Friday, December 2, 2011

From Scratch fudge brownies stuffed with peanut butter and dark chocolate M&M's!

Tonight I am going over to my friend Kristen's house for dinner! When I asked her what I could bring of course she said dessert..surprise surprise, obviously cause I am SUCH a good baker;) ha Anyway, immediately I started looking brownies on as they have so many great ideas and recipes. I wanted to try to make something from scratch as well and what better time! I ended up using a recipe courtesy of Buns in my Oven. I must say I never knew how fatty brownies were, but hey, it did not stop me or make me try to substitute any ingredient to make them healthy! I will say the one thing I did do differently was I did have peanut butter M&M's and half dark chocolate M&M's. Kristen is a chocoholic so the more the merrier!
Now I will say the batter is quite thick, so a little hard to spread, but they came out delish. When I make them again, I may only keep them in the 30 mins recommended. The top still looked a little wet to me, so I let them stay a few mins extra and they are still chewy, but not as chewy as I would like. They are loaded with the M&M's and super fudgy! I definitely recommend making them! I hope everyone likes them as much as I did! Enjoy-

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate M&M Brownies:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups peanut butter M&Ms
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. In small saucepan over low heat, melt butter completely. Stir in sugar and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow sugar mixture to boil.
  3. Pour butter mixture into a large bowl or stand mixer, beat in cocoa powder, eggs, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla extract. Mix until well combined.
  4. Stir in the flour and chocolate chips until well combined.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until a tester comes out mostly clean. The edges should be set and the center should still look slightly moist, but not uncooked. Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Crepe Cellar in Charlotte, NC

Last week for the Thanksgiving holiday, both my mom and one of my brothers came into town! Chris was getting here Wednesday and with mom and I cooking literally all day long, we wanted to go out to eat for sure. I had actually bought a deal a few months back with plans to take my mom and brother out that night..I had never been to The Crepe Cellar Kitchen and Pub, so figured it could be a good spot to check out.
Fortunately we did not have to wait too long for a table as we were starving. The place is super cute, low key and not a ton of tables. We started off with a glass of wine as they have great wine deals and could not pass that up! I ended up getting two apps for dinner, the Brie, pesto fries, which were to die for...
And then the mussels, which were in a Thai Chili Sauce and it was actually quite tasty, not too spicy at all and actually ended up being a little sweet, so it was perfect!

My brother started off with the French Onion soup, which he said was very good, full of onions and lots of cheese!
He was actually the only one to get a crepe- this one was stuffed with chicken, bacon and tomato and again quite tasty. The picture is not as good as I would like, but at least shows you how big the portions are;)

And lastly, my mom got the fish and chips and it looked and tasted KILLER! When I go back, I just may have to get it...along with the brie fries again..oink oink!
So overall I would say this was a good first experience at Crepe Cellar and I would definitely recommend it! Enjoy-

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jake's Good Eats in Charlotte, NC

A few weeks back after spending the afternoon with a few girlfriends at Dennis Vineyards in Albemarle, NC. Great little vineyard, definitely worth checking out if you are looking for something random and fun to do! On our way we ended up passing by Jake's Good Eats. I had heard about Jake's a while back on Diners, Drive In's and Dives and had been dying to check it out. So we decided on the way back we would stop for lunch! I am so glad we did! The place has such cute character, a farm, horses, lots of cool antiques and I would for sure go back!
We started off with some down home southern apps of pimento cheese on celery and deviled eggs topped with yummy bacon! It was delish and we polished it off in no time;)
For lunch, I got a fried FRESH fish sandwich- OMG, it was heavenly! The batter was perfect, light with a lot of flavor, the tomatoes were super juicy and the homemade chips were delish, especially dipped in honey mustard!
My two friends, Jenny and Tina both got the same thing...the BBQ Platter and they to, really enjoyed it!

So overall Jake's was a great dining experience and I am looking forward to going back to try their famous pork chops for dinner:) Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER!!

