Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom-to-be

Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie March 1, 2015

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 9:42 PM
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It is well established among my family and friends that I am a planner. I like to know, well in advance, what I am doing and when. The word “spontaneous” is rarely used to describe me.

 

So when the most recent round of winter weather got in the way of long-ago-made plans to drive to DFW on Friday night and go to The Avett Brothers concert in Dallas on Saturday night, I was not happy. Sure, John and I could have made a last-minute drive up Saturday afternoon once the ice had melted, but that would have been rushed and not according to plan.

 

So we didn’t go. Some lucky soul snagged our tickets for cheap on StubHub. I worked on grad school assignments. John wrote lesson plans.

 

In other words, we had the exact same weekend that we’ve had nearly every weekend this school year. Can I say how much I am ready to finish my counseling certification program?

 

Our change of plans at least allowed me to make one last chocolate dessert for my February cooking challenge. While both the Chocolate Pain Perdu and the Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Brownies were huge hits, they also were decidedly guilty pleasures. Butter, eggs, whole milk, chocolate…they were delicious for good reason. With no one but John and me to eat this weekend’s dessert, though, I decided I had better go with something light. I picked the Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie recipe that I had recently seen on the Skinnytaste blog. Instead of flour, the recipe calls for white beans. I’ve had middling success with using beans in place of flour in desserts. These Flourless Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies were quite yummy, but these Black Bean Brownies were rather disappointing.

 

I used my 7-cup KitchenAid food processor to make the batter. When I pressed the “on” button to blend the dates and milk, I had quite a surprise. The machine gave a great lurch and the lid popped off, sending almond milk everywhere. Hmm. That was new. I resecured the lid, held it tight with one hand, and pressed “on” once again. It shook. It grumbled. My food processor made its displeasure at having to puree dates obvious. Frankly, I was a little scared of my machine. I hoped that adding the additional ingredients would soothe it, but no. It jiggled and gurgled for as long as I dared to keep it running. Hmm again.

 

For the beans, I used great northern. For the oil, pecan. And for the chocolate chips, milk. I only have a 9-inch springform pan, so that’s what I used instead of the 10-inch. For this reason, I should have baked my cookie pie for at least 40 minutes, but I baked it only 35. It seemed “firm” enough after 35 minutes, but when I cut into it 20 minutes later, it was still rather gooey. With the recipe being egg-less, though, I wasn’t too worried about it being slightly under-done.

 

I served the cookie pie warm with Blue Bell light vanilla ice cream, and it was fine. The melted chocolate chips tasted great with the cold ice cream. But it had the consistency and taste of a dessert made with beans. I gave it 3 stars. We will eat the rest of it, but I doubt I make it again.

 

Epilogue:
While eating a piece of the cookie pie today, John discovered a date pit. Was this the source of my food processor’s discomfort? Or was it just mad at facing 2 cups of sticky dates?  Or is my machine on the fritz?  Hmm.

 

Chocolate Pain Perdu February 15, 2015

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While growing up we teasingly called my sister “Sweet Tooth,” but really, I have always been just as addicted to sweets. So it’s safe to say that I have been most excited about this month of my 2015 Cooking Challenge. February is chocolate dessert month!

 

I kicked off the chocolate dessert challenge last Saturday night when we had my mother-in-law, Loveta, over for dinner. I had been dying to try Chocolate Pain Perdu from Melissa d’Arabian’s Ten Dollar Dinners cookbook. As a lover of both French toast and bread pudding (not to mention chocolate), this sweet treat had my name written all over it.

 

I never buy white bread, but I made an exception for this dish. My husband was rather thrilled to have a loaf of Mrs. Baird’s white bread on hand, as he’s mostly subjected to the loaves of light whole wheat bread that I typically buy for my work lunch sandwiches.

