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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: April 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Eric and I were so excited to make an Easter basket for Clara this year. The fact that she was only one month old didn’t stop us. Part of her basket included Reese’s Cups. The cashier at Target kind of laughed when she saw the bag of candy, but I told her Clara would be getting a taste of it via proxy. ;) After Easter, the bag of Reese’s went straight into the freezer because I think they taste so much better frozen. I had plans to save them for these cookies, but they somehow slowly disappeared from the freezer. I guess they would’ve been safer in the pantry!

Simply put, these cookies are phenomenal. I made them for the DC Food Bloggers Bake Sale, one of many bake sales taking place across the country to raise money for Share Our Strength. I wanted to make something that would appeal to a wide variety of people, and I’m happy to report that these disappeared in no time. It’s no wonder, with all those Reese’s Cups showing through, that they went quickly. You could certainly use mini peanut butter cups, but I personally like the look the larger ones provide. The thing I especially like about this recipe is that there’s peanut butter in the cookie dough, instead of coming only from the peanut butter cups. This means you get twice the chocolate and peanut butter! I hope the people that purchased them yesterday enjoyed them as much as we did.

In addition to these cookies, I also made chipotle cornbread and my favorite chocolate chip scones.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

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Village Fries (Our Favorite French Fries)

Village Fries
Being so close to DC is one of the best things about living in Virginia. We love the history, of course, but we also love the awesome restaurants there. One of our favorite spots is Good Stuff Eatery, run by Spike Mendelsohn (of Top Chef and Next Iron Chef fame). We always eat way too much food when we’re there, but we justify it because of all the walking we do on our DC trips. Our order usually consists of two burgers, two Blue Moon beers (because they have it on tap – yum!), plus an order of fries and a milkshake to share. The fries are unlike any fries I’ve had before, which was why we were so excited to see the recipe in Spike’s cookbook. They’re herby and delicious, and I’m so glad we can recreate them at home.

We often make baked fries when we have burgers at home. However, since the black bean burgers we make are healthy, I feel like it’s okay to splurge on the fries. That makes sense, right? ;)  This recipe is different in that Spike uses Red Bliss potatoes. Most fry recipes I’ve seen call for Russets or some other type of starchy potato, but I like this version because the skin can be left on the potatoes, making them tastier and easier to prep. We’ve made these several times and have often just used regular red potatoes. This time, we used a blend of small red, yellow and purple potatoes. Like any good fry recipe, these require a double fry in the oil. This leaves the fries with a slightly crispy exterior and a wonderfully soft and potato-y interior. The herb mixture elevates these to almost gourmet status. If you’re looking for a fry recipe to indulge in occasionally, this is it.

Village Fries

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Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean Burgers
First of all, I want to thank all of you for the words of encouragement you sent to us through your comments and emails. I feel so lucky to have such wonderful and caring readers, and I appreciate you letting me tell Clara’s story. To those of you that shared your personal stories with us, thank you. Your words have touched us in ways I can’t begin to describe.

Since Earth Day is this weekend, I want to share a few of our eco-friendly habits with all of you. Being green is important to us. We’ve reduced our garbage to only one bag a week because we recycle everything we can. Now that we own our own home, we’re hoping to reduce our waste even more by composting. We’ve got plans to set up a rain barrel soon, which will hopefully provide enough water for our garden. We’re also hoping to grow even more produce this year, possibly in a raised bed garden. Also, when the season is right, we try to buy local foods whenever possible. Virginia is rich with agriculture, which means we have easy access to local produce, dairy, meat, etc. There are so many small things that each of us can do to reduce our impact on the planet. Perhaps the biggest change we’ve made this year is to use cloth diapers and wipes on Clara. It’s been fantastic, and she looks darn cute with her fluffy bum. (You may have seen a few pictures of her in them if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram.) I won’t go into the details here; this is a food blog after all. But if you ever want to know about our experience, feel free to send me an email or a message on Facebook. We’re also into refurbishing old furniture and giving new life to things so that they don’t end up in a landfill. Check out this before and after of Clara’s dresser:

One easy way to make a difference is to eat less meat. Eric and I have significantly reduced our meat consumption over the past few years. We used to have meat with almost every meal, now the opposite is true. At first, our meatless meals were mostly pasta dishes, but this changed as our tastes and skills developed. We’ve got several vegetarian recipes in our repertoire now, but these burgers are my favorite. I posted a recipe for black bean burgers a couple years ago, and that was my go-to recipe until now. Those are delicious but probably work better for lunch. These burgers are thick and hearty, making them perfect for a meatless dinner. They’re moist and flavorful, just like any burger (even a meatless one!) should be. Not only are they delicious, but they’re healthy to boot! Bonus: they can be made ahead of time and cooked later. This recipe just wins all around. I made a batch of these to freeze before Clara was born, and they reheated wonderfully in the oven. I haven’t tried letting them thaw and cooking them in the skillet, but I’ll update this post if I do.

