dessert · kid-friendly · Recipes

Semi-Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes

So my 35th birthday was this past Sunday, and Mark gave me a relaxing agenda: spa mani-pedi, dinner, and general relaxation including (but not limited to) showering uninterrupted. Georgia, being three, had other plans. She did let me bathe alone for a grand total of 20 minutes, but upon realizing we weren’t having a kid-style party at our house to mark the occasion, she demanded — as only a preschooler can do — that we make a chocolate cake together, and stat. I neither enjoy chocolate cake nor had many staples handy, so we got creative and raided the pantry for whatever we could cobble together. Considering the constraints and the last minute nature of her request, the results were nothing short of amazing!

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Inspired by a recipe I’d filed away from Smitten Kitchen, these mini chocolate cakes were just the thing to satisfy Georgia’s desire to make a birthday treat with little notice and very few ingredients on hand. They are heavy on butter, chopped chocolate and a critically important dash of salt, and I simply love the personal-pan sized dessert that results. These offer the perfect mix of gooey middle and crusty top, collapsing just a bit on themselves right after coming out of the oven. You mix it all by hand in one bowl and then let the batter sit on the counter for half an hour while you relax play Magna-tiles, and when they come out of the oven after just 25 minutes, they have a crisp shell that provides exactly the right amount of resistance to your bite. Don’t resist completely! Give in to this semi-sweet indulgence.

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We enjoyed them outside in the yard as a mini-picnic, because why not?

Semi-Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, or bittersweet chocolate rough-chopped
  • 14 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon whole wheat flour (all purpose is fine too)

DIRECTIONS

Place the chopped chocolate and chopped butter together into a large microwave-safe bowl. In 15-30 second intervals, heat then stir the two together until fully melted and blended.

Place on a cool surface and whisk in the sugar. Then whisk in the salt and each egg, adding them one at a time and mixing fully into the batter before adding the next one. Stir in the flour and mix gently until blended into a smooth batter.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place on the counter to stand and thicken at room temperature for half an hour.

Heat the oven to 325°F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with baking spray (or use cupcake papers).

Fill each cup halfway with batter, then bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the mini cakes to cool on a rack for up to 10 minutes before unmolding from the tin. The puffed-up tops will fall a bit as they cool, and this is normal! The cakes should be very fudge-y on the inside. Don’t leave them in the cupcake tin too long like I did the first time I made this, or it’ll be very hard to get them out. If you let them cool for 5-10 minutes and immediately pop them out of the tin, they should come right out.

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As noted in the original recipe, these can also be made with about 2 tablespoons less sugar if desired, to produce a more noticeably bittersweet cake. That is another great option. How else to embellish these? Some fresh whipped cream, maybe, or some raspberries. To craft a more nuanced flavor, I used a mixture of chocolate — some semi-sweet baking chips, as well as some stone-ground Taza Mexican chocolate — and it was really delicious. I like to keep some Taza discs on hand for use in various recipes. I’m not a chocolate freak by any means, but I love their slightly gritty texture and flavor selections like cinnamon, salted almond, coffee, guajillo chili and more.

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Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

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kid-friendly · Recipes

Classic Apple Crisp

It’s apple season, and lucky for me, Georgia takes after her mom: she LOVES all things autumn! From apple picking to hayrides, cider, fruit crisp, Halloween, pumpkin patches and cinnamon donuts, she can’t get enough and is the best companion for fall fun. We go to the apple orchard every year for u-pick, and stretch our peck of Macoun and McIntosh for weeks with cozy recipes and snacks. Last month, I shared an easy apple topping for pork chops with a promise to follow soon with an apple crisp recipe. Here it is!


Classic Apple Crisp

INGREDIENTS

  • Half a dozen apples (enough to fill a 9×13 baking dish) peeled, cored & sliced
  • lemon juice and cinnamon to taste
  • optional: nutmeg if you like the flavor

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oats (quick cooking or old fashioned are both fine)
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 and butter or grease the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish. I like to use that size pan, but you can absolutely make it in an 8×8 instead.

Spread the sliced apples in the pan and then top with the lemon juice and cinnamon (I just eyeball it) and nutmeg if using; stir.

