Drunk Blondes


Every baker should have an ace in the hole. For me, that never-failing treasure is my Drunk Blonde, a whiskey-soaked butterscotch blondie. Blondies can be pretty bland, but these guys pack a punch: you better eat your share before putting them out on a a platter, because people act like hawks around these things. There’s a whole lot to like about the Drunk Blonde, but what wins me over is the lack of leavening. So many blondies aren’t much more than glorified chocolate chip cookies, and have a fluffy, cakey texture. These bare-bones blondies, lacking any leavening at all, are gooey to the point of being almost fudge-like, with the alcohol adding an extra richness. I’ve made this recipe several times, and it’s impossible to mess up. Each result has been more delicious than the last.

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Blueberry Crumble Bars


Let’s face it: it’s hard to mess up blueberries. It’s even harder to mess up blueberries with a crumb coating. It’s no wonder this blueberry crumble bar is so good. I had made this recipe on a whim: there were blueberries in the house, along with the rest of the ingredients. I wasn’t particularly excited about it — it was just another thing to try out. My lack of enthusiasm was a mistake, however. These bars are crunchy, crumbly, buttery, and sweet. I halved the amount of sugar in the original recipe to let the sweetness and tartness of the blueberries shine (and so I could pretend this bar is healthier than it really is). It’s probably even tastier with all the sugar. I have a bad sweet tooth, after all.

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Lemon Bars


First of all, you’ll have to pardon the bad photography of these scrumptious lemon bars — in my hurry to get them into my mouth, I didn’t much bother with taking a nice photo or two. Trust me when I say that these have the potential to look much more beautiful than they do.

Full disclosure: if I have to choose between a brownie or a lemon bar, I’m going to pick the brownie every time. But it’s summer, and today something heavy and chocolatey just didn’t sound right. While taking my dog outside this morning, I noticed our Meyer lemon tree had two lemons left. I knew instantly what baking I wanted to do.

This recipe is really easy; I barely glanced at the recipe as I threw it all together, because the steps are really that simple. The end result is much more than the sum of its parts: for something seemingly so basic, the flavor is robust, sweet, and only a little bit tart. Not to brag, but both my father and the guy I’m dating (okay, admittedly not the most objective audience) said they were the best lemon bars they’d ever eaten. Even the brownie lover in me has to admit: this was just the right dessert for such a hot summer day.

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Protein Energy Bars

Speaking again as someone in recovery from anorexia, for me there are few worse bodily sensations than that of low blood sugar. If I haven’t eaten anything for a couple of hours, it’ll hit me out of nowhere: suddenly I’m shaking and lightheaded and famished. Naturally, my regular bouts of hypoglycemia were concerning not just to me, but to my dietitian as well. Since I eat off of a meal plan (it’s flexible and I choose what I eat, but the meal plan dictates how much of what macronutrients I need to consume throughout the day), my dietitian changed it to be protein heavy in order to stave off the hunger and blood sugar crashes.

Ever since starting my recovery, I’ve been a big fan of energy bars. Luna Bars, Clif Bars, Mojo Bars, you name it, I’ve eaten it and probably enjoyed it. I had experimented with making my own in the past, but without success, so since then I have leaned on the bar-making professionals for my high protein snacking needs. My dietitian, however, changed the game when she gave me this recipe.

These bars (also good eaten rolled up into balls) are sweet like a dessert but filled with ingredients that are effective at stabilizing one’s energy levels and blood sugar. I eat these both as a treat and as a tool for keeping my body feeling good throughout the day. While it should be obvious that they aren’t a diet food, I’d hope that the ingredients list makes it equally as obvious they are absolutely a health food, and should be enjoyed as such.

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World’s Best Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

 

I just recently decided to quit my job. I didn’t come to this conclusion easily; it was only after some soul-searching that I realized I had gotten all that I could out of my employment, and it was time to move on. I wanted to leave on a sweet note, however, and couldn’t think of anything sweeter than my number one go-to cookie recipe. I’m not good at saying goodbye, so I let the baking do the talking for me, and gifted my bosses with farewell cookies.

These oatmeal cookies have been my favorite cookie recipe since middle school, and that’s saying something, as I’ve tried a lot of cookie recipes since then. They are the best with chocolate chips, but it’s no loss to make them with raisins either, if that’s your thing. Cookie preferences are highly personal, but these match my cookie ideal to a T. They are soft and chewy in the middle, with a nice crunch along their golden outside. These aren’t your puffy, cake-like cookies; they are lean and gooey and meant to be shoveled in your mouth one after the other.

