook this over medium heat until just about to boil. Right before it boils, ladle approximately a half-cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking immediately. (This tempers the eggs so they don’t get cooked when adding them to all of the cream mixture.) Once combined, pour it all back into the saucepan with the cream mixture and continue to cook until slightly thickened. Stir frequently and make sure not to bring it to a boil. You’ll be able to tell it’s done when it clings to the back of a spoon without flowing off. If using a thermometer, it’ll be about 170-175 degrees F. Remove from heat.

Transfer the custard into a bowl stir in remaining 2 Tablespoons butter and vanilla extract. Allow to cool slightly. After a few minutes, use plastic wrap to cover the surface, placing it directly onto the top of the custard. This prevents the custard from forming a film on the top.  Allow to chill completely in the refrigerator.

Once chilled, freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a freezer safe container and fold in the buttered pecans. Freeze until firm.

Love, b

 

Molly Cupcakes – Rich Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

I have a dear friend named Molly. Molly turned 20 in August, so I made her cupcakes.

“Chocolate!” she said.

So I made chocolate. Super, delectable, melt in your mouth chocolate. You see my friends, Molly is very much worth it.

I couldn’t just make a simple chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream (although, that would be wonderful too). You see, Molly has this crazy personality, so simple definitely would not work.

Instead, we start with a suuuuper incredibly moist chocolate cake. And then we fill the center with coffee flavored ganache for a nice little surprise when you take that first bite. After it’s filled, this Molly cupcake gets a huge dollop of whipped chocolate ganache. More ganache, that’s right. (Do you know what ganache is? Pronounced gah-NAHSH, this simple yet perfect thing is made from chocolate and cream, and can be used for glaze, frosting, filling, or eaten by the spoonful. It’s rich and smooth and velvety.) After the ganache, chocolate shavings are a must. Then, green (Molly’s color) pearl sprinkles and cute toothpick signs complete Molly cupcakes.

It’s impossible to put Molly’s character into words. I want to say spunky and peculiar, lovely, animated, and curious, to say the least. There will never be a dull moment with this girl around. And did I mention that she is oh so incredibly talented? She is.

Molly Cupcakes

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 18

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

¾ cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup strong, hot black coffee

1 cup milk (I used 2%, but whole works perfectly too)

1 teaspoon white vinegar

½ cup vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

In bowl of electric mixer, combine all dry ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until very well incorporated, about 2 minutes on medium speed. The batter is supposed to be very thin.

Pour the batter into prepared cupcake tins until 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes for 15-17 minutes or until toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs (moist is what we’re going for, so no clean toothpicks!) Let cupcakes cool for about 5-10 minutes in the pans, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Chocolate Ganache

For the filling and the whipped ganache frosting

½ cup sweetened condensed milk

1 ¼ cup heavy cream

11 ounces unsweetened chocolate

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 10-16 cubes

1 cup sugar

Chop the chocolate into pea sized pieces. Combine chocolate and butter in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

Combine sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once mixture boils, immediately pour over chocolate and butter mixture. Let sit for five whole minutes, then whisk well until incorporated (It might take a bit of whisking before it’s completely incorporated).

Set aside 1 cup of the ganache for the filling. The remaining ganache will be for the whipped frosting and needs to be cooled completely. When it has cooled (and is much thicker) the ganache is ready to be whipped. Transfer the ganache to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment. Whip on medium until light brown and fluffy (5-10 minutes). Use immediately to spread or pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. The ganache will firm up more once spread or piped.

Filling:

Mix about 1 cup of prepared ganache with 1 tablespoon strong black coffee. If you want a stronger coffee taste, add very fine instant coffee powder or espresso powder to taste. If no coffee flavor is desired, omit coffee and just use ganache as is for filling.

Assembly:

When cupcakes are completely cooled, fill the centers with some of the ganache. There are a few techniques out there for filling cupcakes, and Annie’s Eats has a good tutorial with photos for three different methods you should check out here. For my cupcakes, I chose to use a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. To do this, insert the tip into the cupcake and squeeze to pipe in a small amount of the ganache.

When the cupcakes are filled, use a pastry bag to pipe the whipped ganache onto the cupcakes (I used a round Wilton 2A tip). Alternatively, spread a big dollop of the whipped ganache on with a spatula. Either way tastes perfectly divine.

