Greetings Gorgers, it has been a while!  The past two months has been filled with all the joys that house hunting, packing, moving, unpacking and settling in have to offer.  But now that the pots and pans are in place, the spice cupboard is filled, and the oven is in working order, it is high time to get back to baking!

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner (and Guinness specials aplenty in liquor stores everywhere), it seemed like a great time to appreciate all the ways you can enjoy stout.  Now, the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes are a certainly show stopper, but they are also a ton of work: Three separate recipes for the components! Coring tools! An insane amount of butter!  Ack!

May I introduce to you the Quatro Choco Guinness Brownies?

Quatro Choco Guinness Brownie ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (choco uno!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and sectioned
  • 8 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped (choco dos!)
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips (choco tres!)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/4 cup (10 oz) Guinness Stout, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (choco quatro!)

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt until evenly combines.  Set aside.

Melt butter, bittersweet chocolate and white chocolate chips together in a double boiler under low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted and remove from heat.

If you are like me and do not have a double boiler, you can melt these together in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy.

Add melted chocolate mixture to egg and sugar mixture, beating until combined.

Beat in the flour mixture.

Whisk in the Guinness and vanilla.  The batter will seem kind of thin, don’t worry.

Fold in the semi-sweet chips.

Pour into a greased (or foil-lined) 9×13″ pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center removes clean.

The hardest part: let the brownies cool uncovered at room temperature.

These are some decadent mo-fos.  The richness of four types of chocolate paired with the creamy moistness delivered by the stout make these brownies a danger to well-articulated sentences.  Please enjoy responsibly, with a solid glass of milk.

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Happy New Year from The Gorge!

baked macaroni and cheese

December 8, 2011

Whoa.  You guys, Thanksgiving left a LOT behind!  Now I am tired of turkey and sick of sweet potatoes, but still crave a warm, home-cooked meal.  Especially one that doesn’t come with half a dozen sides or take six hours to cook.

This is my favorite anything ever.  In university, I would request this as my first meal back home on every visit.  I can’t even recall how many times I’ve asked my mom to remind me of the recipe, because it’s so simple it almost seems like its too good to be true.  But its not!  It’s the truthiest in its gooditude!! (sorry, I’m getting excited here)

This recipe is so simple and concise, you could practically send it in a text message!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Cook 1 cup of pasta.  Drain pasta and mix with 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (undrained) with half a diced green pepper and 6 oz cubed cheddar cheese.  Put in a casserole dish and cook in a 350° oven for 40 minutes.*

*Now, there are a couple things to note.  As with most family recipes, there is plenty of room for specialization and modification.  Like the cheese.  No one in history has ever complained about too much cheese in their mac and cheese.  Cube that whole 8 oz block of cheese if you’re looking for a good time.  Want to feed a few family members and still have lunch tomorrow?  Throw in an additional half or full cup of pasta. Don’t like green pepper?  Try bacon! But the green sure does look nice.  And a couple grinds of black pepper on top really takes it home.

Grand apologies for the delay in action!  However, this dessert is nothing less than perfection and the rave review are pouring in!

“That food is good.” says Boyfriend.

“Really really good!” says Dad.

“Oh Leighann, the torte is fabulous!” says Mom.

While in the oven, the apple juices and the cinnamon work together with the vanilla to bake deliciously into the cream cheese creating a beautiful middle layer between the fruit and nuts on top and the amazing crust.

And the crust!!  This is better than any cheesecake crust I have come across ever!  Instead of bumbling crumbs loosely held together, you get to enjoy the this wonderful fruit and almond covered cheesecake on top of a cookie!  Lightly sweet and chewy, the crust is reminiscent of a sugar cookie or a soft shortbread and still holds everything in place.

The only downside of this dish (and I’m using “downside” incredibly loosely) was that the slices of apple were a little large and caused a bit of smooshing while plating each slice.  Next time I would try cutting the apples into chunks instead because I will definitely be using this recipe again.

Verdict: Sweet, creamy,  and lightly spiced with a cookie crust – this is a great dessert for the holiday season and all cold-weather months!

This is the time of year when we feel the necessity for all things to be nostalgic, familiar and steeped in tradition, but with the beginning of this holiday season,  I couldn’t help thinking of a friend who once told me that her favorite family Thanksgiving tradition was to never have the same meal twice.  Of course it can be risky to attempt a new recipe under the spotlight of the Big Thanksgiving Dinner, but the bigger the risk the bigger the rewards, right?

I found this recipe in a fashion magazine.  The instructions were weird, but the accompanying photograph looked divine.  So, I’m giving it a shot.  A shot in the dark.

Bavarian Cranberry Apple Torte

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups apples (4-6 medium apples)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 450°.

Peel, core and slice apples.  For me, four apples were more than enough to make four cups sliced.

In a medium bowl, cream butter, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla.

Blend in flour.

Form a ball and press dough onto bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of a 9″ springform pan.

Cover crust in the raspberry jam and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

In another medium bowl, combine cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar.

Add eggs and 1 tsp of vanilla and mix well.

Pour over jam-covered crust.

In yet another bowl, toss your peeled, cored and sliced apples with the cranberries, cinnamon, and remaining sugar.  A spatula works well to ensure all apples and cranberries are equally coated in cinnamon sugar, but eat a few of these to be certain.

Spoon the delicious cinnamon sugar fruit over the cream cheese and sprinkle the top with almonds.

