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2018-04-24T10:53:51.784Z
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Rich cocoa brownies topped with a creamy chocolate ganache and crunchy rainbow candy bits. Look familiar? It should: this recipe is a homemade version of Little Debbie’s Cosmic Brownies that’s both true to and an improvement on the original at the same time.

These brownies are seriously out of this world, and I’m not just spewing hyperbole here. I’m always hesitant to say something is the best, but these really might be the best brownies I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a lot of damn good brownies, if I do say so myself).

Our goal here was to replicate the appeal of the Cosmic brownies, mainly in terms of the chewy, fudgy texture that makes them so addicting. But the mass-produced version has a distinctly fake flavor that I had no desire to replicate. The same for the slightly plasticky consistency of the glaze: a result of copious amounts of corn syrup, I’m sure.

Instead, this homemade Cosmic brownie copycat gives you the fudgyness you crave, but with a lovely, well-rounded chocolate flavor and a silky smooth chocolate ganache on top.

This striking black hummus is made with black beans and black sesame tahini for a unique flavor and color; topped with a richly spiced beef plus fresh parsley and pomegranate seeds for a touch of fruity sweetness.

Black linguine. Green shakshuka. Blue moon milk… I’m pretty obsessed with unexpected (natural) colors in my recipes lately. Because, let’s face it, with eat with our eyes before anything even touches our lips. And this hummus, perplexingly black where you’d expect pale yellow, is no exception.

Good hummus is like a culinary mix tape, if you will.

On its own, it’s rather lackluster, bitter even. But in its final form, all the elements in and on the hummus—salt, acid, fat, and sweet—all serve to offset and balance out that bitterness perfectly.

I’d argue that each element is essential in its own right: the recipe just isn’t quite the same without the fatty richness of the beef or the tart sweetness of the fresh pomegranate.

When you take that perfect bite, one with a hearty dollop of hummus on top of soft pita bread with a bit of spiced beef, spices and olive oil, herbaceous fresh parsley, and a few pomegranate arils for good measure, your tastebuds will sing.

Tender, buttery shortbread with a hint of almond and studded with mini chocolate chips. This recipe is ridiculously easy to prepare, making it a perfect recipe for stress-free entertaining!

My mom is the one who came up with this new variation of my Cranberry Almond Shortbread Bars, which makes perfect sense, because if anyone’s the queen of chocolate chips, it’s her, so it’s not surprising to me that she came up with such an idea.

The shortbread itself is virtually identical to the original, soft and buttery, with just a hint of almond, and oh-so-easy to prepare. But here, instead of orange peel and dried cranberries, I’ve added mini chocolate chips.

But cranberry and chocolate chip are just the beginning, this shortbread is incredibly versatile and could serve as the foundation for myriad flavor variations. I mean, I can think of about a dozen sitting here right now (so needless to say, you’ll probably be seeing more shortbread recipes in the near future!)

The hardest part of this recipe? Deciding whether to cut it into squares, triangles, or sticks. I mean, I...

Tender boneless chicken thighs and flavorful orzo braised with fragrant Moroccan spices and topped with olives, lemon and fresh parsley. All you need is one pan and 30 minutes and you’ve got yourself one fabulous, flavorful family dinner.

One pot recipes are a miracle of cookery, saving time both during cooking and the dishwashing after the fact. This one is particularly flavor-packed, pairing sultry saffron with turmeric, paprika, ginger and even a hint of cinnamon with bright and tangy olives and a hint of lemon.

One pan recipes are a thing of beauty. You don’t need a separate pot or pan to cook the side dish, rather, it’s all cooked together in a single pan on a single burner with a single spoon.

Not only do you have less dishes to do, but it’s also that much more flavorful since the starch (orzo in this case) absorbs all the delicious flavors from the chicken as it cooks.

It’s like flavor recycling.

That said, however, not all combinations work in a one pot situation.

I recall trying one of those one pot pasta kind of recipes, from a very well known food personality, where you cook the spaghetti and the tomato sauce and garlic and all...

