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Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I first used these cookies as the crust for this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake, but I started thinking about them again and thought they deserved a post of their own.  The chocolate peanut butter combination is irresistible to me, and it’s very good in cookie form.  I was particularly excited about these being flourless, which makes them naturally gluten free, so no adaptations were necessary.  These take almost no time to make, and will satisfy your craving in a hurry!  The chocolate and peanut butter flavors are nicely balanced, and neither is too overpowering.  I didn’t have peanut butter chips on hand, but I will definitely add them next time because I think it would improve the flavor even more.

Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Source: Baking Bites

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

¾ cup brown sugar

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, but I’ve always added it)

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons water

½ to ¾ cup chocolate and/or peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and water until smooth.  In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients (except chips), including water and cocoa mixture.  Stir in chocolate and/or peanut butter chips.

Drop by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly.  Bake for about 10-13 minutes, until golden brown at the edges.  Cool on pan before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen

Coconut Tea Cake (TWD)

I was very pleased to see that we could put this one off until Easter.  I love coconut, but David doesn’t, so I don’t make desserts with it all that often for that reason.  Luckily,It my parents were visiting for Easter weekend, and they both love coconut.  I thought this would be a great cake to snack on while they were here.  Since it was still just three of us eating it, I cut the recipe in half and baked it in a loaf pan (it took 45 minutes to bake).  It was pretty simple to make, which was great because I was already going to be cooking so much.  I added way more coconut than the recipe called for, which was a good move because I like a lot 🙂  My only complaint was that I couldn’t taste the rum.  Overall, this was a fabulous cake, and my parents and I really enjoyed it!  I passed the recipe on to my mom and I’m pretty sure she’ll be making it in the near future!  You can get the recipe on Carmen’s blog, and she chose it for TWD.

Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

I usually gravitate toward anything chocolate, but I feel that Easter dessert warrants something a bit different.  Two years ago, I made Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, and last year I made this Strawberry Mirror Cake.  This year we had a small Easter celebration with my parents, and since carrot cake is a family favorite, I wanted to make it for dessert.  I’ve tried several carrot cake recipes, and this recipe remains my favorite for a classic carrot cake, and I loved the Tropical Carrot Cake version I made last year.  There was, however, one more version that I wanted to try.  The carrot cake from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book is very similar to the classic carrot cake recipe I use, but I was really excited to try the orange variation of the cream cheese frosting.

This was a great variation!  The orange was a great twist on classic cream cheese frosting.  It added the right amount of sweetness to the usually tangy cream cheese.  The cake itself was also delicious.  It was a simple, no-frills carrot cake and was very moist and flavorful.  What a great choice to celebrate Easter!  I cut the recipe in half and baked it in two 6-inch pans since it was just for four of us.  If you choose to scale back the recipe like I did, 30-35 minutes is a good estimate for the baking time.

Carrot Cake with Fresh Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy


For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound carrots, grated medium fine
3/4 cup walnut pieces, coarsely chopped

For the fresh orange cream cheese frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softene
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Before you start
Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour two 8×2-inch round cake pans. Line each pan with an 8-inch round of parchment paper.

To make the cake

1. in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the eggs at high speed until light and frothy, about 1 minute. Decrease the speed to medium and add the oil, sugar, and salt, and mix until just combined. Decrease the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

3. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the carrots and walnuts.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Spin the pans to level the batter. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a rack to cool for 20 minutes before turning the layers out onto the rack. Cool completely before filling or frosting.

To make the frosting
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and zest. Start on low speed and then increase to medium-high speed and beat until smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until just fluffy and smooth, about 45 seconds more. Add the vanilla and mix until just combined. Do not overbeat.

To complete the cake

1. Cut 4 strips of wax or parchment paper about 12 inches long by 3 inches wide. Place the bottom cake layer trimmed side up on your serving plate. Tuck the wax paper under the edges of your cake on all sides. Later, after frosting the cake, you can pull away the stripes to reveal a nice clean serving plate.

2. Using a metal offset spatula, spread the filling across the top of the layer, but leave about 1/2 inch uncovered around the outside edges. (This leaves room for the filling to be squished down but to stay inside the cake.)

