Archive for January, 2011

PostHeaderIcon Queso Dip

My husband and I love a restaurant by our house that serves our favorite appetizer, queso dip. We both crave this stuff and go there for dinner just to eat this appetizer! I’ve been meaning to recreate this at home for years. Well, this past week I saw a recipe that looked similar to “our queso dip”, and with a few modifications it did taste similar. It wasn’t an exact match but it was darn close – and very delicious!

I made this while we watched the Packers vs. Bears game last weekend. It was devoured within minutes. I even saw my brother-in-law’s friend lick his plate clean! Yup, it’s that good! I knew I had to post this recipe soon since it would be perfect for The Super Bowl!

Queso Dip


1/2 finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 tomato, chopped
1/2  4-ounce can jalapeno peppers (or 1 fresh jalapeno pepper)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
4 ounces mexican-style cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1.5 teaspoons cornstarch
1 8 oz package cream cheese, cubed
Tortilla chips for dipping


In a medium saucepan cook onion in butter until tender.  Stir in tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and cumin.  Heat to boiling, reduce heat.  Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Toss shredded cheese with cornstarch.  Gradually add cheese mixture to saucepan, stirring until cheese is melted.  Gradually add the cream cheese, stirring until cheese is melted and smooth.  Heat through.  Serve with chips.

Source: adapted from Our Best Bites, originally from Better Homes & Gardens


PostHeaderIcon Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts


I subscribe to way too many cooking magazines. I love getting them in the mail, reading through them, and admiring the amazing photography. When I received the February issue of Bon Appetit with “The Best-Ever Brownies” on the cover, I knew I had to make them ASAP!

This past weekend my brother-in-law and his friend came to visit. Since they are high school boys (who are always hungry) I knew this was the perfect occasion to make these “best-ever” brownies. I have so many recipes that I have held off making and I’m glad I did not put off making this! These brownies are so easy to make and very delicious!

This was on the cover of the magazine next to this recipe and it’s so true:


Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts


10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)

2 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt (generous)

2 large eggs, chilled

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup walnut pieces


Position rack in bottom third of oven: preheat to 325 degrees. Line 8x8x2-inch baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Set pan aside.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, water, vanilla, and salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot).

Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into squares.

Source: Bon Appétit, February 2011


PostHeaderIcon Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Baking Illustrated. This cookbook is like the bible for bakers. Small font, no pictures (just drawings), and amazing recipes! I love the fact they test every recipe again and again until it’s perfect. And when I mean perfect, I literally mean perfect. I have never tried a recipe from Baking Illustrated/Cook’s Illustrated that I have not absolutely loved.

These are huge cookies! I am not a fan of thin crispy cookies so if you are like me, you must make these immediately. The hardest part of this recipe was not eating the raw cookie dough (since I’m pregnant). That was tough. Very tough.

These are best enjoyed right out of the oven, but they do store well in an airtight container.


Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 18 large cookies


2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 oz) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm

1 cup (7 oz) brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 – 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower- middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the ball of dough with your fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are soft and puffy, about 15-18 minutes (mine needed to bake longer), rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a wide metal spatula.

Source: Baking Illustrated



PostHeaderIcon Sloppy Joes

I grew up eating sloppy joes and have always loved them. I was never a picky eater growing up but I vividly remember getting excited whenever my mom made sloppy joes for dinner (even though I remember getting excited over most meals). It’s such a delicious comfort food. I never had the kind from “a can” (ewe!) but I can bet these are so much better.

I’ve made these sloppy joes a few times already and my husband and I both love them. They are very easy to make and I love the addition of celery and green bell peppers. They also make great leftovers!

Sloppy Joes


1 tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup-style chili sauce
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 sesame-seed sandwich buns, split


In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the beef, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring and breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup water, the tomato sauce, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes to blend the flavors.

Toast the buns. Place the bottom halves of the buns, cut side up, on warmed individual plates and top with the beef mixture, dividing it equally. Cover with the bun tops and serve immediately. Makes 6 sandwiches.

Source: Williams Sonoma


PostHeaderIcon Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

These are my go-to tried and true vanilla cupcakes! I have made these too many times to count and they have always been devoured within minutes.