Crispy, fluffy buttermilk Belgian waffles with a hint of Meyer lemon and vanilla bean and topped with threads of candied citrus peel for a delightful crunch and an extra pop of citrus flavor.

TL;DR—these waffles are a mouthful of sweet, waffled sunshine. They are perfectly golden brown and crispy on the outside, tender and custardy in the middle, lemon-scented and topped with a pile of delicate candied citrus peel that is honestly what takes these waffles from ordinary to extraordinary.

I’ll admit, the waffles themselves are pretty standard as far as buttermilk waffles go, ever so subtly scented with lemon. When I first tasted them I definitely thought they needed more lemon flavor, but, once I added on the candied citrus, it turns out that the lightly lemony waffle was absolutely perfect to begin with, no further testing necessary.

Seriously though. The candied citrus is everything. Without it, these waffles are nothing out of the ordinary. But with the candied citrus piled on top… well, now they’re something to write home about. Hell, you should probably call home and tell mom to make these waffles immediately because a letter would take too gosh darn long (and god forbid your mom misses Meyer lemon season! The horror!)

Topped with flavorful sautéed tofu, fresh carrot and radish, fried shallots, peanuts, and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, these Vietnamese-inspired noodle bowls are as vibrant in flavor as they are in color.

The striking blue cellophane noodles, steeped in butterfly pea flowers to achieve their rich color, transform before your eyes when mixed with the acidic sauce. Just in case you needed an excuse to play with your food.

For whatever reason, I’ve been fixated on the idea of blue noodles. (Again, this obsession with naturally colored foods will not go away).

I first tried to make some homemade udon noodles, colored blue with butterfly pea powder. The result, while delicious, didn’t necessarily look appetizing (the blue wasn’t nearly strong enough and the noodles sort of looked like mauve gummy worms).

So I scrapped the idea of homemade noodles, and experimented with dyeing noodles blue by cooking them in a butterfly pea tea, essentially butterfly pea flowers steeped in hot water. I tried a few kinds of noodles, but these mung bean noodles absorbed the color the best.

Honestly it’s sort of hard to decipher the millions of different kinds of noodles out there, but if you ask at your local Asian market for glass or cellophane noodles, you should be good to go. Bean vermicelli or bean threads are another name you might see on...

A hearty beef stew made with carrots, onions and celery and served over a heaping bed of creamy mashed potatoes: it’s basically Shepherd’s Pie in stew form.

It’s officially spring, but winter isn’t taking the hint. And while I’m hankering for shorts and sandals weather, that doesn’t mean that I’ll thoroughly enjoy a few extra days (or weeks) of soup season while I can. There’s little more satisfying on a chilly day than a hearty beef stew or a heaping bowl of creamy, steamy mashed potatoes. But together? Well, you might stop wishing for spring to come afterall!

The idea for this recipe came after I posted a food styling tip in my facebook group about using instant mashed potatoes to style soup (the potatoes offer a moldable surface under the liquid to help ‘prop’ up the soup bits and make them more visible on the surface). Someone commented that this—mashed potatoes served with soup—was actually a thing, and, well, it got me thinking that it’d actually be pretty darn delicious.

I originally wanted to do a loaded potato soup with mashed potatoes, but thought that might be a bit too much potato for one bowl. Ultimately we settled on a hearty beef stew served over a mound of creamy mashed potatoes. Like an inverted Shepherd’s Pie, if you will (and indeed, Shepherd’s Pie Stew...

Rich and chewy double chocolate sugar cookies spiked with bourbon and rolled in bourbon-infused raw sugar for a satisfying crunchy finish. The result is a brownie-like chocolate cookie with a beautifully crinkly top that’ll knock your socks off!

At this point, I’ve baked bourbon into bundt cakes and brownies, bourbon balls and caramel sauce… it’s about time it made its way into some cookies.

This is one of those recipes that exceeded my expectations on the first try. I wanted a soft, chewy chocolate sugar cookie, and boy did these deliver. And the beautifully crackly top? Well, that was an unexpected bonus.

I incorporated the bourbon in the dough itself as well as in the bourbon-infused sugar in which the cookies are rolled.