3. Place the second layer trimmed side down on top of the filling and press down gently with your hands.

4. Apply a light, even layer of frosting on all sides of the cake. Place the cake in the refrigerator to chill for a good 30 minutes.

5. After the crumb coat has chilled, smooth on your final layer of frosting.

The cake keeps in a cake saver in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. It tastes great eaten at room temperature or chilled.

Dulce de Leche Brownies

I’ve really been loving dulce de leche lately.  I just love the flavor.  It’s perfectly sweet and has a deep caramel flavor that adds a lot of depth to baked goods.  I’ve had these brownies on my must-try list for a while now, and I recently made a huge batch of homemade dulce de leche, I thought now was a good time to try them.  With 6 ounces of chocolate and some additional cocoa powder, these brownies were very rich and chocolaty, but you will get no complaints from me!  The dulce de leche added so much depth to the flavor.  It didn’t stand out, but rather added to the brownies and deepened their flavor.  I swirled in my dulce de leche a little more than necessary.  I need to be quicker on the marbling, but it didn’t affect the taste one bit.  These are some wonderful, ooey gooey brownies, and definitely one of my new favorites!  I would say that they’re more on the fudgy side, which is just how I like it.

Dulce de Leche Brownies
Source: David Lebovitz

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped, optional

1 cup dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch pan.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the chocolate on low heat until melted.  Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, followed by the sugar, vanilla, and flour.  Add nuts if using.

Pour half the batter into prepared pan.  Dollop one third evenly over the batter.  Swirl with a knife to marble.  Add remaining brownie batter on top, then drop the remaining dulce de leche in spoonfuls over batter.  Swirl slightly.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until knife comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.  Cool completely, then cut into squares.

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

Ever since I was a little kid, I have always enjoyed the peanut butter and banana combination.  I remember the first time I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich.  I was probably four or five, and my grandmother made one for me.  I thought it was going to be gross, but I tried it anyway and loved it.  Ever since then, I knew that I loved these two flavors together.  When I saw this recipe, I couldn’t wait to try it.  When I made banana cream pie last year, it was a huge hit with our friends, and since I know a bunch of peanut butter lovers, I was pretty confident this would go over well.

This recipe is not difficult, but you do have to think ahead.  You need time to chill the pudding filling, and once you make the peanut butter layer, the pie needs to chill at least 3 hours.  I would recommend doing this the night before or early in the day it is to be served, but wait until right before serving to add the bananas on top.  Otherwise, the bananas will start to brown.  This was truly one of my favorite desserts.  The bananas and peanut butter went together so well, and I loved how the peanut butter cream layer tasted with the vanilla pudding.  The pudding itself was delicious, and I would use this recipe in other desserts (or even on its own) in the future.  This pie was devoured very quickly, and I’m so glad I got to make it!  I used flourless peanut butter cookies as the crust instead of the vanilla wafer crust the recipe called for, but I’m including both crust recipes, so you can decide which one you want to make.

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie
Source:  adapted from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, who run the Baked bakery, via Epicurious

Peanut Butter Cookie Crust:

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

Combine all ingredients.  Bake at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes.  Once cool, break into pieces and process in a food processor to finely ground crumbs.  Stir in ½ stick melted butter.  Press into bottom of pie plate, then bake for 12 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Vanilla wafer crust:

6 ounces vanilla wafer crust

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in processor; blend until mixture resembles moist crumbs, about 1 minute.  Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish and press mixture onto bottom and up sides of dish.  Bake crust until golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Remove from oven; press crust with back of spoon if puffed.  Cool crust completely.

Vanilla pudding filling:

1/3 cup sugar

1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup whole milk

2 large egg yolks

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 firm but ripe bananas, peeled, divided

3 tablespoons orange juice, divided

Peanut butter layer:

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2/3 chilled heavy whipping cream

For vanilla pudding filling:

Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in heavy medium saucepan until no lumps remain.  Gradually whisk in cream, then milk.  Add yolks and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; whisk to blend.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until pudding thickens and boils, about 5 minutes.  Add butter and stir until melted.  Spread warm pudding in cooled crust.  Chill until filling is cool, about 1 hour.