Several years ago I came across an article online in the Charlotte Observer entitled "The Sainted Cookie". Being the cookie lover that I am, I printed it immediately! If I am not mistaken, I have seen this recipe quite a bit on the Internet over the last few years....apparently it was found by someone doing a review on the best cookies and traveling to several bakeries in NYC. This was the recipe they found and it won hands down. The article does go into more detail about different options on how long to let the dough rest and how much of a difference it makes in the end result. Now I must say, this is all from memory, as I mentioned I found this back in like 2008!! So I could be a little off, but either way, these are by far the best cookies I have EVER made!
The recipe is quite intense, using many more ingredients than most.
Here it is and it notes it is adapted from Jacques Torres.
-2 cups minus 2 tablespoons of cake flour
-1 and 2/3 cups of bread flour
-1 and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
-1 and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
-1 and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt
-1 and 1/4 cups of unsalted butter
-1 and 1/4 cups of light brown sugar
-1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
-2 large eggs
-2 teaspoons of natural vanilla extract
-1 and 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate discs or bar chocolate, at least 60% cacao
- Sea Salt
OK, so I do this recipe as described, except, when it comes to the chocolate, I usually do half a bag of dark chocolate chips and half a bag of milk chocolate chips.
1. Sift the flours, baking soda and powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.
2. Beat the butter and sugars with a mixer until very light, about 5 mins. Add eggs on at a time, mixing well after each. Stir in vanilla
3. Reduce speed to low and add in dry ingredients and mix until combined, 5 to 10 sec.
4. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate without breaking. Press plastic wrap over the dough and refrigerate 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches and can be in fridge for up to 72 hours** I did not put in the fridge for more than about an hour and I only used half the amount and froze the other as this makes about 4 dozen gold ball sized dough balls.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You can line the pan with a baking sheet or parchment paper, I did neither and they came right off the pan.
6. Scoop mounds of dough onto baking sheet.
7. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt (to me this is what makes a HUGE difference in the taste- I love sweet and salty together). Bake  18 to 20 mins. I actually checked them at about 10 in my oven and they were PERFECT. So for your first batch, I would keep an eye out depending on your oven.
8. Transfer and let cool
I made these about two weeks ago for some family I had in town and they were gone in about 10 mins. I saved about 24 balls of dough and they are in the freezer ready to come out at dessert time over Thanksgiving and I am not gonna lie, I am ready for another one...or ten!! ;)

Lemon Cupcakes with Fresh Raspberry Buttercream

The month of October is very busy for me for some reason, guess it could be the number of birthdays to celebrate?!?!!...but who knows;) Either way, it gives me a reason to bake! This past week, two of my very close friends celebrated their birthday and for a special surprise I made lemon cupcakes with fresh raspberry butter cream. They were super tasty! I have to say I wanted to really go all out and make a blueberry butter cream as well, but after a lot of searching, I just was not seeing what I liked, not to make with fresh blueberries anyway...I will try those another time, as I really do think they will be fabulous.
Since I did not have much time I used the Lemon Supreme Mix from I think either Betty Crocker or Pillsbury, not 100%?? To be honest, I have yet to make a homemade cupcake from scratch, I guess the timing is a factor...I feel like I would need to make sure they are perfect before is on my list though, for sure! And really you can't beat the box, it is always good, right!?!
Anyway, my frosting of course was homemade as when it comes to that, I am not sure I would buy pre-made ever again. It is just too easy to make your own!
For this recipe, I used the basic butter cream of:
-About 2 to 2.5 cups of powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
-Two sticks of unsalted butter
-About a teaspoon of vanilla
-Typically I add in a teaspoon of whipping cream, but I was out.
-And finally I would say about 15-20 fresh raspberries. Again, that depends on how bright and colorful you want the frosting to be!
So overall this was super easy for something so delish! Happy Birthday Claire and Karen! Love you Guys, hope you enjoyed!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Frogs Leap Public House in Waynesville, NC

