Snacks

Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites

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There are two things I love about this recipe:

1) It can sort of be made all in one pot so there are fewer dishes for all my fellow chocolate-craving, backache-ridden mommas-to-be.
2) If you get tired halfway through and decide to quit, you still have delicious homemade salted caramel to snack on. I won’t lie, I will probably make just the caramel part of this recipe at some point and eat all of it. It’s that good.

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I was originally working from a Smitten Kitchen brownie recipe, but I decided to change all of the ratios of dry-to-wet ingredients (because we all know that’s a smart thing to do when baking) and I ended up making some awesome cake bites instead. I was careful to keep track of the exact measurements, but I will be testing these again in the near future to be sure that I didn’t just get lucky with some magical baking chemistry the first time around!

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I will be the first to admit that there are times when you crave the fudgy, richness of a brownie. I recently posted some caramel brownies that will do just the trick, but these aren’t going to satisfy that craving. These are for the times when you want something a bit lighter. These cake bites aren’t too rich or sweet, so they are an awesome option when you’re looking for a less decadent, less heavy dessert. The only downside to this is that, if you’re anything like me, you and your household (… or mostly just you) will destroy an entire pan in a matter of days. 🙂

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Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites
(makes one 8×8 pan– i.e. probably more than a single human should eat in two days, whoops)

Ingredients

for the caramel:
4 tablespoons salted butter [I used good, European-style butter for this to give the caramel the creamiest flavor possible]
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt [I used a local, vanilla-infused sea salt]

for the cake batter:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 stick salted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour [warning: I used White Lily AP flour, which can sometimes behave differently than other AP flours]

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Begin by making the caramel. This process is surprisingly simple, but it can get dangerous so be careful! Caramel is notorious for giving people serious burns. As long as you are conscientious of this and stay mindful of the splattering, you will be fine.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium-high heat. The butter and sugar will likely stay somewhat separated, but you want to get them as mixed as possible while the sugar is melting. Once the sugar is largely integrated and simmering, watch for color changes. You are looking for a golden color if you prefer a mild butter flavor, and a light brown color for a richer, nuttier flavor.

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This process may take a few minutes. Just be sure not to let the butter get too dark. I like mine a bit burnt, but you don’t want it getting too brown in color, and when you begin to smell a nuttiness, you know you need to remove it from heat because it can quickly turn too burnt and become bitter. There is a sweet spot to butter-browning, and it can take some practice to know when that point comes. You’re better off leaving it a bit underdone rather than burning it. I mean- it’s butter and sugar, it’s going to taste great either way.

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While you’re waiting for the sugar to melt and the butter to darken, prepare a plate for the caramel. Cover it in parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.

When the sugar is well integrated and the butter has changed colors, take the mixture off of the heat and add in the salt and milk. When you add in the milk, be careful. The mixture will sputter a bit, but quickly begin to look like a beautiful, traditional caramel! Stir everything together with a rubber spatula and return to medium heat.

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Let the mixture simmer for several minutes. Stir your caramel until the last bits of sugar are melted. [Note: if you are planning to eat the caramel straight and forego the cake part, I would recommend leaving some whole sugar because it will give a beautiful, crunchy texture to your finished caramel.] Pour the mixture onto the parchment paper covered plate and place it in the freezer.

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If your freezer is kept very cold, like mine (0°F), it will not take much time for the caramel to cool, and you can begin making the batter. If you have a warmer temp freezer, you may want to wait twenty minutes or so before starting up on the batter.

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To make the batter- cover an 8×8 pan in parchment paper and butter! Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Set up a double boiler. I reused the caramel pot and filled a much larger pot with boiling water. Over the double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter- yes more butter! It helps to cut the butter and chocolate up beforehand. Stir with your rubber spatula until the mixture has melted completely.

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Take it off of the heat and add in the sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.

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Before you add in the eggs, you may want to crack them in a separate bowl and prepare yourself to quickly stir! The mixture won’t be boiling hot, but I’m always nervous about curdling eggs, so I try to add them in quickly. Finally, mix in the flour.

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Pour the batter into the prepared dish.

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Take the salted caramel from the freezer and chop it into bits. Mine was like a soft caramel and I could NOT resist snacking on some of it, I highly recommend doing so! Again- if you get tired and don’t feel like making the cake batter, these homemade soft caramels alone are good enough to satisfy a sweet tooth!

