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  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: August 2010

Reese’s Cup Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake


When Eric and I moved to Virginia in January, we were so happy to be only an hour away from a set of friends from Alabama.  Then, two more sets of friends from Alabama ended up moving to DC.  Since Virginia is the fourth state we’ve lived in, we considered ourselves especially lucky to have so many friends  living in the area.  Our friend Andrew’s birthday is five days after mine, and this year we actually got to celebrate both our birthdays together.  There’s no fun in being a decent baker if you can’t make birthday cakes for your friends, so I was quite happy to make this cake for him.  I can’t wait to make more birthday cakes for my other friends here!

Chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favorite combinations.  It’s right up there with goat cheese and caramelized onions.  This dessert, combining moist chocolate cake with rich and creamy peanut butter icing, is perfect.  Add in some chopped Reese’s Cups, and this cake is truly decadent.  The recipe says it makes eight servings, but the cake can easily be cut into smaller-sized servings.


Reese’s Cup Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the icing:
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
miniature Reese’s cups, halved and/or chopped

-Preheat oven to 350º.
-Butter two 9×2 round cake pans.  Sprinkle flour on the inside, tap out excess and line bottom with parchment paper.
-Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
-Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
-Add sugar and continue beating for about 2 minutes, until it is thoroughly blended into the butter.
-Add eggs and yolks one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.  If needed, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
-Beat in vanilla.
-Reduce speed to low and alternately add dry ingredients and buttermilk, with the dry ingredients in 3 portion and the buttermilk in 2, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
-Mix only until just blended into the batter.  Scrape down bottom and sides of bowl.
-Divide batter evenly between two pans and bake for 26 to 30 minutes, until the cakes feel springy to the touch.
-Allow cakes to cool in pans on rack for about 5 minutes, then remove from pans and allow to cool to room temperature.  At this point, cake layers can be wrapped airtight and left at room temperature overnight or frozen up to 2 months.
-While cake is cooling, make icing by combining confectioner’s sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
-Beat on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl as needed.
-Add the cream, and beat on high speed until smooth.
-Freeze the Reese’s Cups while filling and frosting the cake, then chop/halve them as desired.

Cake adapted from Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan
Icing adapted from Ina Garten
As seen on
Annie’s Eats

Summer Corn Soup

Summer Corn Soup

Corn has been in abundance here in Virginia, and Eric and I have had no problem taking advantage of it.  In fact, you’ll likely be seeing a few more corn related posts from me before summer is over.  After getting a massive amount of corn at the farmers market, soup wasn’t the first thing on my mind.  Thankfully, Eric, who has no prejudice against eating soup in the summer, is the one that found this recipe.  Although, since making a tasty batch of Roasted Tomato Soup last month, I’ve realized I am capable of eating soup during the summer (something I always refused to do when we lived in Florida).  This delicious soup has all but cured me of my prejudice against eating soup during the summer.  :)

Eric and I learned something new when making this soup – that corncobs can be cooked to extract more flavor.  Who knew?  We certainly didn’t, but thankfully Dorie Greenspan did.  Between the cob-steeped milk and the fresh corn kernels, this soup was the perfect way to showcase the fresh corn.  With a simple topping of bacon, green onion, corn kernels and a touch of cayenne pepper, this soup is elegant and delicious.  It’s a great way to use corn while it’s still in season, and I’m sure we’ll be making this one again before summer ends.

Summer Corn Soup

Summer Corn Soup
3 cups whole milk
3 ears fresh corn, kernels cut from cobs, cobs broken in half and reserved
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups water
2 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 bay leaf
coarse salt
ground white pepper
2 thick bacon slices, diced
1/3 cup fresh corn kernels
1 green onion, thinly sliced
pinch of cayenne pepper

-In a medium pot, bring milk and corncobs to a boil.  Remove from heat, cover and let steep.
-Melt butter in a dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and a sprinkle of salt and sauté for about 5 minutes, until translucent.  Do not allow onion to brown.
-Add corn kernels, carrot, celery and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
-Add water, herb sprigs, bay leaf and milk (including cobs).  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
-Cover partially, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 20 minutes.
-Meanwhile, prepare garnish by cooking bacon in a small skillet over medium heat.  Once crisped, remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.
-Transfer bacon to a small bowl and add corn, green onion and cayenne.  Stir to combine and set aside.
-Remove soup from heat and allow to cool slightly.  Discard corncobs, herb sprigs and bay leaf.
-Working in small batches, puree soup in blender until very smooth.  Using a fine mesh strainer, strain soup back into dutch oven or saucepan, making sure to press on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
-Place soup over medium heat to rewarm.  Transfer to serving bowls and add garnish.

*Soup can be made up to one day in advance.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.  Garnish can be made up to two hours in advance and left at room temperature.

Serves 6

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan in Bon Appétit, August 2008

Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

Three Cheese Mac & Cheese
My name is Courtney, and I’m addicted to mac and cheese.  Okay, that might be an overstatement, but I honestly can’t resist a good macaroni and cheese recipe.  If it looks remotely like something I’ll like, I’ll try it.  I just can’t help myself.  However, after trying this recipe, I don’t know that I’ll ever try another one.  It was just that good.  Plus, I love the fact that it’s made in a cast-iron skillet.  It just makes this dish have a good, down home kind of feel.  My grandmother makes biscuits in a cast-iron skillet, and Eric’s mom makes her cornbread in one (with bacon grease, because that’s just how we roll in the south).