To make bourbon-infused sugar, combine raw turbinado sugar with a few teaspoons of bourbon in a mason jar, and then shake the dickens out of it until the sugar is evenly moistened with fragrant Kentucky gold.

Even with such a small amount of bourbon, the sugar is still rather moist and clumpy (a bit like wet sand). I wasn’t sure it was going to work at first, but the overall effect is gorgeous, with clumps of glittery sugar crystals clinging to the crackly chocolate top. More geode than cookie, if geodes were edible and tasted like vanilla and chocolate.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not even writing reviews of books that I rate less than 4 stars. There’s just too many of them and I feel like all my reviews start to sound the same.

Perfectly good books, but not amazing books.

These, on the other hand, are the rare ones.

The books that grab you from page 1 and keep you turning until the final period of the final page, and even then refuses to leave you alone.

The books whose characters invade your dreams.

The books whose morals make you want to become better than yourself.

The books that drag you into the story whether you like it or not and then teach you a little something too once you’re there.

The books that make your decision to cancel cable once and for all not even a hesitation in your mind; because if one book like this exists, how many others are out there yet to discover? There’s simply no time for TV if I want a chance at reading all the books that have found their way onto my list.

That’s the kind of book that gets 5 stars from me.

God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends. – The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

While all these books are worthy reads, technically only the first 2 warranted that coveted 5 star rating (Are my standards too high? Maybe they’re too high…) The others I gave 4.5 stars (if goodreads allowed such...

Fluffy, puffy, soufflé-style pancakes inspired by the cafes of Japan. With a light and airy center and a tender, buttery crumb, these pancakes are as delicious as they are impressive.

What makes these pancakes so puffy? They are made with whipped egg whites for extra loft and cooked within metal pastry rings to give them their shape and height. But the real trick is in the flip: it may take you a few tries to master the technique (I’ve included a handy video below to get you started!) but trust me when I say that even the rejects will be delicious (I should know – we ate a lot of them!)

Japan has a habit of taking something quintessentially American and taking it to new heights. Literally, in this case, with this ultra tall twist on a classic buttermilk pancake.

The most famous puffy pancake shop in Japan is Cafe Gram. They prepare only 3 batches of pancakes each day, and the demand is high: the lines can get rather ridiculous (personally there are very few foods worth waiting in line for, especially when there’s a line-free alternative that’s just a good).

Rather than spend our precious vacation time standing in line for pancakes, we sought out in the lesser-known but no-less-delicious pancakes from Hoshino coffee, which has a few locations throughout Tokyo (pro tip: the one in Shibuya offers a fabulous...

This simple soup has become my new favorite comfort food, with a light and slightly salty white miso broth with just a hint of ginger, and thick, chewy udon noodles. It’s flavor and comfort in one delicious bowl.

We topped our bowls with cubes of firm tofu, steamed baby bok-choy, and shiitake mushrooms that have been tossed with soy sauce and sesame oil and roasted until the flavors sing, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds and green onions to finish it off.

Japan has altered our culinary outlook more than any other place we’ve visited. I find myself craving their soups most of all: simple yet complex, with oodles of noodles and other fun bits and pieces waiting to be discovered within.

We have made a slightly different, soy-sauce based udon noodle dipping-soup, or Mentsuyu, before (the soy base can be thinned to make it into more of a soup vs a dip). While this recipe starts out the same way, with a dashi broth made from bonito flakes and seaweed, the final broth is lighter in color and flavor, with a touch of mild white miso paste and a hint of fresh ginger. You can also add a splash of soy sauce or hot chili paste if you’re hankering for a bit of extra kick.

But my favorite part of this dish...

So, we’ve talked about Kitchen Essentials and we’ve talked Baking Essentials, which focused on the tools and equipment that make a kitchen both functional and practical.

Now let’s turn our focus to the pantry: with the right ingredients on hand you can easily throw together a last minute dinner when you simply can’t make it to the store, or bake up a batch of basic cookies or brownies for that surprise bake sale you didn’t know was happening (or, you know, the late night craving that hits just when the snow starts to fall…)

This post includes some of the items we use on a regular basis and like to have stocked and on hand for convenience when cooking. If you’re just starting to build your pantry, you certainly don’t have to go buy all this at once, rather slowly build up your inventory as needed. I’ve only included shelf-stable items here; pantry items that require refrigeration for storage/after opening are not included here.