A little secret? These cookies are even better frozen than they are straight out of the oven. Everyone in my family prefers to eat them pulled out of a ziplock baggie in the freezer.

So needless to say, these bad boys are dangerous. One is never enough. I’ve watched many a friend fall prey to these guys. Bake at your own risk.

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Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes

When I made the decision to move from LA to San Francisco, it was not without some serious regrets. Most of all, it was leaving my friends behind that got to me. I also knew I’d miss the beaches, the movie premieres, and the lingering Hollywood dream I’d been harboring.

I also knew I’d really, really miss Sprinkles Cupcakes. The progenitor of the cupcake bakery mania, Sprinkles began as a Beverly Hills gourmet cupcake business and has since spread out to locations around the country, carrying with it a whiff of Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract and winning over hungry hearts. I think the cupcake craze is more than a little silly, but I’m the first person to say Sprinkles is very serious business: without a doubt, they have the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted (that chocolate chip peanut butter cupcake–it has no competition in this world).

San Francisco has no Sprinkles. Nor does Sacramento, my current city. It’s a lonely existence.

Fortunately for us Sprinkles addicts spread out across creation, there’s always the option of making knock-off Sprinkles at home. With fresh strawberries stuffing up my refrigerator, it made perfect sense to make strawberry cupcakes to start the week with. What better recipe to use than the one for the Sprinkles cake batter?

This Wayne Thiebaud-like are the summer dessert: moist, dense, but with a crisp, light, and very, very sweet flavor. With their cream cheese frosting, they remind me of the tart strawberry cupcakes at the bakery I worked at in high school. But it’s not just memory lane that makes them dear to me. This recipe has won over thousands of fans at Sprinkles. I’m just one of many strawberry cupcake devotees, paying honor to her cupcake idol.

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Four Ingredient Coconut Macaroons


I spend a lot of time looking at food blogs, oohing and aahing over recipes that I could never even dream up, let alone successfully make. Sometimes, the cooking creations I see are so amazing that I experience the same feeling that I would were I to watch the Victoria’s Secret runway show: not jealousy, but simply amusement at how far from reality it all is.

However, the truth is that just like how I can be a sexy lady without strutting down a catwalk wearing a pair of angel wings that weighs almost as much as a model’s underfed, lingerie-clad body does, I can whip up something scrumptious that requires absolutely no kitchen magic.

And that’s what coconut macaroons are for. All the necessary ingredients are already in the house, they only take a couple minutes to throw together, they can look as sloppy or neat as you allow them to be, and they still taste great. For extra flash, dip them in melted chocolate. Just because they’re a beginner’s dessert doesn’t make them any less delicious.

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Very Blueberry Low-Fat Muffins

For a very long time, if a muffin didn’t have chocolate in it, then I considered it a waste of my time. While it was hard to go wrong with a muffin top no matter the ingredients, the puffy little cakes struck me as uninspired, pedestrian. If I was going to a cafe for breakfast, I was going to go big: chocolate croissant, brownie, cinnamon roll, not some lumpy, fruity, frequently stale ball of dough.

I can’t pinpoint when exactly the tides changed. I know that when I was trying to eat a little healthier, I went from one extreme to the other, switching out my chocolate chip cappuccino muffins for raisin bran. For a while I force-fed myself the things, but over time there was a shift in me. Now I want my muffins stuffed full of berries, be they raspberries or strawberries or cranberries or, best of all, blueberries.

This recipe makes fluffy, light, and not-too-sweet muffins that go well with a creamy latte or a hot cup of chai. Not only are they low in fat, but they’re low in calories, too (approximately), meaning you could easily eat two or three in a sitting without it being a diet buster. Calories aside, I won’t extol the health virtues of this muffin, since you’d have to be living under a nutritional rock to be unaware of all the benefits of blueberries. The most important thing, after all, is the flavor. (In the end, a food can be the healthiest thing in the world and not be worth eating because of a foul taste. I’m looking at you, natto.) Even my younger sister, who is an extraordinarily picky eater, was happy to get her nosh on with these muffins. If you like a subtle sweetness and a burst of fruit flavor, these muffins are more than worth a shot.

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