This past weekend my aunt and I had a girl's trip to Waynesville, NC. Quite some time ago I had purchased a deal from Living Social for a weekend get away at the Waynesville Inn Golf and Resort Spa. It was a deal I just could not pass up, especially after I read some reviews on trip advisor. I have to say we really lucked out, the weather was amazing, the resort was beautiful and the view from our room was fantastic!
The other thing I did some research on was where to eat when we got to town! Very typical of me if I do say so myself. I am kind of a menu junkie! I came across Frogs Leap and it drew me in right away due to the fact that it was a new farm to table place in town! On the way into town we called the resort to see what they suggested in order to make our reservation for the evening. I asked about Frog's Leap and got rave reviews, so that made our decision very easy! I called and we were in!
The inside is rustic and cozy, perfect for a little mountain town. The staff was friendly right away which is always a plus! Now I have to say before I go any further I finally got a new camera! However, I am still trying to figure it all out and was not really too impressed by my pictures, but don't let that deter you, the food was really tasty!
We started off with the cheese plate and that was gone in about 5 mins. The combos of flavors were spot on.
We were in such awe of the cheese, I forgot to take a picture before we dug in! Next was the Fried Green Tomatoes with pimento cheese and bacon. This one was by far our favorite. The flavor combo was so rich and delicious we ate every last drop!

After that we figured we should try something a little lighter, so we went with the tuna. I thought this was very tasty, but a little too spicy for my aunt...

Our last small plate was the BBQ Pizza with apple and pork..This too was yummy, but had no mention of red pepper flakes on it and unfortunately, they were all over the pizza and again to spicy for my aunt.
We ended our meal with two scrumptious desserts, a toffee ice cream and snicker doodle apple tart. YUM DE LUM.
So overall, I would give Frogs Leap a thumbs up and next time I am back in Waynesville I will definitely pop in for more yummy creations! Enjoy-

Blackboard Bistro in Carmel, NY

On my last night home I wanted to take my mom to a nice dinner. After a little research and recommendations from friends we decided on Blackboard Bistro in Carmel, NY, a farm to table restaurant. As usual this was our main meal for the day, so we were ready to eat like little piggy's for sure:) Blackboard is a cute, quaint little home, probably only about 15 tables. And the name says it all as the chef changes the menu daily depending on what the local farmers market had that day...hence the blackboard below..
We started out with a bottle of wine, which turned out to be really great!

For an appetizer we had the fried calamari. This is one of my favorite apps, but as we all know not always cooked to perfection. I can say hands down, this was some of the BEST calamari I have had. It was not over coated or over cooked, it was seriously perfect and the plate was overloaded with it as well!

I must also add the marinara was also super tasty and being Italian we are not throwing out compliments that often when it comes to sauce!!!
For dinner I decided to give the duck a try. I have only had duck twice and the first time was amazing, the second, not so I was a little hesitant, but the waitstaff could not say enough great things about it. I have to say they were right, it was delicious. The crispiness of the skin was SO good, the crunch of the pistachios and soaked cherries made it and the succotash underneath it was just the right side to this dish. The flavor was amazing!

I pretty much licked the plate! My mom went with the Filet Mignon Oscar, which is a filet topped with crab and hollindase and served over garlic mashed potatoes. I was able to sneak in a bite and it was really great! Cooked again to perfection!
I have to admit, the picture probably is not the best, but the taste was fantastic! I could not get a picture in fast enough before my mom dug in;)
For dessert I went with the fresh peach tart with a creamy ricotta cream. My mom got the fresh berries in a puff pastry. We were both very happy with our choices.

So overall we had a great experience at Blackboard. I would recommend it to anyone and plan to go back next time I am home for sure! DELICIOUS!!! Enjoy-

A Country Kitchen in Brewster, NY

For those of you who don't know, my aunt Chrissy is the owner of A Country Kitchen in Brewster, NY. It is a great little place serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have eaten there every time I go home and it is always fantastic. The portions are huge, fresh and delish!! This last visit my mom and I went for an early dinner, after the lunch crowd so Chrissy could hang with us while we ate. Since it had been a while since the last time I visited I asked my mom what she recommended....the burger was top on her list and I was all for it!. I started off with this fresh roasted veggie and mozzarella salad that had unbelievable flavor!
It was full of mozzarella balls, grilled eggplant, zucchini, squash, roasted red peppers and spinach leaves with an amazing vinaigrette. From there I moved on to the burger, and let me just say this thing was HUGE! But I scarfed it down no problem! Oink Oink!