Disclaimer: while this post is not sponsored and no brands have paid to be included here, many of these products were received as part of past/present brand partnerships. That said, should our kitchen be reduced to rubble today, we wouldn’t hesitate to buy them again ourselves tomorrow. Meaning, everything on this list is something we own and love and use on...

Moon milk might seem like a new trend sweeping the Internets, but it’s actually an age-old Ayurvedic remedy for sleeplessness. Curl up with this warm, caffeine-free beverage before bed and fall into a peaceful slumber.

I was originally going to call this a butterfly pea latte or blue matcha latte, but once I read about moon milk… and the fact that this was blue… well, blue moon milk seemed like the perfect name for it.

I know, I know, I seriously missed out on an SEO goldmine by not posting this LAST week before the super blue blood moon. But here I am, a few days late but luckily not a dollar short, with this recipe for a calming bedtime beverage that you can enjoy regularly, and not just once in a blue moon.

Warm milk itself is an age-old remedy for sleeplessness, and that serves as the foundation of this bedtime beverage. I’ve also read that both nutmeg and cinnamon have a calming effect in small doses, so I figured all these ingredients together have got to do something. (Although, to be honest, you can google just about anything and “for sleep” and someone will probably have claimed it can have positive sleep benefits. So, who knows. I’m certainly...

When you think of “Food Destinations” in the US… Columbus, Ohio isn’t necessarily the first city that comes to mind. In fact, it’s probably not the 19th or even 20th…

I’m here to change that.

This past September I joined a group of bloggers for a food-focused weekend in Ohio’s capitol city. The experience exceeded every expectation I may/may not have had before going there.

To be honest, Columbus reminds me a lot of Nashville circa 7 years ago in terms of the size and feel of the town, with friendly people and unique neighborhoods each with their own unique character and personality. The downtown is more chic and professional than our Nashvegas-like vibe, more like a mini Chicago or Philly, and the riverfront is beautifully landscaped and incredibly walkable, with public art and parks aplenty.

And the food… well, let’s just say the food did not disappoint!

I’m going to do more showing and less talking here, since I think the food (and the city) really speaks for itself. A visual journey if you will. Scroll to the bottom of this post for a full list of recommendations of Columbus restaurants!

(Thanks so much to Explore Columbus for hosting us on this amazing trip! As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.)

Imagine your favorite chicken pot pie: creamy, rich, and chock full of cubed chicken breast, tender potatoes, carrots and green peas. Now imagine it out of the ramekin and in a soup bowl, slightly thinner but no less creamy, in soup form. Sounds good right?

Trust me, it tastes even better.

Of course, the best part of chicken pot pie is the crust (obviously), which is why I topped this soup with buttery salt and pepper pie crust crackers. They turned out so good I’m giving them their own post… stay tuned later this week for the recipe (plus other flavor variations for sweet AND savory applications!)

(Also, excuse me for a second while I toot my own horn but that bowl up there? I MADE IT. Like, with my hands and a lump of clay. Ok, so out of 30 some odd pieces I made during the 9-week ceramics class I took last term, it was one of the 3 or so that are actually usable, but I’m so dang proud of it and the fact that it was actually usable in a photo I couldn’t not say anything.)

Anyway, more about this soup…

How do you keep creamy soups from separating?...

You’re probably wondering what we did with that dramatically colored squid ink fettuccine we made earlier this week…

Well, this is it.

Since the squid ink pasta has a mild brininess to it (it actually smells stronger while you’re making it than it tastes in the final dish, but it’s still an underlying flavor that shouldn’t be ignored), it’s definitely best used within the context of more seafood.

One of our favorite cookbooks has a recipe for a frutti di mare (fruit of the sea) pasta with squid ink spaghetti that would be a seafood lover’s dream. I also think it’d be great with a crab fra diavolo-style sauce, with tomatoes and spicy red pepper flakes.