Mix together the softened butter and the dry ingredients until well combined, then spread on top of the apples.

Bake about 30 minutes or until the topping is brown and the apples are tender.

Serve warm with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream!

Tips:

If it’s not apple picking season and you’re grabbing some at the grocery store instead, I always go for Granny Smith. You want something nice and tart that can withstand being baked without turning totally mushy, and they’re also a great size.

When it comes to softening the butter, I prefer to heat a sauce pan on low and put the butter in, then add the dry ingredients once it gets almost melted. Turn off the heat, stir together, and set aside.

If you’re taking this to a potluck, it also cooks up well in a disposable foil pan instead of a glass baking dish.


My philosophy when it comes to apple crisp is to keep it simple.

We have some top-notch apple crisp makers in my family, and the recipes are all kept in mental filing folders. I’ve picked up most of the makeup along the way as I’ve made my own, only adding some oats to the topping because that’s what I like best. Otherwise, it’s a formula taken from the Betty Crocker cookbook many years ago — as with the cookie recipe on the back of the Toll House chocolate chip package, sometimes the most basic, time-tested ones are the best ones and stay classic for a reason!

I hope everyone had a fabulous Halloween. Rapunzel’s wig survived the festivities, and now I have SO MUCH CANDY in my house, bound for my office candy dish ASAP!

Thanks to the freezer meal workshop I did earlier this year, we all ate a huge pot of chicken chili with beans, and I can’t wait to share that recipe with you. It was so easy and fed the entire eight-person crowd last night, with some delicious sides of guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, extra sharp cheddar cheese and corn muffins made by my mother in law. I’ll post about that soon! Meanwhile, have a great start to the month of November. Boy is this year flying by. Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here, and I’ll have to turn on the heat in my house. 😉

Meanwhile, enjoy a few images from our recent apple picking adventure to Smolak Farms in North Andover, Mass. (our family- and budget-friendly favorite!) They are offering half-priced apple picking now because it’s the end of the season, so now’s the perfect time to go and grab a bushel for your Thanksgiving pies!

kid-friendly · Recipes

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

It’s strawberry season in New England! These berries have a very short window of availability each year, and this summer the crop is peaking late — like right now — so it’s time to pick up some fresh berries at the farmer’s market and get baking. My brother’s girlfriend Michelle, who you may remember from this popular Stuffed Mushroom recipe at Christmas, makes one of the best strawberry treats I’ve ever had: strawberries stuffed with sweetened cream cheese. Auntie Shelly, as Georgia calls her, brings these to every summer gathering and they are always the absolute most popular item on the potluck, including last weekend when we had a barbecue for Mark’s birthday at our house. They were gone in a flash and I felt lucky to grab a couple before they disappeared. In addition to being a crowd pleaser, they are very simple to make. Read on to find out how.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 packages of fresh strawberries
  • 8 oz of regular cream cheese
  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Graham crackers (optional)

DIRECTIONS

First, take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator. It needs to be at room temperature in order for everything to blend well.

Wash the strawberries, and remove the stems. Cut the bottom off of each strawberry where the leaves are so they can stand up on their own.

Make an “X” cut on the pointed side of each strawberry and set them aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and start mixing on low speed. Start slow to make sure the confectioner’s sugar doesn’t splatter everywhere! Increase the speed to medium/high until the mixture is a light, fluffy texture. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes.

Put the cream cheese mixture into a piping bag with a small tip. An easy way of doing this is to use a tall, empty drinking glass, which holds the bag so you can have both hands free when pouring the mixture.

Insert the piping tip into the middle of the “X” cut on each berry, and squeeze the filling in until you can see it starting to peek out the sides.

Finally, an optional last step is to put some crushed graham crackers on top of the berries. This can make them look extra fancy!

{{ Serve at room temp and watch guests devour }}


If you really, really love strawberries — as Georgia does — try these Strawberry Mini Muffins, my Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, this Strawberry Yogurt Cake or my Creamy Strawberry Smoothie. We really love strawberries in our house!