Top with chocolate shavings and sprinkles, if desired. Cute little toothpick signs are another fun option!

Love, B

P.S. Molly enjoyed her cupcakes, here’s Instagram proof. . .

Chocolate Cupcakes slightly adapted from Sweetapolita.

Ganache adapted from this post.

Words and Blueberry Lemon Quick Bread (Update: and Muffins!)

I’m a shy person. Quiet might be a better term. I don’t typically lead conversations, and I often think of things I might contribute but then let them  go unsaid forever. Some might say that this sort of personality is a strange thing, and I used to hate this trait in myself, but somewhere in the mess of high school and the experience of college, I’ve grown to appreciate my character more.

You see, words are such a powerful thing. When spoken, each and every syllable carries significance as each and every sound and inflection speak meaning. The way that we say things, the order, the pitch, the choices we make, have the biggest impacts.

But I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to have a lot of words – one simple word might carry the same weight as a string of sentences threaded and weaved together. I think both of these ways are just as perfect as the other.

Sometimes I just don’t talk a lot. Some people assume that I’m uncomfortable, or maybe that I don’t like them. Sometimes, I’m perceived as a snob. Really though, I love conversations and listening and I don’t always feel the need to add words. I don’t think a conversation needs to consist of back and forth speaking, equal words from both sides. I believe one can contribute equally to a conversation with few words, maybe even with no words at all. It’s all about an exchange – an exchange of sense, of meaning, of feeling. Presence alone gives this. Words have specific denotations, but there are also so many other ways of sharing and communicating. I like to find those ways…

Baking is a way I communicate without speaking. It can display my mood. It can express love. The process itself is more for me, learning about myself, spending time to reflect on my surroundings, having a moment alone. The outcome though, it’s for me to share – to communicate with the people around me, to communicate with you as you read this now.

I made this blueberry lemon bread for family and a few friends. It was for you, too. In making it, I was able to unwind after a day that left me upset. I then happily shared it with some people who each carry special places in my life. And now, I’m able to use it to communicate even further, with you. For you to enjoy the photos, hear a story, and then maybe follow the recipe for your own loved ones.

I’m really loving this adventure of blogging I’ve started, and this new way of expressing myself – this place where I can be “quiet” but still communicate. Where I can be shy, but not so unspoken.

And I really hope you do make this sometime or another, as it was so simple to make, but so perfectly sweet and tart with the combination of fresh blueberries and lemon. The inside dense and moist, speckled with blueberries and lemon zest, and completed with a yummy crumb topping. It’s like a blueberry muffin, but better and in bread form!

 

 

 

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Blueberry Lemon Quick Bread with a Crumb Topping

Recipe makes three mini loafs, or one 8X4 inch loaf, Can also be used in muffin tins for 24-36 muffins

 

For the Bread:

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 eggs

1 ½ cup self rising flour

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries (If using frozen, do not thaw)

Zest of one lemon

For the Crumb Topping:

3 Tablespoons butter

½ cup flour

3 Tablespoons sugar

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, lemon juice (note, zest your lemon before juicing it), and eggs together. Add about half of the self-rising flour, then the milk, then the other half of the flour, beating well after each addition. Once well combined, gently fold in the blueberries and lemon zest. (Note – toss the blueberries in a bit of flour before folding in, and they shouldn’t sink to the bottom as much) Pour batter into 3 greased mini loaf pans or one larger 8 inch by 4 inch loaf pan.

To make the crumb topping, combine the butter, flour, and sugar in a small bowl. Use fingers to mix together until a crumb forms, leaving some crumbs larger than others. Sprinkle crumbs over top of each loaf, gently pressing down a bit so it sticks.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. If using one larger pan, it will need to bake about 60-70 minutes. Cool at least ten minutes before removing onto a wire rack.

Note – If using all-purpose flour instead of self-rising flour, add in 1 teaspoon of baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt when adding the flour.

Another note – I like to used browned butter in the batter to give it a subtle rich and nutty flavor. Try it, I think you’ll like it! It’s really not very complicated, just heating the melted butter a bit extra, but the results are crazy awesome. Technique here.

Update: If making muffins, fill muffin tins with cupcake liners 2/3 to 3/4 full and top each with crumb topping. Bake 15-20 minutes, starting with 15 and checking center with a toothpick. It should come out mostly clean with possibly a few crumbs clinging on.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Much love,

b

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