 

I was slightly unsure about how to arrange the bread triangles in the loaf pan. I ended up laying them flat and layering them atop one another, which worked fine. You can see the top layer of triangles in the baked pain perdu pictured below:

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The recipe instructs you to whip 1/4 cup heavy cream for the topping, but I opted for light vanilla ice cream instead. I’m unable to resist serving cold ice cream on top of warm desserts. (This is why I have to limit myself to only having light ice cream in the freezer.)

 

With or without the ice cream, however, this is a stellar dessert. We gave it 4.5 stars that night, but it’s really a 5-star recipe. Need proof? I made it again last night to end our Valentine’s dinner at home. It’s that good.

 

Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers August 9, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 12:08 PM
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I share a birthday month–July–with two lovely ladies in my family: my mother-in-law, Loveta, and my niece, Lydia. Our birthdays are the 2nd, 12th, and 21st, respectively (talk about easy to remember). For Loveta’s birthday last month, John and I invited his parents over to our house for a home-cooked birthday dinner. On the menu: Honey-Crisp Oven Fried Chicken, Fresh Corn Fritters, Zucchini Hash, and Buttermilk Biscuits. With such a down-home feast, what else could I have served for dessert but Banana Pudding?

 

I selected Ellie Krieger’s Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers recipe from Comfort Food Fix. I had made the dessert a couple of years ago and knew it was a solid one. In addition, it would help me check off another recipe from my Comfort Food Fix cooking to-do list.

 

I made the vanilla pudding from scratch as directed, but I confess that I did not stick strictly to the rest of the recipe when assembling the dessert. I wanted to serve the pudding in my clear trifle bowl, which is larger than the 1.5-quart bowl that Ellie recommends. Layering just six vanilla wafers in at a time would have been paltry, indeed. So I significantly upped the number of wafers from the stated 24. I also did not whip heavy cream for the topping – I went with Cool Whip. Despite its unnaturalness, I simply prefer it to whipped heavy cream. I guess we all have our guilty pleasures.

 

The banana pudding looked fantastic in my trifle bowl, and I was more than happy to serve it up as Loveta’s birthday dessert. The four of us gobbled up this 4-star treat in one sitting!

 

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Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 25
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 128

 

Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread April 28, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 7:51 PM
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Over the course of many trips to Menard to visit my in-laws, a certain Nutella cake always seemed to find its way into our dinner conversations. Typically this occurred as the four of us were diving into a delectable dessert lovingly prepared by my in-laws, and we would all start throwing out the names of other favorite desserts and dessert-related memories. The Nutella cake came up every time. This was a cake that my in-laws had made and enjoyed multiple times, but that they had never made and enjoyed with us. Finally, it was decided: next visit, Nutella cake. And so it was that over spring break we four adults made quick work of an absolutely wonderful cake featuring–what else?–Nutella.

 

The cake was so tasty, in fact, that upon returning home I suddenly had an eye out for any and all recipes with “Nutella” in the title. It did not take long before I stumbled across this Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread recipe found on the blog Pass the Cocoa. It was a guest post done by Stephanie Wise of Girl Versus Dough (whose new e-cookbook, Quick Bread Love, you should definitely check out in the menu to the right). When I found myself one Saturday with four ripe bananas on hand, I decided to make up a double batch of the banana bread.

 

The recipe does involve multiple steps, but with the help of my KitchenAid stand mixer, I had the batter ready to go fairly quickly. My anticipation ratcheted up as I poured in the Nutella layer and swirled the batter around. Even before baking, this bread looked and smelled amazing.

 

I baked the loaves about 45 minutes rather than the stated 55-60 minutes, but my oven typically runs hot. At this point, I was too eager to try the bread to wait for the loaves to cool completely so that I could drizzle the melted chocolate on top. I sliced John and myself a piece off the end of one of the loaves while they were still warm from the oven. Even without the chocolate topping, the banana bread easily earned 5 stars. It was moist and full of banana flavor, and the Nutella-swirl layer made this the best banana bread I’ve tried.