Looking for places to pick your own strawberries this month? Here’s a great guide to you-pick spots and local strawberry festivals in and around Boston in June. Or, just follow the Facebook and Instagram posts from your family and friends for of-the-moment tips. Happy picking!


Tiny Prints - Flash Sale

Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

This past weekend, we went to a potluck with a loose Mexican food theme. Our friend Terri (hi, Terri!) made the most delicious and simple enchiladas, and our friend Seth brought an amazing guacamole with chopped mangoes (!) in it. We also had margaritas, chili, rice, and corn bread. I could eat a meal like that every day of the week!! I’d volunteered to do dessert, but as the day drew closer I realized I didn’t have enough rhubarb handy to make the crumble I’d envisioned for the 10-12 people expected, so I had to go to plan B. I racked my brain trying to think of something festive but light that could feed a good-sized crowd, including many toddlers. Then I remembered how well this orange creamsicle cake turned out a couple years ago, and in that vein made an even EASIER dessert with crushed pineapple and angel food cake. It has just two ingredients, not including any whipped cream you might want to add, and it came out so delicious! Perfect for summer and so easy, it’s definitely something I’m going to make again and again.

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package angel food cake mix
  • 1 large (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple
  • whipped cream if you want it for topping!

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter or Pam-spray a 9 x 13 baking dish (I used glass).

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry cake mix with the crushed pineapple, juice included. (Don’t add water per the box instructions!) Stir until evenly combined. Pour into your baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes (mine took closer to 30 — make sure it doesn’t burn!) It’s done for sure when a toothpick poked in the middle comes out clean. Let cool and serve!

Notes: I could only find pineapple chunks, so I buzzed them through the food processor quickly to pulverize them. The consistency you see there in my photos is what you want. I didn’t serve this with ice cream, but I think it would go well together! Because I was taking this to a potluck, I just bought a can of whipped cream, though I usually prefer to just make my own (especially ever since Mark got me a stand mixer). You could also make this in a cupcake tin with liners instead of a glass baking dish. Just be sure to cross-reference the cooking time on the side of the cake mix box if you drastically alter the pan size.

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

Enjoy! And have a wonderful weekend!

kid-friendly · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

How to Revive Stale Cookies

Don’t you hate it when someone makes you homemade cookies and you don’t have time to eat them all?

Yeah, that never happens to me either.

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But I did recently have a huge batch of cookies left over from a get-together that was cancelled at the last minute, and I stuck them in the fridge where they didn’t spoil…but then they didn’t stay soft and chewy, either. So I adapted a trick I’d heard a long time ago for re-moistening stale bread, which calls for using your microwave and a glass of water, and found it to be a sure-fire way to bring hard cookies back to life. Pin it for later, you won’t be sorry!

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All you do is place the stale cookie on a paper towel in the microwave next to a small glass of water. Heat for 30 seconds, see if it’s reached desired softness, and go for another 10 or 20 seconds if not. Voila! Moist, chewy cookies can be yours again, no matter when the goodies were baked or how long they’ve been hanging out in the refrigerator. This also works for stale bread, as I mentioned above, as well as hard pizza crusts and any other starch that’s turned hard and inedible. Enjoy!

Looking for a good cookie recipe? Don’t miss the easy Martha Stewart 5-Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in my last post!

Holidays · Recipes

5 Great Pies for Pi Day!

It’s Pi Day (in the U.S., anyway) and what better way to celebrate 3.14.15(92653…) than with a roundup of my favorite PIE recipes, starting with one I just saw yesterday that I haven’t made yet but cannot WAIT to try, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen:

Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie from Smitten Kitchen

That’s zooming to the top of my must-make list!

Next up comes my Key Lime Pie, which I often make for Easter. Either that, or Strawberry Shortcake, which is also inside that key lime post, because one year I made both and my lucky relatives got to eat it all up.

Then there’s the classic Raw Pecan Love Pie from Kimberly Snyder, which I just love.

And who can resist this go-to Chocolate Pie by Pioneer Woman, so easy and so good. Mark just eats this up.

Next is something a little bit different: a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie!

Which can’t hold a candle to my Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp filling, which can be used just as easily to make a pie, as I have done and will continue to do every year.