These cupcakes are very simple to make and it’s great that I always have all of the ingredients on hand. I love to substitute vanilla paste for vanilla extract in most of my recipes. Vanilla paste provides those beautiful vanilla seeds/flecks (and an amazing vanilla flavor) that you would get if you used expensive vanilla beans. You can find vanilla paste all over but I usually get mine from Williams Sonoma.

Last but not least, the frosting! It is AMAZING! I actually came up with this recipe since every other recipe I tried tasted more like butter than delicious buttercream frosting. I think my husband and I both gained a few pounds while testing this frosting again and again. But it was worth it! I’m happy to say this is the only buttercream I will ever make!




Vanilla Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes


1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla paste!)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. 

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in pan 5 minutes.  Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Prepare frosting.  Decorate cooled cupcakes as desired.

Source: cupcakes: adapted from Joy of Baking

My Favorite Vanilla Buttercream Frosting!

Yield: enough frosting for 24 cupcakes


1 stick unsalted butter, softened

5-6 cups confectioners’ sugar (20 oz)

pinch of salt

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream


In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.

Slowly add the rest of the ingredients a little at a time. I usually start by adding a cup of confectioners’ sugar along with the salt and vanilla extract. Then I add 1/4 cup heavy cream, slowly add in more confectioners’ sugar and heavy cream until all 5-6 cups (or so) of confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 cup of heavy cream are added. (Do not add all 5-6 cups of confectioners’ sugar at once or you’ll have a mess)

Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice.

Decorate cooled cupcakes as desired.

Source: Melissa Bakes Original


PostHeaderIcon Making Something Special…..

Yup, I’m pregnant! I’m a little over 12 weeks and my husband and I are just overjoyed! We are so excited to meet our little peanut in July (20th).

The ultrasound was taken at 11 weeks 6 days. It had a great heart beat of 169. We were both amazed at how it already looks like a little baby! During the ultrasound it was constantly moving around and crossing its legs – just amazing! We were so excited that the ultrasound tech was able to get such a great profile of our little peanut since it was moving around so much!

I am so thankful I have had an awesome pregnancy so far – NO nausea at all! Whoo hoo! My main symptom has been fatigue and that is already starting to subside since I’m almost in the second trimester.

I found out I was pregnant about a month after starting this blog. I have tried my hardest to keep up with it but since I’ve had some food aversions (and odd cravings – watermelon!) it’s been a little difficult. Hopefully I’ll be able to blog more in the second trimester.


PostHeaderIcon S’mores Brownies

I went to visit a friend today and wanted to bake something delicious to bring her. Deciding on what to bake is like deciding on what to major in college – I wish I was being sarcastic. I have SO many recipes on my to-bake list it’s starting to get out of control. For instance, whenever I see a recipe I want to make while browsing on my iPhone I snap a screenshot of the recipe to save it…..I have over 700 recipes saved on my iPhone! Insane? Yes. Will I be adding more? You bet!

This recipe is so quick and easy to make! I know I say this with most of my recipes but this one is especially true. It would be an awesome dessert for a cookout in the summer……or just for two chatty friends hanging out. It starts out with a nice graham cracker crust, then a delicious brownie, topped with more chocolate, mini marshmallows, and graham crackers.

I apologize for those of you making diet resolutions for the New Year.

S’mores Brownies

Yields: 36 bars


10 graham crackers, broken in half (20 squares), divided

3/4 cup butter

4 oz unsweetened chocolate

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks


Heat oven to 350°F.

Line 13 x 9 inch pan with foil (I split the recipe in half and used an 8 x 8 pan); spray with cooking spray. Place 15 grahams in pan, enough to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Break remaining grahams into pieces for the topping, set aside.

Microwave butter and chocolate squares in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min.; stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Stir in flour. Pour over grahams in pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.)

Sprinkle with marshmallows and chocolate chunks. Broil for 3 to 5 min. or until marshmallows begin to puff (or use kitchen torch).

Press reserved graham pieces gently into marshmallows. Cool. Use foil to lift brownies from pan before cutting to serve.

Source: Kraft


PostHeaderIcon Peppermint Candy Sugar Cookies

Christmas has come and gone but I just had to share these adorable sugar cookies I made. I saw them on one of my favorite blogs this season and knew I had to make them!

To see more of my decorated sugar cookies, click here!

If you’re interested in ordering decorated sugar cookies you can contact me here.

Happy New Year!

Inspired by: Bake at 350, originally by Martha Stewart