Strawberry Season

Strawberry season might be one of my favorite times of the year.

Growing up, this time of year always meant driving back to New Orleans to visit family and, most importantly, heading back to Texas with at least a few flats of fresh, sweet Ponchatoula strawberries.

In case you’re saying to yourself, “Ponch-a-what?”, let me explain: Ponchatoula, Lousiana is famous for its strawberries. It’s a small town north of New Orleans and east of Baton Rouge which truly has some of the best strawberries.

Because of this tradition, I’m a bit strawberry spoiled: I find myself often disappointed with watery, flavorless varieties in the off-season (not to mention how expensive they can be in NYC off-season!). So when strawberry season comes around and I do find flavorful, sweet, juicy berries, it makes me incredibly happy. And reminds me of those trips we made growing up, eating countless berries in the car ride home and over the next couple weeks. πŸ™‚

Chocolate strawberry fudge

In honor of the season, I’ve been happily baking quite a few berry recipes!

To name a few which I’ve made so far/on my to-make list…

(Hover over for recipe links to all the above!)

Who else is loving strawberry season, and what are you baking??

Strawberry basil scones – yum!
Irresistible fudgy squares…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat No-Bakes

Spring has finally arrived to NYC, and I’m so excited.

Yesterday, I took full advantage of the spring sunshine to go for a long run in Central Park and was marveling at all the flowers which seemingly bloomed overnight! Just a few days before, I had been walking along a path where some initial green shoots were starting to poke through, and yesterday they were already full-blown daffodils!

With the spring and extended daylight, I’m definitely looking forward to more baking, but today I’m actually starting off with a quick and easy no-bake treat!

These Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat No-Bakes are not quite a bar, not quite a cluster, not quite a cookie….they’re just sort of pieces of gooey goodness.

Any really, I could call them Chocolate Nut Butter Oat Bars/Clusters/Cookies, because I’ll tell you a secret: I didn’t actually use peanut butter in this batch πŸ˜€

Super easy and quick, these are sure to be treat for anyone!

Recipe:

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk (regular, almond, soy – anything works)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup any nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower…)
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • Handful of chocolate chips
Instructions:
  1. In medium-sized pot, combine sugar, milk, cocoa powder, and butter and melt together over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After butter has fully melted, cook for another 2-3 minutes until just bubbly.
  2. Reduce heat to low, and add salt and nut butter. Stir until nut butter begins to melt and incorporate.
  3. Add oatmeal 1 cup at a time, mixing in with a spatula after each scoop.
  4. Line an 8×8 baking pan with wax paper and pour mixture into pan, spreading evenly to the edges. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and gently press into mixture. (Feel free to go as chocolatey or not as you like, and if you’re really feeling it, you could even mix these in the pot for chocolate chips throughout!)
  5. Place pan in the freezer for at least 20 minutes for bars/clusters to cool. Can be stored in container at room temperature.

Donuts donuts donuts

Ever since I bought my new donut pan from Sur La Table, I’ve been on a donut kick.

Blackberry donuts

The first donuts I made were these blackberry donuts by Preppy Kitchen, a few weeks ago when we were hosting my boyfriend’s cousin + her boyfriend at our place. They were super moist, so easy to make, and our guests loved them!

The recipe only calls for blackberry juice in the dough, but I decided to add some leftover juice and additional bits from straining to the frosting for extra blackberry flavor. If you’re looking for a smooth, glossy finish to the donuts, probably best to leave out the blackberry pieces from the frosting, as it made it a little inconsistent in texture; otherwise, why waste perfectly good blackberry bits (and it gives such a nice pink color)!

Blood orange donuts

Next, I decided to go for blood orange donuts! I’d been seeing lots of these pink beauties on my Insta feed, so I joined in the trend πŸ™‚ Conveniently enough, the donut pan came with a recipe for just that: Sur La Table’s own take on blood orange donuts.

Comparing the two recipes, I’d say the dough for the blackberry donuts was moister, but I slightly preferred the sugar glaze of the second batch over the cream cheese frosting. Might have to try a mash-up recipe of my own for batch number three… πŸ˜‰

YUM!

Oreo Balls

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

To partake in the festivity of today, I decided to make a classic throwback recipe with a St.Patty’s twist: Irish green Oreo balls.

