Dark Chocolate Brownies

School has started, and we’re all suffering from a bit of end-of-summer depression.  We must wake at an ungodly hour, stay indoors all day and spend hours slaving over homework (or avoiding doing homework).  I’ve found that there is only one thing to do when one feels that way: make brownies.

I got this recipe, called ‘Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies’ (I’m not sure why; Katharine Hepburn doesn’t seem like the type to eat lots of brownies, but you never know) from the New York Times cooking section.  They turned out beautifully, and between the four of them my brothers and parents nearly finished the batch.  I hope these brownies make your first week of school more bearable!

Ingredients                       DSCN3094

1 cup cocoa

2 sticks butter

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons vanilla

pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Melt the butter and cocoa in a saucepan using a double boiler, stirring frequently.  In a separate bowl, stir sugar, flour and salt.  When the butter has completely melted, remove from heat and allow to cool, then add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla, then fold into the flour mixture.  Mix well, then pour into a greased 9 by 13 inch pan.  Bake until a knife inserted into the middle comes out dry, 30 to 40 minutes.  Enjoy!

DSCN3100

Swedish Butter Cake

This Swedish butter cake will always hold a dear place in my heart.  It is the first dessert I remember my mom making.  I’ve loved this dessert from age two to age sixteen.  While simple, this cake is delectably buttery and sophisticated, and will be loved by children and adults.  It is good plain, but I like to refrigerate it and serve it with strawberries and whipped cream.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.  Mix butter and sugar then add eggs one at a time.  Alternately add dry ingredients and milk.  Stir in vanilla, then bake 55ish minutes.  Enjoy!

DSCN3065

Savory Olive Oil Pies

The other day I had a few friends over for lunch, so I needed to make something that was delicious but not labor-intensive.  These pies were the first thing I thought of, and turned out to be a great success (my friends ate three apiece).  They’re yummy, easy and transportable, not to mention versatile–you could fill them with literally anything.  For the filling, I chopped up two small squashes and an onion then sauteed them with thyme, rosemary and garlic (plus salt and pepper).   This recipe yields 4 pies, so I usually double it.

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1/4 cup cold water

Combine flour and salt in large bowl.  Add oil, eggs and water.  Mix well with a fork, then use your hands to knead the dough, keeping it in the bowl (it will be easier if the bowl is lower down, on a table rather than a counter).  Knead for about two minutes, until the dough is smooth and form it into a ball.  Refrigerate 30 minutes, then roll the dough out and divide it into four eight inch squares.  Add filling of choice, then fold the edges of the square in to the middle.  Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  Enjoy!

DSCN3058

Irresistible Whoopie Pies

There really is no other combination of flavors like chocolate and peanut-butter.  It’s completely and utterly irresistible.  That’s why, for an end-of-summer treat, my younger brother and I decided to make this fantastic recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi.

Ingredients

For the pies

2 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup milk

For the peanut-butter filling

3/4 stick butter

1/2 cup peanut-butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat butter then add both sugars and beat till well blended.  Add egg, mix, then add vanilla.  Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk.  Scoop in spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake 8-10 minutes and allow to cool before assembling.

For the filling, simply mix all the ingredients.

Once the pies have cooled, pair each one with another of a similar size.  Then take one of the pies and spread some of the filling across it.  Gently put the pies together without pressing them down.  Enjoy!

DSCN3088  DSCN3091

PB and Chip Cookies

It’s the last week of summer and spirits have been running low at my house.  My mom, who has the summer off but on the University schedule, resumed work today and my brothers and I have been moping around, doing nothing.  Knowing we needed a little pick-me-up, I grabbed my youngest brother and we went to the kitchen.  Luca and I have a lot in common, including our love of chocolate and peanut-butter, so we created these delicious cookies.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 eggs

1 cup peanut-butter

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 oz. chocolate chips

2 teaspoons vanilla

10 tablespoons butter

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add butter (warmed), vanilla and peanut-butter.  One this is well mixed, stir in chocolate chips.  Drop in heaping spoonfuls onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake about 10 minutes or until the edges turn a crisp brown.

DSCN3022

My brother Luca, enjoying a cookie
Since I made up this recipe, it was my duty to perform several taste tests…

Granola

DSCN2998

This easy granola makes an excellent breakfast or healthy snack.  I just love to eat it with my family’s homemade yogurt, but it’s equally delicious in bars, ice-cream or just plain.  This recipe is very basic, so feel free to add whatever you like to the mix: raisins, nuts, etc.

Ingredients

3 cups oats

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in bowl and combine.  Add honey, oil and vanilla to bowl and stir.  Pour over oat mixture and mix till coated.  Spread in a thick layer on baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes then stir and continue to bake till light brown, 5 to 15 minutes more.  This can be stored for up to two weeks.  Enjoy!

Paris, Bordeaux and the Basque region

What a trip! Not only was every place we travelled absolutely gorgeous, but the food was just fantastic!  In Bordeaux we tried a restaurant called Cafe Cuisine.  Everything was delicious.

DSCN2432      DSCN2433

We stayed on the Spanish side of the Basque region, but stopped in the French side for lunch at a hotel restaurant, La Reserve.
 It was wonderful,    filled with flowers and with a view of the  beach, plus spectacular food!  While I  enjoyed my pigeon, the highlight of the  meal was definitely my strawberry  dessert!

DSCN2685   DSCN2675  DSCN2681 DSCN2672DSCN2686

On our second to last night in Paris, we dined at Fontaine du Mars.  It was a wonderful experience–not only did we sample a superb coq au vin, leek appetizer and truffle sauce chicken, we were also entertained the whole night by our charismatic waiter, Pierre.

I loved every minute of our trip–I know for sure that someday I’ll return to France.