And now for a little surprise: I’m giving away a set of my favorite reusable bags from Envirosax. To enter, tell me what you’re doing to be more eco-friendly. The giveaway is now closed! Thanks to all who entered!

Black Bean Burgers

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Coffee Cocoa Snack Cake

Coffee-Cocoa Snack Cake
I’m a food nurturer. I always have been. Often times, when I can’t find the right words to say, I bake. Food is the universal language. I find cooking and baking can provide comfort to those that need it, myself included. Lately, I’ve been in need of more kitchen time than usual. See, the past six weeks since Clara’s arrival have been a whirlwind of emotion and not just for the normal reasons. Clara was born with a thumb abnormality called thumb hypoplasia, which basically means that she’s missing the metacarpal bone in her right thumb. This may not seem like a big deal, but it essentially renders her thumb useless. Being told two days after delivery that she will likely need her thumb amputated wasn’t easy to deal with. Beyond that, limb abnormalities can be indicative of underlying internal problems. Though Clara was seemingly healthy, we had to see a few various doctors to confirm that. When she was three weeks old, one of her doctors discovered a heart murmur. A week later, we were at the hospital seeing a pediatric cardiologist for an echocardiogram of Clara’s heart. As it turns out, the murmur is totally harmless, but I can’t tell you how scared I was lying next to her and wondering what we were about to find out. Suddenly, the fact that she’ll probably grow up with only nine fingers seemed trivial. Hello, perspective.

The first three weeks of her life, I was worried about all kinds of things – if kids will make fun of her when she goes to school, if she’ll be able to open a jar, if she’ll be angry with us when she grows up because of what we decide to do with her hand. Eric kept telling me we would do whatever was necessary to ensure that she has the best life possible, and that we would raise her to be strong and confident. There were even a few “her last name is Champion, so she already wins at everything” jokes in there. Because we wanted to enjoy every second with her, without people constantly asking what we were going to do about her thumb and without minimizing how great she was doing otherwise, we only told a couple family members at first. Out of those, my sister and brother-in-law were the only ones who knew about the seriousness of the situation. I also had friends to lean on, and they provided a source of strength that only they could. While Christa, Zack and my wonderful friends helped keep me strong, time in the kitchen helped keep me sane.


Our sweet, precious girl

That’s where this cake comes in. I’ve found myself doing quite a bit of late night baking the past several weeks. Nighttime, when things start settling down, is the time I most need a distraction. Since 10 pm isn’t really the best time to start something involved, I looked for simple treats that could be made with pantry staples. Eric had to make a late night run to the store the night I made the key lime pie bars, and he did it without hesitation because he knew just how much I needed to bake something. Thankfully, I had everything I needed the night I decided to make this cake. It’s simple in execution and can be eaten fairly soon after baking, a double win when baking late at night. It’s moist and luscious, with a rich chocolate flavor. The coffee acts as a way to intensify the chocolate flavor but can still be tasted in the background. This cake is exactly what the name says – a snack cake. It’s not fancy, but it is delicious and comforting. It doesn’t need frosting or a dusting of powdered sugar. It’s perfect as is and would be fantastic with a hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk.

I know I’ve got plenty more late nights of baking ahead of me as Eric and I decide what to do about Clara’s hand. And I know that, in the future, there will be times that I stay up late to bake because I’m worried about her for silly reasons. As she sleeps peacefully in my lap, I realize there will even be times we bake together because she needs a distraction from something upsetting. I can promise, though, that it will never be because she’s upset about her hand. Eric was right – we are going to raise her to be strong and confident, and she’ll grow up knowing she can accomplish whatever she wants to. If she ever forgets that, we’ll be there (with something yummy, of course) to remind her.

Coffee-Cocoa Snack Cake

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Key Lime Pie Bars

Key Lime Pie Bars
Now that spring is here, I’m craving lighter and fresher tasting desserts. If there’s one thing I love, especially in the spring, it’s citrus. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not giving up chocolate anytime soon. It’s just that when the weather is as beautiful as it has been lately, it’s hard not to crave that sweet-tart flavor that comes only from citrus. Limes just scream warm weather to me, and since I won’t be drinking margaritas anytime soon, I needed a good replacement. Enter these key lime pie bars. They’ve got all that punchy citrus flavor I’ve been searching for without requiring me to find an alternative source of food for Clara. ;)

I have a new fondness for bar desserts. They’re easy to make and easy to eat. I’ve been looking for a recipe to match the lemon blueberry bars I made last year, and this is it. The typical graham cracker crust is elevated by sweetened coconut. It gets slightly toasted when the crust bakes and adds a chewy texture and extra layer of flavor to the bars. I was concerned that the filling might be too sweet, but it had the perfect balance of sweet and tart. These bars are fresh and bright, everything I want in a springtime dessert. When topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut, these turn into a portable version of key lime pie, no fork needed.

Key Lime Pie Bars

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