I’ve posted a couple other macaroni and cheese recipes.  The most recent one, with roasted garlic and white truffle oil, was a delicious and modern recipe.  The first one was an easy and adaptable recipe that was tasty, but lacked the oomph of the other two recipes.  This recipe stands on its own.  With white cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano and goat cheese, how could it not?  Sour cream and an egg yolk make this dish especially rich, while lemon zest (yes, you read that right) gives it a wonderful brightness I’ve never tasted in macaroni and cheese.  The addition of fresh thyme, my favorite herb, gives the mac and cheese a wonderful aroma and flavor.  The sweet onion is a welcome addition and adds texture to the pasta.  Decadent is the best way to describe this dish, and I promise you will savor every bite of it.  If you only ever make one recipe from my blog, I hope it’s this one.  I know that’s a serious request, but this is easily one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

This dish pairs well with a crisp white wine and just about any type of beer. Yum.

Three Cheese Mac & Cheese

Get the recipe »

Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto

Corn Pesto Pasta

I’ve mentioned before how much I love all the fresh food Virginia has to offer.  As much as I miss my local Florida oranges, it’s nice to actually live in a state that has a lot of agriculture.  It has really had an impact on how Eric and I eat.  Not only are we able to eat fresh, seasonal ingredients, but we’re able to purchase them from local farmers.  Corn has been in abundance here, so we purchased several ears of it at the farmer’s market.  Not wanting to have corn on the cob every night, I looked through my saved recipes and found one in my most recent issue of Bon Appétit.

This pasta is simply amazing.  The pesto is made by replacing the traditional basil with corn kernels.  The magazine describes this dish as having a creaminess reminiscent of a carbonara, and that’s a spot-on description.  The finished dish is topped with bacon, basil leaves and grated Parmesan, which actually gives it a look similar to a carbonara.  The sweet corn makes a wonderful pesto, and some kernels are left whole for added texture.  Overall, the dish has a wonderfully fresh taste, with the saltiness of the bacon pairing well with the sweetness of the corn.  We enjoyed this dish so much that we made it again the next week.  Since that rarely happens, that should tell you a lot about how delicious this pasta dish is.  Make it while corn is still in season, and you’ll be happy you did.

Corn Pesto Pasta

Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto
4 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces tagliatelle or fettuccine
3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves, divided

-Cook bacon in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until brown and crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
-Discard all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet.
-Add corn, garlic, salt and pepper to skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until corn is tender but not brown, about 4 minutes.
-Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn kernels to a bowl and set aside.  Place remaining kernels in bowl of food processor.
-Add Parmesan and pine nuts to corn kernels.  With machine running, slowly add olive oil and process until pesto is almost smooth.  Set aside.
-Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta water.
-Add pasta back to pot along with pesto, reserved corn kernels and 1/2 cup basil leaves.
-Toss pasta over medium heat until warmed through, adding pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistency is reached.
-Transfer pasta to serving dishes and sprinkle with bacon, Parmesan and remaining basil leaves.

3 entree servings
6 first course servings

Adapted from Bon Appétit, August 2010

Apricot Swirled Cheesecake Bars

Apricot Swirled Cheesecake Bars

I love cheesecake, especially the pumpkin variety.  My ‘cheesecakes’ tag only has two cheesecakes in it, and both of them are pumpkin.  (On that note, neither one of them has even a remotely decent photo, but hopefully that will change once I remake them sometime this fall.)  Cheesecake isn’t really a summer dessert for me.  I go for things like ice cream and popsicles.  With temperatures steadily over 100º, you can understand why.  However, my perspective changed when I found this recipe (and a beautiful basket of apricots at the farmers market).

The cheesecake on its own is quite delicious, but it’s the apricot swirls that really make it stand out.  The cheesecake itself is sweet with just a little bit of tanginess from the sour cream.  The apricots add a tart, slightly sweet flavor to the cheesecake.  This is a really luscious dessert that is perfect for summer.  If you want to simplify the recipe, you can use 3/4 cup of strained jam in place of the apricot purée.  I bet it would be fantastic with blackberries or blackberry jam.  I actually had a bit of the purée left over, and I think it would taste great on toast or drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Apricot Swirled Cheesecake Bars

Apricot Swirled Cheesecake Bars
18 graham crackers
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
coarse salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
10 ounces apricots, halved, pitted and cut into eighths
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature

-Preheat oven to 350º.
-Process graham crackers, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor until fine crumbs form.
-Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in melted butter until crumbs are thoroughly moistened.  Wipe processor bowl clean.
-Using a flat-bottomed glass or the palms of your hands, evenly press crumbs into a 9×13 baking dish.
-Bake crust until firm, about 15 minutes.  Allow to cool on wire rack.
-Reduce oven temperature to 325º.
-In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring apricots, 1/4 cup sugar and pinch of salt to a boil.  Stir continuously until sugar dissolves.
-Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
-Combine apricot mixture, lemon juice and water in food processor and purée until smooth.  Set aside.
-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sour cream on medium speed until smooth.
-Add 3/4 cup sugar and continue beating until smooth.  Add vanilla and pinch of salt, then add eggs and continue beating until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.
-Once crust is cooled, pour in the cream cheese mixture.  Smooth the top.
-Randomly drop small spoonfuls of the apricot purée on top of the cream cheese mixture.  Using a skewer or thin-bladed knife, gently swirl the purée.  To achieve different patterns, make shallow motions (figure eights, spirals, back and forth) across the purée.
-Bake until just set, about 25 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly in pan on rack, then refrigerate at least 2 hours until chilled and firm.
-Cut into squares and serve.  Alternately, cover with plastic wrap or foil and store in refrigerator for up to two days.

Adapted from Everyday Food, July/August 2010