It was loaded with sauteed mushrooms, onions and topped with was insane! The shoestring fries were yummy as well! So after that, you would think no way could I put another thing in my mouth, well not me, I was ready for the dessert menu! haa I mean I had to have a little of everything, I only get to visit like once a year, I need to make up for lost time. Chrissy sold me on the fresh out of the oven brownie sundae, one of my all time fav desserts!

So whatever you might be in the mood for, breakfast, lunch or dinner, you MUST stop by A Country Kitchen! Check out the link at the top of the page to see all of Chrissy's tasty creations and if you are ever in Brewster you have to stop in, you won't regret it, that is for sure:) Enjoy-

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mom's home cooked meals in NY!!

Being the foodie that I am one of my favorite things to do before I get home is talk to my mom about what food she is going to cook while I am there! This trip had loads of killer meals and I could not help but to share! Now my mom only eats once a day.... how, I have no idea, but it did not stop me from eating at least 3 times a day...even though her one meal is typically served at about 3-4pm...that just left me ready for something fabulous for dessert at about 7! They say you should not eat later than 8pm right!
One of my all time favs is my mom's homemade pizza. It is to DIE for! Simple, easy and unbelievable flavor...the key is fresh grated mozz and homemade sauce, YUM DE LUM!!!! At home I have always used a pizza stone, but my mom uses this pizza pan with holes at the bottom to get the crust just is now on my list of things to buy for sure, it makes a totally difference!
OMG, just looking at the pic again makes me want to go home right now and stuff my face! Oh and speaking of stuffing your face, we did that for eating the WHOLE PIE!!! Maybe this is why she only eats once a day!
One of my other favorite dishes, which I have actually been making since I have been back about once a week, is an avocado stuffed with shrimp salad. This has to be one of the easiest meals to make and it is very tasty!

I have to say the picture does not do it justice! I do have the recipe below though and you should totally try it out!

1 avocado sliced in half with pit removed
I would say per avocado you need about 15 shrimp (I usually get the frozen shrimp and just boil til ready)
One the shrimp has cooled off, cut them up into small pieces, add in a little mayo, ketchup and chopped red or white onion- not sure on exact measurements of this, but really just to your preference, I really put very little ketchup to be honest..
And that is it, simple as that! Scoop it into the middle of the avocado and enjoy...which I know you will;)

Another fav of mine is my mom's salad, really it is like a side salad, but we had it as a meal with some fresh bread and yummy homemade sangria!
This salad is super easy to make as well and again, something I make all the time!

Spinach ( I am sure you can use what you prefer, typically I don't ever buy spinach, but it really tastes fabulous with this)
Diced up red pepper
Diced up red onion
Grape tomatoes
Blue Cheese crumbles
Oil and Vinegar

Now, obviously being home for two weeks we ate way more than this, but these are three things I had to share. They are all super easy and really delish! So Enjoy-- and thanks mom for always making amazing meals!! xoxo

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My trip to NYC- Great food, finds and fun!!