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At this point you can really do whatever you want- toss the pieces on top of the batter, mix them into the batter, do a little of both! It’s completely up to you. Next time I make these cake bites, I will probably mix the caramel in to make for prettier pictures, but it will be delicious either way. The caramel will melt in the oven and sink into the cake, so do be aware of that if you decide to put them all on top.

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Bake the cake at 350°F for 30 minutes.

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Enjoy!

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Tangelo Sweet Rolls

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It has been a very long time since I lasted posted, and (unsurprisingly) a lot has happened. My husband and I are expecting our first child in October!! It is a very exciting time for us, and the first trimester was a roller coaster of nausea for me. Our cooking has been minimal the past few months, as I have been living off of my cravings for subways sandwiches and mashed potatoes!

I have also been craving  citrus fruits way more often than I ever did before! Perhaps I need the calcium? Either way, we found a way to make citrus fruits unhealthy and sugary and delicious- put them in sweet rolls! These are essentially cinnamon rolls with a fruity filling instead of the more traditional nut and spice filling.

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Typically these kinds of sweet rolls are made with oranges, but we made them with tangelos (the zest and juice). I preferred the tangelo flavor because it is tangier. Also, the rind is much brighter in color, which makes for great photos when you add in the zest!

You can serve these for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack! It does make a large batch, and they don’t stay moist for too long- so I recommend making these when you’ve got lots of hungry mouths to feed!

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The recipe was inspired by an orange roll post from Lemon-Sugar, who uses traditional citrus and no zest! It was super easy to make, even in our small kitchen with no mixer. It is rather time consuming, but these tasty treats make the wait worth it!

Enjoy!

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Tangelo Sweet Rolls

(makes roughly two dozen rolls)

Ingredients

for the dough
2 1/4 tablespoons instant yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
5 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt
2 eggs


for the filling
1 tablespoon tangelo zest (from about 1 tangelo)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature [especially if you don’t have a mixer, it’s best to take this out as early as possible so that it can completely soften]
1 cup sugar

for the icing
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1 tablespoon tangelo zest
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

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First, make your dough. Preheat the oven to 200° F and after it has preheated, turn it off. Combine the warm water with the yeast to proof your yeast- you may even wish to add a pinch of sugar for the yeast to feed off of. Let the yeast proof for about ten minutes. I usually proof yeast in the oven, but it was very reactive and I just left it on the counter this time around!

While the yeast is proofing, melt the butter in the microwave. I did probably one minute on 50% power, just enough to get it melted, but no more. Whisk the honey into the butter.

In a large bowl, measure out four cups of AP flour. Combine with the salt. Fold in the proofed yeast.

When the honey-butter mixture has cooled down a bit, whisk in the eggs. Then, add this to the larger flour mixture.

Fold it all together with a rubber spatula. In different environments dough will form in a unique way. My recommendation is to keep folding until it all comes together in one big heap. If you can stick your finger to it and pull away dough (meaning, it’s super sticky), add a bit more flour. Add 1/2 cup at a time, and do not go over 6 cups! We needed about 5 1/2 for ours, thus we added 1 1/2 cups to the original dough. Work it as little as possible in between additions. You do not want your dough to get tough and you don’t need it to lose all stickiness. It should be pretty sticky, but it should at least all stay together even when you put a finger on it.

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Butter the bowl well and cover it in plastic wrap. Place it somewhere warm- either your oven or maybe even a microwave! Let it rise for 1 hour.

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While the dough is rising you can make the filling, which takes like two minutes. With the remaining 58 minutes you could watch your favorite show or go to the gym to make up the the insane number of calories you will be consuming from these rolls. William and I chose the former. 🙂

To make the filling, start by washing and zesting a tangelo. We got one tablespoon of zest and 1/2 cup of juice from a single tangelo. Juice the tangelo and strain the juice into a bowl. Combine 1/4 of the juice with all of the zest in a bowl. Add in the sugar and room temperature butter. Blend them together until a paste is formed.

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When the dough has finished rising, and is about doubled, prepare a large work surface by covering it in parchment paper and sprinkling it with flour. Punch down the dough while it is still in the bowl. This gets all of the added air out and allows for the rolls to cook more evenly. Spread the dough carefully into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.

