Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chocolate-Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

These are not you're grandma's oatmeal cookies. Nothing against your grandmother, but I like to think that these are better! Full of whole grain oatmeal goodness, white chocolate decadence, and sweet-n-tart cranberry antioxidant yumminess, these crunchy cookies are a guaranteed crowd pleaser!

I've been making these cookies for years, and originally got the recipe from the bottom of the Quaker Oats oatmeal cylinder lid. I made sure to never lose that lid, because these cookies consistently get rave reviews! My roommates and friends are obsessed and constantly request them, and I once ate at least 20 cookies in one night (it was delicious but not recommended, as these cookies are full of fiber...) I modified the original oatmeal-raisin recipe by using Ghirardelli white chocolate chips and Craisins, which is so much more fun! It's super easy to put together and even a half recipe yields about 40 cookies if you make them a little smaller. But I would suggest making the full recipe, because you will be sad when these babies are all gone.

Here's what you'll need:

1/2  cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2  cup granulated sugar
2  eggs
1  teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1  teaspoon baking soda
1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
3  cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1/2  cup Craisins
1/2 cup white chocolate chips


Heat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy.
Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.
Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, and mix well.
Add oats and mix well.
Sprinkle craisins and white chocolate chips in gradually and mix in with a sturdy spoon.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets then remove to wire rack. Cool completely and store tightly covered.

Share and Enjoy!

Easy Rotini a la Vodka

So the steamy summer-like days have finally regressed into the gloomy brisk Spring weather Pittsburgh is more used to. That definitely calls for a return to some yummy comfort food, like this easy Rotini a la Vodka with kielbasa sausage! It can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the sausage, but vodka sauce has cream in it so it's not exactly vegan friendly.
If there's one thing we ate a lot of at home when I was younger, it was pasta. My brother could eat pasta every single day of the week for a month, so my mom was always looking for ways to make different pasta dishes so the rest of us wouldn't get bored! When we first tried vodka sauce it was a really pleasant surprise; the sauce is a bit sweeter and lighter than its marinara counterpart. This recipe is something easy that I pulled together on a rainy day, and you can modify it using whatever veggies or cheese you have around the house!

Here's what you'll need:

1 or 2 cloves garlic, diced
2 or 3 green onions/scallions, chopped
1/2 a bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup polska kielbasa sausage, sliced
2 cups vodka pasta sauce (I used Trader Joe's brand)
About 4 cups of water to boil pasta
1/2 box pasta, any kind (I used rotini instead of penne, because it looks fun!)
olive oil
pepper & spices to taste
shredded parmesan

makes about 2 servings


Whenever I make pasta I always boil the water first, since that always seem to take the longest. Fill a boiling pot with enough water to cover your pasta. Put on stove on high heat, drop in a teaspoon of olive oil, and allow to come to a boil.

When water comes to a rolling boil, add pasta and cook according to directions on the box. I boil mine for about 9-11 minutes for al dente (firm) pasta.

While we're waiting for the water to boil we can make the sauce! Slice and dice all of your veggies and the sausage. Take a small skillet and put on medium heat with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the skillet is heated add the garlic, sausage, and green onions. Allow the sausage to brown.

Add diced bell peppers and whatever other veggies you would like (suggestions: onions, cherry tomatoes, jalepeno peppers). Also add pepper and spices.

At this point you can add your sauce into the mix. Add sauce and stir occasionally for about 5 minutes, or until sauce starts to boil consistently. Turn off heat.

If the timing is right, your pasta should be done around this same time. Strain pasta and serve, top with sauce and some shredded parmesan, and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Homemade Guacamole!

I dont know if it's because it was St. Patty's day this weekend, but I'm feeling the need to post something green! A couple weeks ago I was on a Mexican food kick and decided to have a full Mexican meal complete with guac, salsa, and enchiladas! I'll post the recipe for those someday soon. For now, here is a super easy recipe for some homemade guacamole that everyone will love. You dont have to worry about it turning brown because it wont be around that long =)

What you'll need:

2 avocados
2 roma tomatoes (or 1 cup diced tomato)
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno
1 lime
salt & pepper (i used cayenne pepper)

(to make things easy, Trader Joe's usually sells guacamole kits with all needed ingredients!)