And what’s a post about pie without some savory options?

Like Shepherd’s Pie, or Roasted Zucchini & Tomato Ricotta Pie, just to name a couple of examples.

But here’s the embarrassing part.

My favorite pies — pumpkin and apple — are two that, believe it or not, I DON’T have recipes for on this blog yet! So I am hereby setting a goal to rectify that this year.

Maybe I can get my mom to guest blog about her famous lemon meringue pie, and then eventually I’ll have to share my family’s recipe for Swedish Apple Pie, too. And come to think of it, what about Ricotta Pie??

Clearly, I have a lot of catching up to do! Stay tuned, and hopefully there will be some new desserts coming your way in short order.

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What about you? What are YOUR favorite pies? Tell me in the comments 🙂 And have a great weekend.

Recipes

Nutella Cookies

Nutella freaks, beware: this recipe has only three ingredients, takes almost no time to pull together, and results in a chewy, hazlenut-y, sweet-yet-salty cookie that will be IMPOSSIBLE for you to resist.

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I love the simplicity of this recipe, which has no added sugar or oil. Don’t let that fool you, though — there’s plenty of sugar and oil in Nutella itself, so it’s a little disingenuous to call these a reduced-guilt option.

And if you’ve never tried Nutella (clearly you never studied abroad in Italy, where you might have eaten this every day for breakfast?) it’s time to get acquainted. Made with hazlenuts, cocoa and skim milk, Nutella is a super tasty spread enjoyed on toast, crackers or fruit, particularly popular in Europe, and which American companies are just now starting to copycat. (I don’t know what took them so long, either.) It’s not health food, but it’s delicious and a little bit goes a long way. I’ve had a huge tub hanging around in my cupboard for a couple years, so I started to poke around online for ways to make baked goods out of it.

If you’re on Pinterest, I know you’ve seen the type of pin that gave me this recipe — Make cookies! Using just two unexpected ingredients! They’re probably already in your kitchen right now! How can you not go make them? I’m even guilty of posting some of this stuff myself.

Well, I decided I’m going to tackle a few of these recipes, and I started here. I hope you enjoy them!

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Nutella Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of Nutella (a little less than one small jar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • Good quality sea salt, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350.

Blend all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, adding a dash of water if the batter seems too dry when you’re done.

Roll small balls of dough by hand and bake on a cookie sheet, flattening slightly by hand before placing in the oven, for 6-8 minutes or until set.

Optional but exciting: sprinkle with sea salt before baking. (HOLY MOLY YUM)

Let cool and serve.

These keep well in a storage container or plastic bag for up to a week.

I had some help in making these (but not eating them, not just yet) from my two sous chefs. What a team!

Have a great weekend everyone 🙂

Holidays · Recipes

Orange Creamsicle Cake

OK, I made up that name. I have been craving an Orange Julius SO BAD LATELY (and no, I’m not pregnant, just eating like it…and possibly stuck in the 90s) so when I decided to make a simple cake for Easter at the last minute, it had to meet two criteria: involve fewer than five ingredients, and taste like an Orange Julius. I think this is a success story.

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I found a Pinterest recipe that looked promising, then made it even more citrus-y by making up a light orange icing. That was the critical element! Fresh, juicy and bright, this cake is a definite winner.

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I had two tough critics to please — my Easter guests, the husband and the brother — and both loved it. They are both chocolate freaks and not fruit lovers, so I considered that a victory. I hope you like it, too.

Orange Creamsicle Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box of white cake mix
  • 1 small container of orange juice, no pulp
  • (you’ll use 1 cup for the cake, 2 TBSP for the icing)

  • 1 small (6 or 7 oz.) container Greek yogurt (I chose 2% Fage)
  • 1.5 cups of confectioner’s sugar
  • optional: one orange for zest and/or garnish

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DIRECTIONS

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, orange juice and Greek yogurt. Mix by hand until well combined and no longer lumpy.

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9×9 glass baking dish.

Pour the cake mixture into the pan and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes; let cool.

Check with a toothpick that the middle is set. Serve cool or at room temp with whipped cream! If you like, garnish with orange zest, peel or confectioner’s sugar.