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Take your filling and drop spoonfuls across the entire sheet of dough. You will then need to spread the filling with your hands. Your dough should be sticky and the filling is a bit granular from the sugar, so the process will take some time and patience. Spread the filling generously across the entire rectangle of dough.

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Next comes William’s favorite part! Rolling the dough. This is not an easy task, but it’s fun- don’t let yourself get frustrated with any mess you make, it will all be tasty and beautiful in the end! You need to roll the rectangle into a very long cylinder. Try to keep it as tight as possible, gently pressing down and squeezing the dough when necessary. If you need to stretch out the dough to help this process, you can, as long as you don’t poke too many holes in it!

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When all is said and done, hopefully you have a giant cylinder of dough snaking its way across your countertop!

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Butter several pans. [We really like using round glass or ceramic pans for rolls, it seems like they cook better in these and the heat more effectively reaches the center of the pan, fully baking all of the dough.] Using your sharpest knife, cut 2-inch slices and carefully place them in the pan. It helped having two people in the kitchen for this. When you move them, you do have to be pretty careful to keep them together and not let any filling fall out.

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When all of the rolls are cut and in their pans, let them rise for another half hour.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F. When you bake the rolls, be sure to bake them all on one rack, to insure even cooking. We did 20 minutes on the top rack, and 5 minutes on the bottom rack. During the last five minutes we also needed to cover them with tin foil so that the tops would not be too browned.

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I will say, the baking is always a little stressful for me. We do not have the best oven, and it doesn’t seem to heat things very thoroughly. This can be especially problematic with breads, and sometimes the center goes uncooked. This technique of moving our pans around worked very well for us and they were all perfectly cooked!

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While the rolls are baking, you can make the icing. It’s super easy! In a medium sized bow, whisk together another 1/4 cup of juice, and another tablespoon of zest, along with a bit of orange extract. We did need to zest one more tangelo for this, but if you have a really good plane grater, you might not find it necessary! Combine this with the powdered sugar and cream. You may need to add additional cream (1 tablespoon at a time) to get the consistency that you like.

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I prefer fairly thick icing, as it photographs better and coats the rolls a bit better.

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When the rolls come out they are ready to be glazed and served! [Do not skimp on the glaze, yes, you have enough to cover them!!]

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Enjoy!

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Caramel Fudge Brownies

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The term fudge in the title here is key. These are chewy brownies, not cakey brownies.

I don’t have any problems with boxed brownie mixes, I usually enjoy them. We didn’t have any boxed brownie mix around the house, but we did have the ingredients for these! To be completely honest, it didn’t take too much longer than boxed brownies, but the texture and flavor is much better!

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This makes one 9×9 pan, and for us that’s about 9 brownies (of course, many people cut them smaller, but we like big serving sizes 🙂 ).

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Caramel Fudge Brownies

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup sugar
11 tablespoons salted butter [yes, really. this is not a typo.]
1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup caramels (we used Werther’s soft caramels)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Parchment paper

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First, melt the butter in the microwave for a minute or two. You want to get it fairly hot (we usually do 1:30- 2 minutes). Combine the sugar with the melted butter and stir. The sugar won’t dissolve completely, but it also shouldn’t separate out.

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In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

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Add the sugar-butter mixture to the flour mixture. Combine with the eggs and vanilla to create your batter base.

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If you are using larger caramels (like we did) chop them up. We also used a bittersweet chocolate bar and chopped that into chunks.

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Stir the caramel and chocolate chunks into the batter.

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Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Cut out a small, square piece of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the 9 x 9 pan.

Pour the batter into the pan. If necessary, you can use a rubber spatula to spread the batter out, allowing it to cook more evenly.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean!

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If you can resist, let them cool for a good 30 minutes and then enjoy! The caramel especially needs to cool before you really want to eat it!

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4-Ingredient, Vegetarian Sausage Balls

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Growing up, my family ate a ton of breakfast foods. One of the things we commonly ate on special occasions were sausage balls. These are tiny bites of absolute heaven. Cheesy goodness and spicy sausage held together with a little breadiness from a Bisquik box. Little did I know at the time- those were basically the only ingredients in the entire snack!

Now that I no longer eat actual sausage, I still like to revisit recipes like this from my childhood. Recently, I began experimenting with the creation of a vegetarian sausage ball. I was looking for a super easy way to make these nostalgic treats for an only slightly healthier diet.

