Dark Chocolate Amaretto Pie

Dark Chocolate Amaretto Pie
I don’t make a lot of pie. I grew up in a cake house, you see. My mom always preferred baking cakes and cookies to pies, and my sister and I expanded on this behavior as 4-H cake decorating students for several years each. Pie, which has taken on a role of symbolic role of domestic culinary prowess in our culture, was simply not something I learned to make as a kid.

The pies my mom did make were never, ever, double-crusted fruit pies. If we did have a pie for dessert, it was typically composed of a pre-made graham cracker crust, a box of pudding mix, and a mound of Cool Whip.

And you know what? I freakin’ loved it.

A motley crew
To this day, while I will certainly eat a slice of apple, cherry, or other fruity pie if it’s presented to me with a sizable scoop of vanilla ice cream, the pies that I dream of are the cold, creamy, pudding-ish pies that I grew up on.

This pie follows in that tradition, though with some notable modifications. First, I love making my own graham cracker crusts. I like a heavier crumb with more crunch, and I like that I can control the level of sweetness and stickiness by adding as much or as little sugar and butter as I like when whirling it together myself.

Graham crackers (more…)

Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friends, I have a confession.

A lot of the recipes I post on this blog are ones that I cook quite often. Lots of dinners, side dishes, breakfasts, and even desserts that you’ve seen in the last three years make regular appearances in my kitchen or in the kitchen’s of friends and family when I’m visiting. It’s actually pretty convenient to have my very own personal recipe book at my fingertips in any kitchen, grocery store, or farmers market that has data or free wifi.

But I’ve been holding out on you. I haven’t shared with you one of the treats I cook most often, a recipe that I know so well I haven’t looked at the recipe card in years, a recipe that continues to be Brad’s most-requested dessert.

My mom’s chocolate chip cookies.

Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies
My mom has been baking these cookies since long before I was born, and truth be told, they’ve gained rather a lot of fame at the staff meetings, potlucks, and holiday gatherings in her little corner of Southwest Colorado. This is also one of my mom’s memorized recipes, complete with a snappy little mnemonic jingle that I learned growing up and use to this day to remember the order of ingredients.

So why wasn’t this recipe at the top of my list to share when I started this blog? I’ve shared numerous other treasured recipes from my childhood: Almond Toffee, Lasagne, Favorite Party Mix, to name a few.

Here’s the truth. Most of my life, my mom used butter-flavored Crisco for her magical chocolate chip cookies. And while I had tried using butter and liked the results, it just felt odd to make such a vast departure from her recipe and then post it as “hers”. Irrational? Probably. But it held me back. I was writing a blog about eating less-processed, locally sourced ingredients. Butter-flavored Crisco is none of those things.

But then, a few months ago, my mom informed me that she had switched to butter for her cookies. Liberation! Now I could honor this, my “Mom’s recipe”, without the mysterious yellow shortening. I’m so excited to finally share these with you. (more…)

Chocolate Strawberry Cream Cake

Chocolate & Strawberry Cream Cake

A little over two months ago (gah, has it already been that long?) one of Brad’s friends from law school invited us over for a dinner with him and his wife, and we were asked to bring dessert. I had a busy week at work, so Brad volunteered to make our contribution. How kind of him to volunteer to prepare a dish to represent us at a dinner with his friends, yes?

*twitch* *baking-control-twitch*

It really was very nice of him. But you see I have this slight love of baking cakes, and the night before the dinner, I my control-freak-baking-nature took hold. I wanted to make something easy, tasty, and pretty, and I wanted to make it now.

Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake

This cake, you guys, is all of the above.

To be honest, I put this combo together the weekend before when testing a final batch of recipes for Scott & Crystal’s wedding cake. Enrobed in Swiss Meringue Buttercream, this chocolate cake with strawberries and whipped cream was a favorite and made it into the ceremony cake.

But it’s far too good to reserve only for wedding cake. This version is doable in less than 2 hours and doesn’t require the effort of icing the exterior. The cream and berries are icing enough, and it makes a stunning, seasonal dessert for dinner parties, summer barbecues, or birthdays.


Chocolate & Raspberry Cream Cookie Sandwiches

Chocolate & Raspberry Cream Sandwich Cookies

I’ve never been a particularly voracious celebrator of Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I spent too many years as a single teenage girl, pining for the magic of rom com love and commiserating with fellow single teenage girls about the fairy tale love affairs we surely were soon to have. I supposed that Valentine’s Day for those lucky ladies in relationships were whimsically romantic and that I was sure to celebrate this holiday with fervor when I, someday, became an un-single lady.