Cut avocado to the center, cutting around circumference of fruit to the pit.
Remove pitt and scoop avocado out into a medium sized bowl.
Peel and dice the onion and garlic cloves and fold into avocado.
Combine with diced jalapeno pepper.
Add the juice of 1 lime (juice it good!) and fold into guacamole.
Add salt and pepper to taste

Once you mash the guacamole to a consistency that you like it's ready to scoop!  ¡buen provecho! 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Strawberry Mini Cheesecakes

Spring is here!! And that means that my favorite season, *summertime* is not too far behind! With 70 degree weather in March I believe it. I've been spending most of my days soaking in as much sun as possible, and many of my nights trying out new recipes!!

I'm pretty much a newbie when it comes to baking. Since I was little I remember being in the kitchen with my mom as she baked batches and batches of her famous pound cake to give away as Christmas presents. I would help with baking cookies, but up until college most of the baking I've done has been out of the box.

Since I moved into an apartment away from campus, I've found myself with an overwhelming desire to bake, bake... and bake some more! I love to bake for my friends, family, and I'd probably even bake for complete strangers if it would bring a smile to their faces. So I'm using this blog to chronicle my forays into baking, and most of my posts are of things that I'm trying for the first time. Even though I dont have much experience, my baking usually turns out delicious!! What can I say, it must run it the family!

Now here's a recipe that I tried a couple nights ago, and my friends RAVED about it. I've always wanted to try cheesecakes and decided to try mini versions so that everyone could try some! This recipe took quite a bit of time and is a little bit complex, but was totally worth all the hard work.

Here's what you'll need:

1 1/2 packages light cream cheese (12 ounces)
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup whipped topping (like Cool Whip)
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Strawberry Filling

1 and 1/3 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen*
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
*I used frozen strawberries and only 1/2 cup of water

Graham Cracker Crust

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


For the strawberry jelly, put strawberries, sugar, and water in a saucepan over medium heat. While the filling is cooking break up strawberries into small mushy pieces. Allow to boil uncovered for about 7 minutes, then take off heat and refrigerate to cool.

Now we will get the graham cracker crust ready. To start, melt 1/2 cup of butter in a small bowl. Place pieces of graham cracker in a ziplock bag and seal. Roll a rolling pin over the cookies, which should start to break up into small crumbs. Repeat this process until all cookies have been turned to crumbs and you have enough to fill 1 cup. Feel free to snack on any big chunks that dont break up!
In another small bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Pour into bowl of melted sugar and mix with a fork until it is clumpy and sticks together between your fingers. Set aside.

Here we can get to the good part: the cheesecake! In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and cream cheese until well blended (I used an electric hand mixer). Add the whipped topping and mix until combined. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Mix in lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Now it's time to assemble the cupcakes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan. Take about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture and place at the bottom of each cupcake liner. Use a small glass or the backs of your fingers to press the crust flat onto the botom of the liner, making sure it covers the bottom of the liner. 
Remove your strawberry jelly from the fridge and place about 1 teaspoon of jelly on top of each graham cracker crust.
Fill cupcake cups about 3/4 full with cheesecake mixture. Place in oven and bake for 7-10 minutes, then turn heat down to 275 and bake for another 12 to 15 minutes, or until tops are firm and slightly golden. Cool on wire rack until room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour (I refrigerated overnight).

When cheesecake is cooled, you can decorate however you want! I used a dollop of the whipped topping and the leftover strawberry filling and graham cracker mixture to garnish.

Makes 24 mini cheesecakes. Enjoy!!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blueberry Muffins with Crumble Topping

The crocus have bloomed, and that means Spring is here!!! We've been having gorgeous weather here in Pittsburgh, and its inspired me to try a bunch of new recipes! I'll have them all up here soon, but for now I wanted to post a recipe that reminded me of Springtime.

I made these soft and fluffy blueberry muffins a couple months ago at a friends house and they went perfectly with our healthy breakfast!! It took less than an hour and is a perfect weekend snack. I got this yummy original recipe through Pinterest (as usual) from!

Here's what you'll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (I used fresh)
2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter, slightly cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

The directions are easy as pie!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add milk, eggs, butter and vanilla and whisk just until combined. 
Gently fold in blueberries. 
Spoon batter into greased muffin tin, filling each cup about two-thirds full.
Meanwhile, make the topping. Mix ingredients for topping together in a small bowl. Using your fingers, or a fork, mash the butter into the flour until large crumbles form. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the muffins. 
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of a muffin comes out clean. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

I ate mine with breakfast

Hope you enjoy!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sweet Potato Hash with Sausage and Baked Eggs

As much as I love baking, I really love Brunch! Any excuse to eat breakfast in the middle of the day gets my vote. Another thing I love is sweet potatoes. They're nutritious, delicious, and packed with antioxidants -- you can't go wrong! I found this recipe through Pinterest on  The Kitchn blog and it is amazing. I didn't make it in two nights because I usually dont know what I want to cook until I'm starving in my kitchen, so my recipe is a little different. I even converted my roommate, a sweet potato hater, into a sweet potato craver!