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Perhaps the most amazing thing about these is that they can be frozen! They can be frozen for long amounts of time and then, for long amounts of time, you have a stash of delicious sausage balls that you can reheat at any moment for a quick, but still tasty breakfast! Every time we make ours we make them a little bit bigger. If you make them about the size of a golf ball, you don’t get as many servings out of it, but you can truly have a single one for a solid breakfast on-the-go. It’s a great option for busy families who still like to do some meal prep and have food that feels more homemade!

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This is such an incredibly easy recipe- it only calls for 4 ingredients (one of which is water, I mean, does that even count?)!

4-Ingredient Soy Sausage Balls
(makes about 27, medium-sized balls)

Ingredients
1 lb soy sausage (I always use Morningstar’s regular brand, and simply use 12 patties)
3 1/2 cups Bisquik
1 lb extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I highly recommend shredding cheese off of a block for this, it makes the moisture content more accurate so you will not need to add as much water as you will if you use pre-shredded cheese)
1/4 cup water

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First, microwave all of the soy sausage patties on a plate for 4 minutes. You want them to be soft and easy to tear apart, but not to the point of being fully crisped or cooked. Chop the patties into a crumble. You can chop them as finely as you like. It really depends on your preference.

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Combine the cheese and Bisquik in a large bowl. Stir together carefully. I like to use my hands because it can be a messy process and I prefer to have complete control over it!

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Add in the sausage crumbles. Mix together entirely. It helps to have a very large bowl here, and to use your hands as you stir.

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Finally add in the water. It will not seem like enough water at first, but keep working the “dough” until it finally comes together. You should not need to add more than a 1/4 cup of water if you use freshly grated cheese. If you are using packaged, shredded cheese, it will be drier than the fresh kind. As a result, you will want to add additional water. I recommend doing this by the tablespoon until your dough comes together. You want to avoid adding too much water. The dough will be fairly dry, but still cohesive enough to keep shape.

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Cover a baking tray in parchment paper. Form the balls, trying to keep them as regularly shaped as you can. It’s up to you how large or small you make them. We have never done larger than roughly 1/4 cup sized. Arrange them on a baking tray. Rest the baking tray in your freezer for 15-20 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake for 20 minutes! They do stick to parchment paper and aluminum foil, so you will just need to let them cool and then peel them off carefully!

Any balls that you would like to freeze, you can plop them all in a large plastic bag and put them in the freezer! When you are ready to eat them later, simply follow the baking instructions listed here!

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Enjoy!

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Almond Date Pinwheels

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Pinwheels are a classic winter cookie, in my mind- like thumbprints, gingerbread men, and cucidati- they usher in the Christmas season! This recipe was truly a shot in the dark when William and I created it. We had some extra dough while making cucidati this season, so we decided to put it to good use.

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These cookies are made with dates, almonds, and figs. We added no spices considering the impromptu nature of the experiment, and it actually turned out amazing! However, I think if you want to make it fancier or give it a more complex flavor, you could add similar spices: allspice, cloves, and even orange extract.

These are much easier to construct than the cucidati and that is convenient, but you will still need a food processor and large workspace to create the pinwheels.

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This recipe was basically made up on the fly, but it turned out so well, I thought I’d share it.

Ingredients

1/2 recipe cucidati dough
~1 ounce dried dates
2 ounces dried, mission figs
3/4 cup simple syrup
1 cup sliced almonds

We Sliced and de-stemmed about 10 dried dates, and 1-2 ounces of dried, mission figs. Then, we boiled them in the simple syrup and let them sit for half an hour. We then combined the sweetened date-fig mixture in a blender with 1 cup of sliced almonds.

Finally, we spread the mixture onto a long, flattened square of excess dough.

We rolled the dough up and sealed it with a bit of water. We then sliced it into little pinwheels with a sharp knife, and finally cooked it following the same process as with the cucidati.

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Slice carefully with your sharpest knife, and lay them onto parchment paper. Some of the date filling may squeeze out on one side if your knife is a bit dull. To keep your pinwheels pretty, lay them down on the parchment paper with the messy side down.

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Enjoy!