 

After the loaves fully cooled, I did drizzle the melted chocolate on top as directed. After letting it set, I wrapped the uncut loaf in plastic wrap and foil and placed it directly into the freezer. John and I would eat up the cut loaf over the following week, but I had a particular destination in mind for the frozen loaf:  Menard on Easter weekend. What better way to reciprocate the Nutella deliciousness that my in-laws had shared with us on spring break than with a Nutella-flavored baked treat of my own?

 

Dark Chocolate Brownies March 24, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 8:29 PM
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For Valentine’s Day, I surprised my husband with the Winning Hearts and Minds Cake from Molly Wizenberg‘s A Homemade Life. When Wizenberg married, she served about 20 of these cakes (that she made herself and kept frozen until the wedding day) to her guests in lieu of a traditional tiered wedding cake. After just one bite of the cake, I could see why. John and I literally moaned with each forkful. For me, this was no big surprise (I do love my sweets, after all), but chocolate is usually not at the top of my husband’s favorite foods list. Between the two of us, we gobbled up the entire cake in just a few days. Ever since then, I’ve practically been dreaming about chocolate. While it is incredibly tempting to bake up another Winning Hearts and Minds Cake, my more rational self knows it would be an unwise move, health-wise. So when I felt the baking urge last weekend, I decided to try out Ellie Krieger’s Dark Chocolate Brownies instead. Chocolate would still be involved, but it would be in a recipe that had received the Krieger treatment: less fat, less sugar, less guilt.

 

For the chocolate, I used two 4-ounce Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars, and for the flour I used Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. Ellie lists chopped walnuts as an optional ingredient, but knowing my husband would be eating these, there was no optional.  I sprinkled pecans instead of walnuts on top of the brownie batter.

 

I baked the brownies for 15 minutes, but they were not yet done. I kept them in the oven for an additional five minutes, at which point they were definitely cooked all the way through. In fact, I wish I had checked the pan a minute or two earlier.

 

The brownies were definitely chocolatey, but they were not as dense or rich as a typical brownie. In fact, they puffed up in the pan like a cake, and their texture was more akin to that of a cake than a brownie. John and I still granted the recipe 3.5 stars, for it did produce a decent chocolate dessert. No, it was no Winning Hearts and Minds Cake (which, oddly enough, is more like a brownie than a cake), but it did satisfy my sweet tooth–especially when served warm with light vanilla ice cream on top.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 19
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 134

 

Dark Chocolate Brownies

Nonstick cooking spray
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
¼ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup plain low-fat yogurt
¼ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup chopped walnuts, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double broiler or heatproof bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the yogurt, oil, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and whisk until blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and sprinkle with nuts, if desired. Bake until the wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into 24 pieces.

Yield: 24 servings. Per serving, 4 PointsPlus

 

Peanut Butter Cookies February 16, 2014

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The last chapter of Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger is titled, “Desserts.” It is, unsurprisingly, my favorite chapter. Ellie includes quite a few cookie recipes in this portion of the cookbook, and I selected the Peanut Butter Cookies (p. 260) to be the first ones to try this year.

 

When I noticed that the recipe calls for smooth natural peanut butter, I immediately was inspired to make up a batch of homemade peanut butter to use in the recipe. Last year I read Jennifer Reese’s Make the Bread, Buy the Butter and ever since then I have been itching to try grinding up my own PB. Reese claims that the homemade version is miles beyond store-bought, and she is right. Homemade peanut butter is nuttier, creamier, better.