Bake torte at 450° for 10 minutes.  (Smart move: place the springform pan inside of a larger pan or on a cookie sheet.  The sugar makes the apples quite juicy, and unless you want to learn what your smoke detector sounds like, dirtying an additional pan is well worth it to catch these drippings.)

With the torte still in the oven, lower heat to 400° and bake for an additional 40 minutes.

Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up filling.

I’m keeping mine in the fridge overnight – Do Not Open Until Thanksgiving!!  Stay tuned for part two tomorrow where I’ll see if the results of this new recipe was worth the risk!

Halloween candy used to confuse me as a kid.  “How can it be called ‘Fun Size’ when its smaller? With a name like that, shouldn’t it be HUGE?”  As an adult, I’ve learned that bigger isn’t always better, and some times a small taste can be a big treat.

I had originally made a full-size pumpkin pie cheesecake from a Cheesecake Factory cookbook for Thanksgiving a few years ago, but after a massive feast, no one wanted a full slice of anything, let alone cheesecake.  This is an awesome recipe and a fun twist on the traditional pumpkin pie, so I want to make sure everyone gets a taste!  After trying out some Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes from the Martha Stewart Cupcake book this summer, I think I have successfully reimagined the delectable Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake in a very Fun Size.

Yum yum yum! Let’s get sharing!

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3-8oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 15 oz canned pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Preheat oven to 275°.

Combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and 1 tablespoon sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir well enough to coast all crumbs with butter, but not so much as to turn it into a paste.  Keep it crumbly, yo, it is a crust after all.  A fork works well.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of the lined muffin cups so the bottoms are covered, this is generally a couple fork-fulls, but less than a tablespoon.

Bake for 10 minutes, until the crumbs become crusty (in a good way.)

While the crust is baking, mix the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.

Add pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.  Continue to beat until smooth and creamy.

Fill ‘er up!

Bake for 22 minutes, rotating the tins at halftime.

Counter cool for 15 minutes, then refrigerate for several hours.  Like at least four.  But it make more sense to just come back to this tomorrow and allow everything to set overnight.

Remove the liner, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with nutmeg for a teeny creamy sweet and spicy delight!  You’ll probably need a fork, and a trip back for seconds.

This recipe made 24 perfect little cupcakes, so one cupcake is less than half the size of an average cheesecake slice. This Fun Size version of the cheesecake allows more plate space to ensure that everyone has room for dessert!

cinnamon pecan pie

November 2, 2011

Happy November!  It seems like so many retailers are under the belief that this month is a pesky interlude between those big money makers, Halloween and Christmas.  Not this girl!  I couldn’t possibly fathom forgetting the joy that is the Thanksgiving feast!  As the month rolls on, I will be sharing more recipes as I try to narrow down the favorites for the big day.  Yay!  It’s an entire month of Thanksgiving practice!

Two things about me: I love pie and I LOVE cinnamon.  I usually celebrate these amours in the joyous union of apple pie, but I found this recipe on a bottle of corn syrup I bought to make stage blood last Halloween and had been waiting for the right time to utilize it for an entire year.  My dad’s birthday was finally the perfect opportunity to try this recipe, and I made the pie at my parents house so they would win all the tasty leftovers.

the goods

Cinnamon Pecan Pie Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 pie crust for a 9″ pie

temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°.

beat eggs

In a medium bowl, beat eggs slightly with a fork.

more ingredients

Add brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, cinnamon and vanilla and stir until blended.  No need for an electric mixer, a wooden spoon will do just fine.

pecan party

Stir in pecans.

flour pie crust

You’ll want to flour both sides of the store-bought pie crust so that it doesn’t become soggy with the pie goo and fail to live up to its pie crust duties.

pour

Pour filling into pie crust.

almost there

Yummmm.  Bake for 50-55 minutes or until you can stab the pie halfway between the edge and the center and the blade comes out clean.

toasty

Allow to cool before serving.  It won’t be easy, but you have to eat dinner before you can have dessert.

dollop on top

With a dollop on creamy whipped cream on top, this pie is a sweet treat to ring in the autumn season!  Don’t forget to check back for more tasty recipes this month as I narrow down the winners for a decadent Thanksgiving dinner (and dessert)!

lemon tea cookies

October 6, 2011

Perfect for any time of year, these lemon tea cookies are an easy-to-make cake-like treat that will rival any of those chemically softened cookies you find at the store.

recipe

Revisiting the glorious Red and White Cookbook, this recipe calls for simple ingredients that I already had on hand – no special trips for silly one-time-only ingredients taking up valuable cupboard space!

ingredients

Lemon Tea Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
oven
Preheat oven to 350°.

lemon milkIn a small bowl, stir in only 2 teaspoons (not all!) of lemon juice into the milk and let stand for 5 minutes.  It’s going to look pretty gross.

butter towerIn a larger bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed.

beat beat beat

Add about half the flour, 3/4 cup of sugar (not all of the sugar!), the egg, baking powder, baking soda, lemon peel, and lemon milk mixture.  Beat until thoroughly combined, then bet in the remaining flour.

raw dough

Drop the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

tick tick tick tick

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

lemon sugar

Remember that lemon juice and sugar that were left behind?  We’re going to make a wonderful glaze thing that is sweet and tart and soaks deliciously into the cakey goodness that are these cookies.

stirrrr

Stir together until the sugar is dissolved.

soak it up

Brush the glaze onto the cookies.  There is no such thing as too much, these cookies are sponges and are waiting to soak it up.  (I’m using a foam brush to avoid any stray hairs.)

tea party

Enjoy with hot or iced tea to host the smartest tea party in town, fit for a lady and a cookie monster!