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Bruschetta con Burrata

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Rich, Italian foods are always immensely satisfying and this is one of them. Savory olive oils, tart tomatoes, milky burrata cheese, and fresh basil– it all makes for one delicious bite! Pretty much anyone can make a good bruschetta with a variety of ingredients, but this particular combination has become our go-to. We have tried tons of different kinds of breads and different ingredients, but we landed on this recipe and we haven’t changed it in about a year. We make it probably once a month (it is incredibly delicious, but it’s not really very healthy).

Bruschetta is a fairly traditional Italian dish that has become popularized all over the world. In Italy, there are many, regional variations. The Toscana region often prepares a simplified version with salt, pepper, and olive oil. This fettunta is usually more of a vehicle for tasting the first batches of olive oil for the season. In the Campania region, the dish has been served for a very long time and, unsurprisingly, it has evolved. Often, you will see bruschetta here with mushrooms, squash, and even sausages. There are many other variations, but here in the States, we usually see it with basil, tomatoes, and olive oil. I’ve added burrata in the Campanian style to counter the acidity of the tomatoes, and I believe it works very well.

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You can eat these as a snack or a full meal. We usually opt for the full meal with a glass of white wine. It doesn’t take much time, and the full recipe makes about 24 pieces. Each slice is around 115 calories, as I said, it’s a treat! However, every piece does have 3 grams of protein (which is pretty good for a vegetarian bruschetta). Obviously, there are tons of changes you could make to this recipe to spice it up or simplify it!

Enjoy!

Burrata Bruschetta

Ingredients
1 Trader Joe’s herb loaf
1/2 cup olive oil (I use dark, flavorful varieties, but if you prefer a lighter oil, go for it!)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes (I usually do half red cherry, half multi-colored, mini heirloom)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
fresh basil (several stems, enough to chiffonade about 2 tablespoons)
1 carton Trader Joe’s burrata (equivalent of 2 burrata balls, about 8oz total)
optional
truffle olive oil drizzle to finish (adds a nice, savory flavor that works especially well if this is to be an entree)

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First, prep a baking sheet. Cover it in tin foil and preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the herb loaf into 1″ strips and then cut each strip in half.

Mix the olive oil and garlic salt in a small dish. Brush each side of every slice with the garlic olive oil.

Next, begin chopping the tomatoes. You want to cut them into fairly small pieces that still retain their shape and some of their juices. Either quarter or sixth each one. Put them in a medium-sized bowl. Add in the salt and pepper and stir it all together. Next, chiffonade the basil. Mix it in with the tomatoes carefully. Taste the mixture to make sure it is to your liking, and make any adjustments necessary. I usually add in a bit more basil.

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Bake the olive oil bread for about 5 minutes. Watch it carefully, you want it just lightly toasted but not too crispy.

Next, slice the burrata carefully and arrange a little bit on each slice of bread. Some pieces will have more cheese than others, but that is okay! You can stretch the cheese by spreading some of the creamier inner part onto a few slices. Bake the cheese + bread for another few minutes. Do not wait for the cheese to melt, you just want it to warm up.

Finally, arrange about a spoonful of the tomato mixture onto each slice.

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You can also add extra basil and truffle oil to the top! Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Dark Chocolate, Espresso Cookies with Sea Salt

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These cookies are my new favorite. They are not very child-friendly or pregnant-person friendly, because they do in fact contain espresso powder. However, they are soft and chewy and sweet and salty and even a little bitter to the taste! They have a kick of caffeine and they stay nice and soft for at least a week or two after being made!!

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They are the answer to every craving (excepting, perhaps, the late-nite snack run). Truth be told, you also have the option of using decaf instant espresso for an all-day treat, accessible to anyone with a penchant for that delicious mocha flavor.

To top it all off, they are incredibly easy to make. The actual mixing time is about fifteen minutes, and baking time is ten to fifteen. Be aware, though, you must let the batter chill for an hour or two after being made, otherwise, these cookies will melt all over your oven. However, they stay so delicious and yummy even a week after being made, that you can always prep the dough ahead of time and bake ahead of time or prep the dough and let it chill for a day or two before you actually need to bake them! Either way- you’ve got plenty of options, and no excuse not to let yourself enjoy these fabulous cookies.