 

As much as I love peanut butter, PB cookies typically are neither my nor my husband’s favorites, so I made these primarily for John’s UIL students. The recipe states that one batch of dough yields 42 cookies, but I did not get quite that many. Luckily John does not have 42 UILers, so we had plenty leftover after John and I had two cookies each. The Peanut Butter Cookies turned out exactly like the picture in the cookbook – small and crinkly on the edges with a fun crisscross pattern across the top. They were fairly dense and not overly sweet, and they had a nice peanut butter flavor to them. We both agreed that they were 3.5 star cookies.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 12
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 141

 

Super Bowl Snacks

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 9:51 AM
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For the second year in a row, John and I spent Super Bowl Sunday at my parents’ house, munching away on my dad’s smoked ribs and an array of healthy appetizers that my mom and I prepared. With my dad on WeightWatchers, it was the perfect time to try out four new Ellie Krieger recipes from Comfort Food Fix, my cookbook of the year. Ellie can always be counted on for tasty-yet-good-for-you recipes, so I had no qualms about trying so many new recipes at once.

 

For savory snacking, I selected Ellie’s Triple Onion Dip and Smoked Paprika Potato Chips as well as her Blue Cheese Dip that we served with raw veggies rather than buffalo wings. We rounded out the meal with the ribs, turkey Lit’l Smokies in BBQ sauce, WeightWatchers Jalapeno Poppers (another new recipe that turned out to be a winner), Pioneer Woman Homemade Salsa, and my mom’s homemade guacamole.

 

For a sweet finish (and my fourth new Ellie Krieger recipe of the night), my mom and I agreed upon the Double Chocolate Banana Milkshakes from Comfort Food Fix, which would be easy not only to make, but easy to make gluten-free for my mom.

 

I made the two dips at home the day before the big game in order to let the flavors meld. Even before tasting the Triple Onion Dip the following day, I knew as I stirred the ingredients together that it was going to be good based upon its looks and aroma. I found my interest in this dip to be surprising considering that onion dip (almost always made from a package) has never been a big temptation or delight for me. Apparently I just hadn’t had good onion dip because good onion dip calls my name when I am near. I granted the dip 4.5 stars.

 

Ellie recommends serving the Triple Onion Dip with her homemade Smoked Paprika Potato Chips, so it seemed inevitable that I would make the chips, too. I ordered a Benriner mandolin slicer expressly for this recipe. I had been wanting one, anyway – this was just a good excuse to go ahead and click “Order Now.” Originally I had intended to make the chips at home the day before, but time got away from me and I didn’t make them until I got to my mom and dad’s on Sunday. I was glad of this in the end, as John and I discovered on Monday that the chips did not stay crispy overnight.

 

The potato chips gave me a little trouble while baking; they would go from underdone to burned and black in a matter of seconds, it seemed. Part of the issue was that I had not evenly sliced all of the potatoes (it took me a little while to get a feel for the slicer), so it was hard to cook them evenly as a result. But some of the chips did crisp up as stated in the recipe, and they all tasted delicious. The smoked paprika flavor was the perfect pairing for the Triple Onion Dip, and the four of us ate an embarrassing number of chips. They earned 4 stars from me, with potential for more if I can perfect the baking time.

 

As for the Blue Cheese Dip, I only took a little taste of it as blue cheese is not a favorite of mine. John hates blue cheese, so for the first time ever, he refused to try even a bite of something I had made. My parents are blue cheese fans, however, so they were given free reign over the dip and seemed to enjoy it with the raw veggies. I would give the Blue Cheese Dip 3 stars, but blue cheese fans would likely rate it higher.

 

Finally – the Double Chocolate and Banana Milkshakes. Both my parents and I looked unsuccessfully ahead of time for chocolate frozen yogurt, so we ended up using Blue Bell’s No Sugar Added Lowfat Dutch Chocolate ice cream, which worked perfectly with the unsweetened cocoa powder to make up the “double chocolate” in the recipe’s name. With some cold nonfat milk, frozen ripe banana chunks, and a little ice, we quickly blended up four tall glasses of chocolate-y goodness that only cost 6 PointsPlus apiece. The milkshakes garnered 4 stars despite the “diet” aspects of the recipe’s ingredients. They are a definite make-again!

 

All in all, our Super Bowl party was an unqualified food success. The game may have been a dud, but with such tempting treats before us, we could not have cared less.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 11
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 142