Back in high school, I was pretty much famous for these Oreo balls – everyone loved them, and I’d bring them to school in huge batches of 50 that would disappear in minutes. Such a simple treat that everyone seems to love!

All you need for Oreo balls is 3 ingredients: Oreos, cream cheese, and white chocolate. That’s it!

For holidays or other occasions, I like to either add food coloring to the melted white chocolate or add sprinkles while the white chocolate coating is still firming. However you choose to decorate, you really can’t go wrong πŸ™‚

Ingredients:
  • 1 package of Oreos
  • 8oz cream cheese (softened at room temp)
  • 20oz white chocolate almond bark
Recipe:
  1. Crush Oreos in food processor into fine crumbs. Transfer to large mixing bowl and mix with cream cheese until well incorporated.
  2. Use hands to roll into balls and place on baking sheet lined with wax paper. Let balls firm in fridge for ~20 minutes.
  3. After chilling for ~15 minutes, begin to melt white chocolate either in microwave or over the stove, being sure to stir occasionally so as not to burn.
  4. Once chocolate is melted, remove balls from fridge and 1 by 1, place into white chocolate and coat. Place coated Oreo ball back on the wax paper for chocolate to firm. (Once you’ve coated all the balls, I recommend putting back in the fridge a few minutes to speed up the chocolate firming.)
  5. Enjoy immediately, or store balls in fridge up to a week.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Fun fact: the first time I ever used yeast (several years ago now) was to make homemade cinnamon rolls.

Prior to that, I had thought of yeast as something complicated to work with that would require hours of waiting for it to rise and all the effort of kneading. And while some breads might require a bit more time and effort, these cinnamon rolls are extremely easy and ready in just 90 minutes.

For anyone else who’s never worked with yeast before: that’s not too daunting, right?

Honestly, the trickiest part of these rolls is the actual rolling of the dough without losing any of the filling. But I’ve learned a tip to make even that part easier!

Rolling pins are always fun to use, don’t you think?

After mixing the ingredients for the dough, resting it, and then rolling it out to the right size/thickness, I recommend placing it on a sheet of wax paper/parchment paper before beginning to add the fillings. That way, you can use the paper to help evenly guide the rolling process (something I learned watching The Great British Baking Show episode for Swiss rolls!).

After that, it’s just a matter of slicing your roll and letting them proof to double the size:

A tray full of golden brown cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven and just waiting to be iced… can you think of anything better on a Sunday morning? πŸ™‚

Check out my go-to cinnamon roll recipe by The Baker Chick here!

~Mardi Gras King Cake~

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, marking the end of one of the most festive holiday events in New Orleans.

Fun fact about me: although I live in New York and mostly grew up in Texas, I was born in New Orleans. In fact, my mom’s whole family lives in New Orleans, so growing up, Mardi Gras was an annual event for our family. And despite a somewhat popular misconception, it’s not entirely a drunken street party. Of course, if that’s your type of scene, you can easily find it around Bourbon Street. But in other neighborhoods, especially for the daytime parades, you’ll find kids and families out watching the parades and hoping to catch beads, or if they’re lucky, a stuffed animal or other such toy.

Part of the tradition of Mardi Gras is the king cake, an oval-shaped delicacy which is sort of a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry. King cakes are only sold during Mardi Gras season, essentially from the start of the year through Mardi Gras; so, having a February birthday, I’ve always been able to enjoy king cake as a very special kind of birthday cake! Even after we moved to Texas, we would usually either drive back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras weekend and load up on king cakes from the bakery, or my mom would special order one for us to be sent to Texas from the very best bakery, Manny Randazzo’s. The best kind of birthday treat!

Inside each cake is a plastic baby; tradition is, whoever finds the baby brings the king cake to the next party.

Balconies of the French Quarter decked out in Mardi Gras colors

Best Chocolate Chai Cookies Ever. Seriously.

Two weekends ago I discovered one of the best new cookie recipes I’ve made in a while: Chocolate Chai Cookies.

They’re so good, I would encourage you all to go make a batch ASAP πŸ™‚

These cookies by Two Cups Flour have definitely landed a spot towards the top of my all-time favorite cookies list. Essentially, they’re soft chocolate cookies with a molten chocolate center, coated in chai flavor spices (think: ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, etc.).Β 

One of my best friends makes the perfect cup of chai tea, so when I saw these cookies I instantly knew we’d need to team up for an afternoon of chai tea and chai cookies next time she came to visit. In the meantime, I’d say these cookies would go perfectly with any type of tea or coffee!