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Dark Chocolate, Espresso Cookies with Sea Salt

(makes about 18-20 cookies)

Ingredients

1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon finely-ground sea salt

2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure, vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons espresso powder

2 ounces chocolate chips (any cocoa percentage is fine)
coarsely-ground sea salt for dusting

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First, mix the flour, baking powder, and finely-ground sea salt in a large bowl.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and sugar.

Over a pot of boiling water, in a medium-sized metal bowl, melt together the bittersweet chocolate, butter, and espresso powder. Stir continuously. For faster melting, chop all of the ingredients before putting them together over heat.

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Let the melted chocolate mixture cool for about five minutes. Combine it with the egg mixture and whisk. Add in the dry ingredients and mix. Finally, add in the chocolate chips (we used dark chocolate) to create the dough!

Chill the dough for an hour or two at least. If you are making it ahead of time, you can chill it for up to two days.

To bake- cover a pan in parchment paper and place the dough in rounded tablespoons. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 325° F. The cookies are done when the tops begin to crackle!

Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about five minutes.

 

Dust with coarse sea salt and enjoy!

 

Rosemary-Mozzarella Pretzels

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I am the biggest fan of huge, soft pretzels that ever existed. I know that is a hefty statement to make, but it’s true! These massive, buttery pretzels outrank their crunchy, baked cousins in every possible way… except maybe standards of healthiness. No, these are not clean-eating pretzels that you got in your lunchbox as an alternative to chips. These are big, fluffy, cheesy, salty pretzels- the kind you salivate over at ballparks and stadium events.

Truth be told, the existence of soft pretzels is really my only motivation for ever attending stadium sporting events or visiting overcrowded malls. These soft pretzels are a fabulously souped-up version of their ballpark counterparts. We stuff them with a deliciously cheesy filling and top them with butter and parmesan.

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This is based off of a great recipe by Baker by Nature! It includes a great explanation of yeast and the chemistry behind it, and why some people proof it and some do not. I proof yeast every time I bake with it. It is second nature to me, and I think it’s a good habit to get into. Because of this, I include the proofing process as part of the recipe here.

Growing up, my mom taught us very early how to bake bread from scratch, and she always proofed the yeast before making the dough. I have never had this method fail on me (unless, of course, the yeast is dead). It is super easy to follow, and it creates the fluffiest, moistest breads! If you’re totally confident working with yeast and breads, you don’t have to do this part, but I would certainly recommend it!

 

Rosemary-Mozzarella Pretzels

makes 8 large pretzels

for the dough
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons Rapid Rise yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/4 cups AP flour
3 tablespoons minced, fresh rosemary
6 tablespoons salted butter, softened
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for the pretzel cooking liquid
10 cups water
3/4 cup baking soda

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for the filling
1 1/2 cups shredded, mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded, parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

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for the topping
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/2 cup grated, Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

pretzels

 

Begin by proofing the yeast. Preheat an oven to 200°F. After it preheats, turn it off. Mix the sugar with the water in a small bowl (the water should be slightly warm to the touch, around 110°F). Pour in the yeast and agitate slightly to ensure that all of the yeast is moistened by the sugar-water. Place the bowl in the oven and leave the oven open. Let it sit in that warm environment for 10 minutes.

While the yeast is proofing, measure out the flour and salt into a large bowl. Mix them together. Add in the softened butter until it is completely mixed in with the flour (no big chunks).

pretzels

Wash, de-stem, and mince the rosemary.

Add the proofed yeast and rosemary to the dough. Use a rubber spatula to mix everything together by folding dough and scraping the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a warm, damp paper towel and place it back in the oven (with the oven door closed this time). Let the dough rise for about an hour (it should double in size).

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Mix the mozzarella cheese with the parmesan, pepper, and salt.

When the dough has risen, remove it from the oven and roll it out in a ball onto a floured work surface. (I usually cover my counter with parchment paper and add a bit of flour on top for this process.)

Using your sharpest, unserrated knife, cut the dough into four equal pieces.
pretzels

Next, cut each of those slices into two, so that you have 8 pieces in all.

pretzels

 

To make each pretzel, roll one dough ball out into a long string. You want it to be about 1 1/2 feet long.

pretzels

Use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten it.

pretzels

Place about 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella filling on the dough, along one edge.

pretzels

Slowly and carefully, roll the dough back into a circular tube. Be sure to press down on the dough to create a seal around the filling!