What’s interesting is that, once I did find a smart lad to be my companion, I virtually stopped caring about Valentine’s Day all together. Those romantic candle-lit dinners at tables with red rose centerpieces were wildly extravagant for college students on a budget (and I was probably in rehearsal anyway). The idea of receiving gushy Valentine’s gifts, which seemed so appealing when I was younger, seemed borderline silly. You’re more likely to find Brad and I ordering pizza in and laughing ourselves to tears watching funny YouTube videos this Thursday night. And you know what? I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Little Valentines

What I do love about Valentine’s Day is the opportunity it offers me to bake pink, chocolatey, heart-shaped little treats to share with the people around me. These cookie sandwiches have it all. Crisp, deeply chocolate cookies sprinkled with course red sugar press together around a layer of creamy icing studded with raspberries. And despite their showy appearance, they are incredibly easy to make.


Winter Wonderland Brownies

Winter wonderland

Durangoans are particularly proud of our beautiful state around the holidays. While many people send seasons greeting cards adorned with wintery vistas, evergreen trees weighed down with glistening mounds of snow, and woodland animals making their way silently through the drifts, those of us who spend Christmas in Colorado usually have the great fortune of watching those holiday cards come to life around us. This year, the first major snow of the season hit my hometown just a few days before I came home, and a gentle snowfall on Christmas Eve really sealed the deal for a white Christmas.

The Peaks Approacheth

The View

Mountain Vista

Christmas card

Having resided primarily in non-mountainous locations outside of Colorado for the better part of the last decade, I start getting really antsy for snow right around Thanksgiving but rarely actually see any until I’m flying over the Rockies a few weeks later on my way home for the holidays. For my holiday party (I swear, I’m almost done posting recipes from that dang party) in early December, I wanted to pay some small homage to the spectacular winter beauty of my home state, and I also was lacking a chocolate-y dish on my menu.


Chocolate Ganache Berry Tartelettes

The various food blogs and aggregates I browse are alight with red, white, and blue this week. And it’s no surprise! What better way to celebrate America’s Independence Day than with some desserts that feature fresh fruit that coordinates so well with Old Glory? You probably already have your plans in place for whatever festivities await you today, but if you don’t, get out your baking gear and try this one.

These little desserts are based on a recipe out of the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I’ve mentioned before that the blog of the same name is one of my favorites to follow, and I was thrilled to finally get my hands on her cookbook. I find it inspiring that someone who is not classically trained in culinary technique, photography, or writing has created such a mind-blowingly successful blog and now has a published book to show for it.

It’s the first of many recipes in the book I’m eager to try.


Rich Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

Here’s the thing.

Most of my choices of meals to make revolve around what I want for dinner, what features a local ingredient at the peak of its season, or what has been leering at me the strongest from my list of recipes to try.

But sometimes I just want to make cake. Unnecessary, frivolous, decadent, indulgent, cake.

I don’t often make desserts, partially because we rarely have more than the two of us at dinner. But when I threw my pizza party a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make something fancy.

Both the recipes and the inspiration for this cake came from a blog I recently stumbled across (and have subsequently become obsessed with) called Sweetapolita. These cakes are something. else. Miracles of butter and sugar. They are simple yet stunning, classic yet unique.

And the best part? This particular chocolate cake recipe is, hands down, the easiest cake recipe I have ever made. Many cakes recipes have intricate patterns of adding dry ingredients, folding in damp ones, carefully mixing until consistency is just so… not this one.


Hot Chocolate Sticks

I’m about to get real crafty on you.

I love making gifts. Buying a gift is fun, especially if you get to see the recipient open it, but making gifts is hugely entertaining. For me, it’s an excuse to try ridiculous and absurd and totally unnecessary edibles. Like this.

I’ve been wanting to make homemade hot chocolate as a gift now for some time, but felt somewhat neutral on the idea of mixing together cocoa and sugar in a jar to create a mix. Finally, I found what I was looking for: a cube of chocolate ON A STICK melted into hot milk, for a creamy, interactive hot chocolate experience. After making a double batch for my friends and family, I most certainly now want to make a batch for myself, and I thought you might, too.

The concept is simple enough: take a really, really good chocolate, melt it, add cocoa and powdered sugar, pipe into mold, add a stick, and call yourself Willy Wonka.