Thinly slice 3 bananas on diagonal.  Combine banana slices and 2 tablespoons orange juice in medium bowl; toss to coat.  Transfer banana slices to paper towels and pat dry.  Arrange enough banana slices in single layer over vanilla custard filling to cover completely.

For peanut butter layer:

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar in medium bowl until smooth.  Beat in vanilla, then peanut butter.  Beat cream in another medium bowl until firm peaks form.  Fold large spoonful of whipped cream into peanut mixture to loosen, then fold in remaining cream in 2 additions.  Spread peanut butter layer evenly over bananas.  Chill at least 3 hours.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Just before serving: Thinly slice remaining banana on diagonal.  Toss with remaining 1 tablespoon orange juice, then pat dry with paper towels.  Arrange banana slices around top edge of pie.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

I’ve been on a major cornbread kick lately.  I’ve always liked it, but recently I’ve been making meals where cornbread goes along with the main dish so well.  I made some Mexican-style chicken chili and thought this would be the perfect side to go with it.  I started using masa flour in place of regular flour in cornbread and have really been pleased with the results.  It adds a corny (ha!) flavor to the bread and keeps the excepted texture.  This cornbread was no exception!  As a southerner, I’ve been used to plain, slightly sweet cornbread, but I really liked this variation.  I added more cheese than the recipe called for for a stronger cheddar flavor, but I really liked the kick the jalapenos added.  It was delicious served hot and straight out of the oven, but we at the leftover cornbread over the next couple of days and it reheated in the oven quite well.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
Source: adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network

3 cups masa harina

1 cup yellow cornmeal

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 cups milk

3 extra-large eggs,beaten

1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing pan

12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar

3 tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeno peppers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  In another bowl, combine milk, eggs, and butter.  Using a spoon, pour wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved.  Do not overmix.  Stir in the cheddar (leave a little extra for topping) and jalapenos.

Pour batter into greased 9×13-inch pan.  Top with remaining cheddar.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool and cut into squares.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake


I have had my eye on this recipe for quite some time, and I decided to finally make it.  I could not for the life of me get a good picture of it, but it is quite delicious.  This cheesecake was more intense than regular chocolate cheesecake.  The caramel gave it a much deeper, richer flavor.  Making the caramel is the most time-consuming part of the recipe, but the rest is very easy.

I had a bit of trouble with the caramel.  The caramel seized up on me, but after stirring it on the heat, it broke up, and everything went smoothly after that.  Deb points out that the caramelized sugar adds so much more to the recipe, and I definitely agree. This cheesecake had a stronger, richer flavor than if you had simply added the sugar without caramelizing it.  It got rave reviews when I served it, and I will definitely make it again when I need a decadent cheesecake fix 🙂

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake
Source: Smitten Kitchen

1 crumb-crust recipe (recipe below)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make crumb crust as directed in separate recipe, using chocolate wafer cookies instead of graham crackers.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook sugar in a dry heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring slowly with a fork, until melted and pale golden. Cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Remove from heat and carefully add heavy cream (mixture will vigorously steam and caramel will harden). Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Stir in sour cream.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy, then beat in chocolate mixture on low speed. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.

Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 55 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken.

Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on a rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.) Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Cooks’ note:
Cheesecake keeps, covered and chilled, 1 week.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Crumb Crust (I used these cookies to make a chocolate crust).
Recipe adapted from Gourmet, 1999

1 1/2 cups (5 oz) finely ground cookies such as chocolate wafers [I actually double this; I can never get enough cookie.]
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Stir together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of a buttered 24-centimeter springform pan. Fill right away or chill up to 2 hours.

Makes enough for a 24-centimeter cheesecake.

Dulce de Leche Duos (TWD)

I was pretty excited about these when I saw that we’d get to make them.  I love dulce de leche, and I’m always looking for ways to bake with it.  I also think sandwich cookies are a lot of fun, so I got the best of both worlds.  These cookies were incredible simple to make.  I loved that they had dulce de leche in both the cookie and in the filling.  They had a rich, full caramel flavor and were perfectly soft and chewy.  I made these to take to a meeting, but David and I loved them so much that we had quite a few the night I was making them 🙂  Definitely a winner in our house!  You can view the recipe on Jodie’s blog and see the other cookies everyone made by going to the TWD blog.