Make the shape of the letter ‘U’ with the tube.

pretzels

Cross the two, top ends of the ‘U’.

pretzels

Flip the crossed ends down over the loop, and you’ve got a traditional pretzel!

pretzels

Do this with each dough ball, and in the meantime, set a large pot of water mixed with baking soda on the stove to boil.

As you are forming your pretzels, feel free to have some fun with it. You can even do a double twist, like so:

pretzels

After the pretzels are formed and the baking soda water is boiling, prepare two cookie sheets by covering them in parchment paper. Next, place the pretzels in the water one-at-a-time. Let it float there for about half a minute before carefully lifting it out of the water using slotted spoons.

Do this with each pretzel, until they are all partially cooked from the water. This might create a bit of a mess with baking soda residue on the range, but it is super easy to clean, so do not worry too much about it now!

Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is preheating, do a quick egg wash on the pretzels to help them brown.

Whisk together 1 tablespoon of water with an egg. Using a brush, coat each pretzel generously in the egg wash. After the oven is preheated, let the pretzels bake for 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top!

Finally, prepare the topping!

Melt about 4 tablespoons of salted butter. Brush the top of each pretzel with the butter.

Measure out the extra parmesan and chop up another tablespoon of rosemary. Mix those two together in a small bowl along with the garlic salt and pepper. Sprinkle this on top of the pretzels!

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Enjoy with tomato sauce for dipping or by itself!

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Piaju with Dill Raita

piaju

Ramadan is coming to an end soon, but I thought I’d go ahead and post this awesome snack! I know I’m about a month too late, but hey, you can have delicious snacks like this after Ramadan too! From what I’ve read, piaju is a pretty standard snack during this month of fasting. They are excellent because they’re small, but filling. Also, they’re fried and delicious!

I used a basic recipe and then changed it up to make it what I want, so this is by no means a standardized version. Also, when I decided to include a “raita,” I totally made up the recipe, so I can’t promise that it stays true to traditional Indian (or Bangladeshi) cooking. The raita is not vegan, but the piaju are still delicious without it!

piaju

Piaju (also known as dahl pakora) are little fried lentil-onion balls. They function as a snack, but obviously during a time of fasting such as Ramadan they essentially become a meal. The lentils really do fill you up. I will typically have a few piaju and then a small salad as a meal.

This recipe is supposed to make about 20 balls, but the American in me just couldn’t resist supersizing them, so I only got about ten out of it. This was a perfect meal for two people, but they are sharing portions and easy to eat on the go, so you really could serve this up as a party food. It all depends on your circumstances, but the flexibility is great.

piaju

Note: you’ll want a food processor for this recipe.

piaju

Ingredients

for the piaju
3/4 cup dried, red lentils
1/4 teaspoon fresh, grated ginger
3/4 large, yellow onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 serrano pepper
1/2 jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon asafoetida

piaju

for the “raita”
1/4 cup plain, Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon minced, fresh dill
1 small clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds

lemon slices for serving

piaju

 

First, wash the lentils and soak them in a bowl of hot water for thirty minutes.

While the lentils are soaking, peel and grate the ginger (you’ll want an inch or two of fresh ginger to get 1/4 teaspoon). Put the ginger into your food processor.

Next, chop the onion. I’d recommend chopping it pretty finely, let’s call it diced. You don’t want it to be too thick because the frying will not cook this mixture all the way and raw onion can be strong in large bites. Wash and de-stem the cilantro. You’ll want to chop it a little bit, but it doesn’t need much. Clean and mince the peppers. [I always cover my hands in olive oil when I am doing this, it protects your skin from pepper burns.] Combine the onion, cilantro, peppers, and spices into a large bowl.

piaju

After the lentils are done soaking, rinse them and put them in the food processor with the ginger. Puree these together, until you have a slightly coarse/thick paste.

piaju

 

I had to work slowly, stopping every now and then to push the paste back to the bottom of the food processor.

piaju

Once that is done, scoop the paste into the large bowl and mix with the cilantro and onions. Now you have your “dough”!