TO MAKE THE ICING

I winged this, based on past experience which told me that citrus juice + confectioner’s sugar = icing (if you get the ratio right). Here, I used 1.5 cups of sugar to 2 TBSP orange juice, and a dash of zest from a fresh orange I had lying around (optional). Just mix until a paste forms and spread on the cake.

I iced the cake in the morning and then sat it back in the refrigerator while we went to church, so it was ready when we got home. I thought this cake actually tasted best a little on the cool side, so I kept it in the fridge during supper and served it right to the table with whipped cream on the side. (Since it was a rush job, I didn’t have time to make fresh. It was still tasty!) You could certainly serve at room temp if you prefer. I’m sure it would also taste fine with Cool Whip, and my brother had the awesome suggestion to make a simple fruit sauce like you would with strawberry shortcake, just sliced fruit with granulated sugar sprinkled on top until the juices come out. I’m definitely going to try that next time! Maybe, like Mark suggested, for Georgia’s 1st birthday party.

Speaking of her little self, check out that baby of mine on Easter!

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I hope you all have a lovely week and that the rain clears out of Boston and other parts of the Northeast some time soon. Just like babies have to sleep through the night eventually, at some point it has to become summer this year. Right?

If you liked this recipe, and enjoy easy dessert recipes, check this out. Or, if you’re a bit more advanced (I’m not), there’s this lovely cake. And I’m dying to try these.

Recipes

Cherry Vanilla Upside-Down Cake

As most of you know, I’m not a big baker. I only do it when forced, and I tend to rely on the same old recipes over and over and over…and over. So I really love an easy crowd-pleasing recipe, like this Vanilla Bean Cake baked upside down with cherries in the bottom of the pan. It’s simple, fast, and tasty: just my style. How fun would this be for the Fourth of July or any other summer cookout? Tastes amazing with ice cream.

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Cherry Vanilla Bean Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 box of vanilla cake mix, such as Trader Joe’s Vanilla Bean Bourbon Mix
  • 1 jar of cherries, such as Trader Joe’s Dark Morello in light syrup
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of cold milk

Directions

Drain the jar of cherries into a small bowl, reserving all the cherry juice for drizzling later. Set the bowl of cherries aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Meanwhile, mix the batter: melt the stick of butter and combine with the two beaten eggs. Stir, then add the dry mix, turning by hand until just combined and lumps are gone.

Pour the cherries into the bottom of a square glass baking dish. Pour the batter on top.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to one hour in a glass baking dish (mine took a bit longer, but that’s how my oven is). It’s ready when the center is set and a knife or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

To serve, drizzle some of the remaining cherry juice over top of the cake, and serve with whipped cream.

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Things didn’t go as planned? That has happened to me before when making an upside-down cake. It seems like it should be so easy, yet things can quickly go wrong when you use a different-sized pan than usual, it’s really hot outside, or you just forgot to leave enough time for the cake to cool before you need to leave for the party. The last time I made this, the center totally collapsed on me! Luckily, the rest was edible and I concealed the sunken middle with whipped cream and cherries for presentation’s sake, but if a similar cake disaster ever strikes you, here is a great resource for fixing things quickly.

Cherry Vanilla Upside-Down Cake

Enjoy! Light, fruity and delicious on a hot summer day. Vanilla ice cream is practically required 🙂

Recipes

Mother’s Day Recipes

Still need ideas for Mom’s brunch or supper this Sunday? I’ve compiled a round-up of things I’ve made in the past that went over well. From breakfast and brunch dishes to salads and desserts, these options should give you lots of ideas. Treat your Mom well!

BRUNCH

Ina Garten’s Berry Blintzes
German Apple Pancake
Bagels with Homemade Scallion Cream Cheese
Mustard Green Frittata

BEVERAGE

Refreshing Basil Lemonade

LUNCH/SUPPER

Fresh Caesar Salad
Springtime Risotto
Crisp, garlicky, mustard-roasted red potatoes
Savory Ricotta Tart with Tomato & Zucchini

DESSERT

Strawberry Yogurt Cake
Rhubarb Crumble
Key Lime Pie
Strawberry Shortcake