Here's what you'll need:

about 2 large onions
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
1 pound fresh Italian sausage or chorizo (I used spicy italian sausage)
3 pounds sweet potatoes (I used Trader Joe's organic brand)
6 large garlic cloves
1/4 rosemary or basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-3 tablespoon kosher salt, according to taste
black pepper
3 large eggs (or one for each person you will serve)
*make sure eggs are refrigerated. This ensures that they keep their shape and spread minimally when you bake them.
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Chop up sweet potatoes (peeled or unpeeled) into small cubes. Of course, sweet potatoes are not square and you are not going to get perfect cubes, just cut them into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Put your sweet potatoes in a large bowl.
Mince the garlic and rosemary/basil, and toss into the bowl with the sweet potatoes. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the sweet potato mixture onto a large baking pan and bake for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile peel and slice both onions into thin half moons. Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When butter is melted pour in onions, occasionally stirring until reduced and very brown.
While the onions are browning, cut up sausage and cook in a heated skillet, chopping into smaller pieces with a spatula if possible. Cook until crispy, about 10 minutes. 
When your sausages and onions are all ready, toss them into the large bowl. When the sweet potatoes have been baking for 25 minutes, take those bad boys out, return them to the large bowl with the onions and sausage and stir it all up! 
Pour the entire mixture onto the large baking sheet and make sure to create spaces in the hash where the eggs will be.
Crack cold eggs into the spaces you have created.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are browned and eggs are baked through. The you can check eggs with a fork for doneness. 

This recipe takes a while to prepare, but I assure you it is worth the wait!! If it helps, feel free to sip a brunch beverage of your choice while you bake (Mimosas, anyone?)!



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

For my first post, I decided to post something that I have done recently, so I'll start with these delicious chocolate chocolate cupcakes I made a couple days ago! I've been baking more and more from scratch these days and was feeling a chocolate craving, so when I found this recipe for chocolate cupcakes on Glorious Treats blog I had to try them! I modified the recipe a little, adding a cool whip frosting and some chocolate chips. These cupcakes are dense, moist, rich and addicting!!

Want to know a little more about me? I hope so because you're about to find out! I'm a student of life, and of Urban Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. I love baking, fashion, art, and I really love baking. I'm always trying new recipes for desserts and meals and hope to share my food adventures with all of you -- the good, the bad, and the tasty!

Back to the cupcakes! Here's what you'll need:

Chocolate Cupcakes

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey's)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 cup boiling water

Filling: Cool Whip (I used Trader Joe's brand- I love that store!)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
(adapted from Glorious Treats blog)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (salted, or unsalted)
pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-3 tablespoons milk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with cupcake linings (or bake one pan at a time, like I did). 
In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 

Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat on medium speed for one minute.
Stir in boiling water. The batter will look really thin, but thats okay!
Fill liner about 2/3 full with batter.
Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes. If you are like me and lose track of time easily I suggest setting a timer, most phones have this feature. My cupcakes were done in about 21 minutes, test to see if a toothpick comes out clean.

Once cupcakes are cooled, use a thin knife, or an apple corer if you have one, to cut small holes in the center of each cupcake. Do not cut all the way to the bottom of the cupcake (too messy!) Take the chilled cool whip and spoon into a pastry bag, or in my case a ziplock bag with a small hole cut into the corner. Us college students do a lot of improvising.

To start on the frosting:

With an electric mixer in a large bowl, beat butter (on medium speed) until completely smooth and fluffy
Add salt
Add 1 cup of powdered sugar, beating in to combine
Add vanilla, then cocoa powder, beat to combine
Add about 1 tablespoon of milk, and continue beating
Add the remaining cup of powdered sugar, and continue to beat until smooth and fluffy
You can add additional milk by the tablespoon until your frosting reaches desired consistency. If you want to pipe your frosting with a pastry bag it should be somewhat stiff. If frosting is too soft, add powdered suger until you get the consistency you want.

Now go ahead and frost those cupcakes!!! I used a plain ol' knife to frost, and garnished my cupcakes with a trio of chocolate chips. Have fun with decorating and add your own twist!

 Enjoy!! Store in airtight containers