Form the dough into little balls (you can make them whatever size you want). Place them in the freezer for about half an hour.

piaju

 

While the piaju are chilling, make the raita. Place the yogurt in a small bowl. Rinse, de-stem, and mince the dill. Mince the garlic. Add the dill, garlic, and spices into the yogurt and mix thoroughly. If you like your raita to be less thick, you can also add in a little bit of lemon juice.

piaju

 

After the raita is made, you can begin prepping your oil for frying the piaju. I used a very tiny pot for this, because I hate frying things. I hate the way it makes the apartment smell, and I hate the mess it creates. Using this small pot helped a lot. We used only 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil, and had very little odor or splatter. You want the oil to be fairly hot (throw a crumb in and if it begins frying vigorously, you’re good).

piaju

With the hot oil, you’ll want a slotted spoon for placing the piaju in the pot and getting them out. Also have ready a plate with paper towels for draining. We kept our pakora in the freezer and just took them out one at a time for frying and this worked very well.

piaju

When you fry them, a few bits will come off naturally, but don’t worry too much about this. Just keep the oil hot. When you first place the piaju in the pot, you want to move it so it does not get stuck to the bottom, but then just leave it alone! This is difficult, but give it a minute to brown and finish frying, then take it out of the oil and place it on the plate to drain. Repeat this process with each ball, until they are all fried. If you make more, smaller balls, you can fry more than one at a time.

piaju

 

Serve fresh with raita and enjoy!

piaju

 

 

Tangerine Cake with Tangelo Glaze

tangerine cake

 

Let me preface this post with a very important fact about myself: I am not a cake person. I don’t love cake, it always seems too dry to me. I am obsessing over every detail of my wedding except the cake. It’s just not my thing.

That being said– this cake is awesome. 

I crave this cake, and that’s no problem, because it is healthy and easy to make. I actually entered every ingredient into myfitnesspal, and it is about 120 calories per slice!!

tangerine cake

 

This cake is a fantastic way to use the last few tangerines or clementines from that giant basket you bought a week ago. As an added bonus- the cake uses ALL of the fruit. Yes, you read that right. Every last bit of the fruit: rind, pulp, peel, and all goes into this delicious cake!

The inspiration for this recipe came from a Smitten Kitchen post about clementine cakes. It is difficult to find clementines here, so I settled on tangerines. I’d been wanting some tangelos, so I threw those into the mix in the glaze, and it turned out to be a good choice. The glaze adds another level of tartness and sweetness to the cake, which complements the bitterness of the rinds. Also, as an added bonus, it soaks into the cake itself, keeping it moist much longer than normal cakes, so this cake gets more delicious the longer you let it sit!

You do need a food processor and a spring form pan, but the technique and cooking process is as simple as could be!

 

tangerine cake

 

Ingredients

for the cake
14 ounces tangerines (adds up to around 5-7, depending on how large they are)
6 eggs
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups almond flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
parchment paper

tangerine cake

for the glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
5 tablespoons tangelo juice (about 2 tangelos)
1 tablespoon orange juice
4 pinches tangelo zest

tangerine cake

 

Step one. Wash the tangerines. Place them in a heavy pot with water. Boil, covered, for 2 hours. Check on the fruit after about one hour, you might have to add in more water, as it evaporates. After the second hour, drain the water out.

tangerine cake

Lightly skin and chop the tangerines, checking for seeds. You want to take out the seeds, but definitely keep everything else- it will all go into the cake batter.

tangerine cake

Puree the fruit, until it looks like the pulpiest OJ you’ve ever seen!

tangerine cake

 

Step two. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and add in the sugar, flour, baking powder, and puréed fruit.

tangerine cake

Mix thoroughly.

tangerine cake

 

Step three. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare a 9″ spring-form pan by buttering it and covering the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for about 30 minutes. If you are using an 8″ pan, it might take a bit longer.

As is mentioned on Smitten Kitchen, you do need to check this cake throughout the baking process. The sides can get pretty dark, but they crisp up, and almost make a crust for the cake (which is William’s favorite part). The cake is ready when a knife comes out from the center clean.

tangerine cake

Let the cake cool, while you make the glaze.

tangerine cake

 

Step four. Juice and zest the tangelo. Whisk together the sugar, juices, and zest in a medium bowl.

tangerine cake

tangerine cake

 

Pour the glaze over the cake. This makes a ton of glaze, because I wanted it to almost act like a sticky toffee cake, soaking up the sugar-juice mixture!

tangerine cake

Use a small flour sifter to sprinkle the cake with confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!

tangerine cake