We went a slightly different route, a twist on surf and turf, if you will, combining shrimp with spicy Spanish chorizo along with garlic, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes for a fiery red sauce that compliments the squid ink pasta perfectly in both color and flavor.

If you make your homemade squid ink noodles ahead of time (it can be dried or frozen – one batch of pasta makes enough for two 4-serving meals), then you can easily throw this recipe together in under...

Homemade pasta is something I’m going to try to do more of in 2018. It’s really not all that hard and, even when you’re just making plain pasta, the result is so worth the effort. But throw into the mix the fact that you can go wild with different shapes, flavors and colors and, well, the benefits of homemade fresh pasta become even more pronounced.

And while it might take a little time and effort to make, the process is surprisingly easy. You can also make a big batch and freeze it for later use (we get two whole dinners and two leftover lunches out of one batch of pasta, making it well worth the initial effort).

Dramatic black squid ink pasta is one of my favorite kinds of pasta, and something I usually only see on fancy restaurant menus. You can often find dried squid ink pasta in Italian specialty shops or gourmet grocery stores, but, like regular pasta, it’s so much better when it’s fresh.

The squid ink is not flavorless, but rather lends a subtle brininess to the pasta in addition to the dramatic black color, so sauce accordingly. I find it’s best served with some sort of seafood, such as shrimp, crab, or calamari. And, might I add, stay away from the cheese: it’s Italian culinary doctrine that cheese and seafood shall not mix. I’d...

Since our trip to Japan I’ve been seriously obsessed with black sesame desserts.

So don’t be surprised if this is the first of many sweet sesame recipes.

You probably think of sesame as a savory flavor, but it really plays quite well in the sweet sphere too, as I learned, rather quickly while stuffing my face with sesame soft serve, mochi, and macarons. These little seeds are quite common in desserts in Japan, and once you’ve tried a few you’ll understand why. The sweet and nutty combination is simply divine.

Shortly after our return, I picked up a jar of black sesame tahini (basically black sesame seeds ground to a smooth paste not unlike peanut butter) and have been waiting for the right moment to crack it open.

That moment is now.

These are classic chocolate truffles, with a rich chocolate ganache and snappy chocolate coating, but with a nutty twist: I stirred in about 5 tablespoons of black sesame tahini into the ganache filling. I started with 2, but the flavor wasn’t quite prominent enough. I think you could go up to 6 or 7 even without affecting the consistency of the ganache.

I rolled some truffles in black sesame powder, and dipped others in chocolate topped with a...

I mentioned in my Chicken Pot Pie Soup recipe earlier this week that, when it comes to pot pie, the crust is honestly the best part (I’m sure you don’t disagree). And since a soup doesn’t have crust, well, I need to be sure I got that buttery flaky element into the recipe somehow.

So…

I whipped up a half batch of my favorite pie crust and cut it into cute little star shapes. Brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with flake sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, I popped them in the oven, expecting a salty cracker something like a cheese-less cheezit.

When they came out of the oven looking like THIS though, it was heart eyes from here to Timbuktu. I mean, just look at those layers!!

While the star-shaped crackers I made for the chicken pot pie soup were simply (and perfectly) seasoned with salt and pepper, you could take this same cracker concept in a myriad of different directions, both sweet and savory.

Flavor Variations:

Salt & Pepper: sprinkle crackers with a bit of flake sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper. These happen to be my...

There are few things as satisfying as a soft, chewy sugar cookie: perfectly buttery and sweet with a hint of vanilla and almond, and a slight crunch in the form of sugar granules coating the outside. A truly perfect sugar cookie (if there is such a thing, this is it) made even better with the addition of funfetti sprinkles.

And not a cake mix in sight.

I’ve used a similar sugar cookie base recipe before (adapted from the geniuses at America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated), that uses melted butter, cream cheese, and vegetable oil instead of the classic butter-creamed-with-sugar. The mixture of liquid fats and stabilizers in the cream cheese results in a perfectly chewy texture that stays soft for days (not that these will last that long, but still…)

Plus, you can mix up the dough with just a spoon and a whisk, no electric mixer necessary. How’s that for convenient?

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