It has been quite a while since my last post, but don't worry, I have just been out of town so I have LOTS to catch up on...the first being my trip to NYC to see my friend Bill. I get to see Bill maybe once a year and I must say it is one of my favorite trips to take. I am from NY and try to get home a few times a year and when I do, the first thing on my list is to head into the city for a weekend of good times, lots of laughs and lots of cocktails and food with Bill;) This visit I actually went in both weekends I was home, so I wanted to share some of the yummy places we visited. All must sees if you ask me!
We started out on the Highline, which has become quite popular since it was opened. It is really a great place to walk around with amazing views as well. Not sure of the exact block, but at one point we decided to get off the highline and check out a new Biergarten that opened, filled with people, food trucks and if you can believe it an outdoor rollerskating rink! It was hysterical. We wanted to try it out, but after watching everyone fall, we realized we should stay outside the rink! Instead we got our ticket and hit the wine line, that's right wine at the Biergarten;)
For more on the highline, check out
Once we left there, we headed back towards Bill's place. He lives in Chelsea, fabulous area by the way! Our next stop was Cocoa V- a Vegan Chocolate Shop! For those of you who don't know DARK chocolate which is my fav, is all they have, I did not know it was vegan to be honest, at least that is what she told us! This place was super cute too!
One thing to note and they are thinking of changing this, they only take cash! So while Bill was headed to the ATM, I picked our mid day snack! Dark Chocolate Covered pretzel pieces, delish...oh and a bottle of wine!
This wine was AWESOME!!! So overall, Cocoa V gets a thumbs up from me! Great place to stop anytime of the day, you can never go wrong with wine and chocolate right!
So after Cocoa V we headed back to Bill's to freshen up as we were going to check out a rooftop bar and pool for more cocktails and I love visiting NY! Food and drinks all day long and you don't have to feel bad cause you walk everywhere! ha
Next, the rooftop bar and pool at the Dream Hotel! I think this is the first time I have ever seen a rooftop pool in NYC, and it was quite popular....well worth the visit, not only for the yummy pitcher of Sangria, but the food rocked the people watching by far was the best.

So overall this was a fantastic day and I was already ready to come back the following weekend for more fun!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Free cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma on Sundays!

Looking forward to checking this out, especially since it is FREE!!! Thanks for posting this Charlotteonthecheap!

Free cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma on Sundays

Williams-Sonoma stores offer free themed cooking classes on Sundays. The classes include tastings. Participants even get a 10% discounts on select purchases made the day of the class.
There are two Williams-Sonoma stores in the Charlotte area:
Specialty Shops in the Park
6401 Morrison Boulevard
(704) 364-8886
Sunday cooking classes are at 2pm.
Birkdale Village
16740 Birkdale Commons Parkway
Huntersville, NC
(704) 895-8331
Sunday cooking classes are at 12pm.
Upcoming classes:
* August 21: Cook Once, Eat Twice
* August 28: Gluten-Free Baking
* September 11: Pasta-It’s All About the Shape
* September 18: Pizza-It’s All About the Crust
* September 25: Discover Liquid Gold-Olive Oil
This was originally found on Cities on the Cheap.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

ICES 36th Annual Convention and Show

Yesterday I went with my friend Heather to the ICES 36th Annual Convention and Show, basically, a cake convention. We really had no idea what to expect, but a few weeks back Living Social ran a special on tickets and there were all different levels you could buy. We got the ticket that included admission to the cakes and competition, so that sounded pretty good, right? Well, to be honest, it was just ok. There were so many other things you could do, but you had to pay separate and we were just not feeling it. I will say that there were some pretty amazing cakes (all display versions, not real cake). I took about 100 pictures and figured I would share some of the ones we really liked. Now I will say, it was interesting to see how things were made and each cake had a card next to it listing what was used, for example "gum paste" or "fondant" etc.
This cakes detail was insane, I know it was a replica of something, but can't recall what:(
This one speaks for itself, how could ya not love it!

With this one I loved the lace look. Apparently it was something you could paint and just lay onto the cake, I kind of wish I took notes, but unfortunately I did not, so not 100% how it was made.

This cake was insane! If you are a Cake Boss fan it reminded me of the one he made for NASCAR, only this one is more fun!

These three had amazing detail!

This was my friend Heathers favorite. In person the detail and color was really pretty.

Loved these for the technique and detail as well.
I could go on and on as there were so many we loved, but I would say of all, the Noah's Arc was fantastic, every tiny detail was on the boat, it was really cool!

So overall, there were a lot of cool cake displays, but I wish we had bought the ticket to see it all. Oh and by the way, there were NO cake tastings at this event- we were totally bummed about that one;)
Hope you enjoy the pics!