Check out this awesome recipe by Two Cups Flour here!

Easy 5-Ingredient Nutella Cookies

Who here loves Nutella?

Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who’s not a fan of Nutella.

An old friend of mine didn’t like chocolate, but he liked Nutella.

When I was living with my Austrian host family, the little boy – Lukas – would eat Nutella on toast almost every day for breakfast, occasionally for lunch, and I imagine dinner as well had he been allowed.

My boyfriend looooves Nutella.

So now that we’ve established Nutella is pretty much universally loved, let’s get to these cookies. Incredibly quick, simple, and with only 5 ingredients (one of which is, you guessed it, Nutella), they’re perfect for whipping up a quick treat, or just finding a new way to enjoy your favorite hazelnut spread πŸ˜‰

Enjoy!

Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well blended.
  3. Use a cookie scoop or alternatively roll batter into 1-inch balls with hands (it will be sticky – I recommend wetting your fingertips with water to help) and place on parchment paper lined tray.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes.

Blackberry Upside Down Cake + Decadent Chocolate Ganache…

As someone who loves to bake, I tend to find myself making my own birthday cakes. Which is totally fine by me πŸ˜›

This year for my birthday, my bf and I hosted a party at our place with about 20 friends, and I decided to go all out with two different kinds of cake for my party guests: blackberry upside down cake and a chocolate ganache cake. Yummm!

~Related exciting news~

Since starting this blog + instagram account, I’ve been working to improve my food styling and photography skills. To do so, I realized I needed to invest in a tripod in order to achieve a better degree of clarity and definition in my photos. Well, my wonderful boyfriend surprised me the morning of the party with a new tripod, just in time for taking photos of my beautiful cakes! So, the photos in this post are the first taken with my new toy (which I absolutely love)!

New tripod! (Set up to take a perfectly stable overhead shot)

But back to the cakes.

I decided to choose two contrasting cakes, to give people the option between fruity and chocolate, lighter and more decadent.

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

I found this cake perusing what has become one of my favorite baking books – Bake from Scratch (Vol 2) – which I received as a gift a year back.

This cake turned out beautifully, both in taste and visually! By the end of the night, it was completely devoured by our guests.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Just look at that glossy chocolate ganache…

Rosana from Yoga of Cooking calls this “the best chocolate cake ever.” I tend to agree. I spotted this cake on my feed last week on National Chocolate Cake Day and instantly knew I had to make it for the party. Rich chocolate cake topped with decadent chocolate ganache, this cake is not for the chocolate shy.

Now chocolate ganache might sound intimidating, but it was so easy to make! This was actually my first go at ganache, and it was surprisingly simple. All in all, this whole cake comes together in just two bowls, one for the cake and one for the ganache. Delicious cake, minimal mess: would 100% recommend!

All in all, the cakes + our DIY paloma bar (recipe idea by Bon Appetit) + an amazing cheesy artichoke kale chorizo dip were all a great success… happy birthday to me! πŸ™‚

My Favorite Fudgy Sea Salt Brownies

Dark chocolate. Sea salt. Fudginess. (Are you drooling yet?)

Super Bowl Sunday is soon upon us, so it’s time to break out the go-to, tried-and-true party favorites. And these brownies are it.

I’ve tried lots of different brownie recipes over the years: there are tons out there! Classic, blondie, with peanut butter, with nuts, with caramel… the list goes on and on. Some of my favorites have been Half Baked Harvest’s Crinkle Top Brownies, the zucchini brownies I alluded to in my previous post, and of course, my mom’s old recipe. But my absolute favorite recipe is these Fudgy Sea Salt Brownies by The Baker Chick (sorry, mom…).

Sometimes you just need that perfect center-of-the-brownie piece…

I’ve probably made these brownies at least 20 times (which is quite a few repeats on a single recipe given the multitude of amazing new recipes I’m constantly bookmarking to try!). And let me say, they never disappoint: always a crowd-pleaser at parties, potlucks, or any other occasion. They even won me a departmental baking competition at work one time!

These brownies are DECADENT. Incredibly rich, fudgy, and with a topping of sea salt that pairs perfectly with the dark chocolate. So even if you have a favorite recipe of your own, I recommend you try these out; you surely won’t be disappointed.

What are you making this Super Bowl Sunday??