Chocolate Bailey’s Cheesecake

We recently went to a potluck event, and I eagerly signed up to bring a dessert.  Since it was so close to St. Patrick’s Day, I kept thinking I wanted to do something with Bailey’s.  I went back and forth between a cheesecake and brownies before ultimately going with this cheesecake.  What is even more exciting to me about this cheesecake is that it’s my own recipe!  I made this completely on my own without a recipe to guide me and it came out just as I hoped.  I wanted a full, defined Bailey’s flavor, so I was very liberal when adding it in.  I was happy with the way the flavor came out, and the chocolate was just enough to complement it.  I covered it with a chocolate ganache, and then piped the ganache (thickened with some powdered sugar) to decorate the sides.  Everyone kept telling me how much they enjoyed this, so I was happy to call it a success!

Chocolate Bailey’s Cheesecake
A Dinner & Dessert original

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

For the crust:

1 ½ cups chocolate cookie crumbs

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 teaspoons ground coffee

Combine all ingredients.  Press in the bottom of a greased springform pan.  Bake for 10 minutes, then cool while you prepare the cheesecake batter.

For the cheesecake:

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

¾ cup heavy cream

¾ cup Bailey’s Irish Cream liquor

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Fill a roasting pan with warm water and place in the oven on bottom rack.

Beat cream cheese on medium speed with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add sugar, mixing until incorporated.  Slowly add heavy cream, followed by the Bailey’s.  Finally, add melted and cooled chocolate.  Pour in springform pan.  Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until cheesecake jiggles slightly.  Turn oven off, and cool for at least an hour.  Place cheesecake in refrigerator overnight.

For the ganache:

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

¾ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into pieces

1 tablespoon Bailey’s Irish Cream Liquor

Place chopped chocolate in heatproof bowl.  Boil cream, then pour over chocolate.  Allow to sit for a minute, then stir until smooth.  Add butter, corn syrup, and Bailey’s and stir until incorporated.  Pour over cheesecake, then refrigerate about 30 minutes, or until set.

Optional: Reserve some of the ganache, and add powdered sugar until it reaches a frosting-like consistency.  Pipe decoratively on edge of cheesecake.

Black Bean Squash Burritos

Black beans and squash aren’t normally a combination I would think to put into a burrito, but trust me, it’s a combination you want to try!  I’ve been thinking about this recipe for a long time, and after finding gluten free burrito-size tortillas, I’ve been all about having burritos and quesadillas for dinner.  This particular mixture was incredible as a burrito filling, and I even used the leftovers for enchiladas a few nights later and it was delicious both ways.  There were so many flavors going on in this recipe, but they all worked together so well.  I liked the sweetness of the squash, the spiciness of the chiles, and the flavor of the onions and coriander and cumin.  I love trying new things in traditional dishes, and this is a combination I’ll definitely have again!

The only thing I changed about the recipe was to peel the squash before roasting it, because it seemed easier.  I also used butternut squash because it was on sale 🙂

Black Bean Squash Burritos
Source: slightly adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Serves 4-6

2 small acorn squash (I used butternut squash)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped small
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
8 ounces green chiles, diced
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
10 (7-inch) flour tortillas, warmed
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled, or shredded cheddar (about 1 cup)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450F.  Peel the squash, then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into ¾-inch slices. Spread 2 teaspoons of olive oil on a baking sheet and lay the squash slices on the oil, turning each slice over to thinly coat each side. Generously season with salt and pepper. Roast until the squash is browned on the edges and tender throughout, about 20 minutes.

2. Heat 4 teaspoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until just browned around the edges, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and coriander. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the chiles, beans and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat to low, cover, and heat just to warm.

3. Roughly chop the squash into ¼- to ½-inch pieces and stir into the black beans.

4. Layer the squash-black bean mixture, salsa, and cheese in center of each tortilla. Fold and serve.