Sunday, January 30, 2011

S'more GASBORD Cookies

S'mores are a summer thing. A cook-out, fire-crackling, tank-top thing. A bug-swatting, story-telling, warm-weather thing. There are eight inches of snow on the ground.
I need that thing. Because although I don't have a bonfire going, I have an oven. And though it's nowhere near summer in January, it can be close to my heart.
These cookies bring back fond memories of summer nights. Driving in the jeep in the rain. Sitting around overlooking Deep Creek Lake. Staying out too late and sneaking back in the house. It's these memories that can get us through these long winters.
So, in all the snow, the slush, the cold and the grey, I had a summer night. Complete with Hershey bars, graham crackers and toasted marshmallows.
These were supposed to be S'mores Cookies. Alex found them from the blog Baked Perfection, and I made them Messie Kitchen style with a few additions.
They are flat, yes, but I think it's because I ran out of chocolate chips and started chopping up baking chocolate, chocolate bars and everything chocolate I could find. I also added in some toffee bits for a hint of nutty sweetness.
I dropped them as rounded tablespoons but made the last batch with 1/8 cup drops and that made bigger rounder cookies, so I'll put that in the recipe.
S'more GASBORD Cookies
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash of cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
1 cup chopped toffee bits
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
2 Hershey bars, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, salt, and dash of cinnamon. In a second larger bowl beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits. For bigger thicker cookies (my recommendation) drop by 1/8 cup onto ungreased cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 8 minutes, and remove from the oven. Push 3 to 4 marshmallows and a few pieces of Hershey bar into each cookies. Return to the oven and bake an additional 3-4 minutes until fully cooked. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash with Crasins, Red Onion and Spinach

You've seen that I eat a lot of sweets, right? Well... I have a few other tricks up my sleeve.
One of them? Vegetables! I love them. I love them with all my heart.
And this dish is simple. It has six ingredients, and it rules. Sweet, crunchy, tart and creamy. I think I described a sandwich that way yesterday? But it's true.
And there is THUNDERSNOW in Virginia. Yikes! So make this before the power goes out!

Roasted Butternut Squash
2 1/2 lbs butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups red onions, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 ounces baby spinach
3/4 cup craisins

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Combine squash and onions in large shallow pan.
3. Drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly.
4. Roast for 45 minutes until tender and brown.
5. Add spinach and craisins last few minutes of cooking, toss.

Bruegger's Promotion For You Bagel Loffers.

So I'm at work and there's a snow storm going on outside. Technically, if the Fairfax County School system is closed, I'm supposed to be scott free, but when you work earlier than the call is made, you're kind of stuck.

So I'm here. And I wanted to tell you all, because many of you will have off work today (if you're local) that you should head out to my favorite little bagel chain, Bruegger's, because they're having a promotion that I think is pretty neat.

Last Chance to Give and Get
Bruegger’s wraps up 3-month fundraising campaign for Children’s Miracle Network on January 31

WHAT: Bruegger’s guests and good neighbors have just one more week to give back to Children’s Miracle Network AND get unlimited refills of coffee, tea or soft drinks throughout 2011; as Bruegger’s national fundraising campaign benefitting Children’s Miracle Network will end January 31, 2011.

In Fall 2010, the bagel chain, with 300 locations in 26 states, pledged to donate a portion of proceeds from sales of its popular Bottomless Mugs to benefit children’s hospitals through Children’s Miracle Network. Guests who purchase a Mug receive unlimited free refills of Bruegger’s coffee, tea or soft drinks through 2011 – and help the sick and injured children of their community.

To incentivize guests and meet its fundraising goal, Bruegger’s is offering a free bagel and cream cheese to those who purchase a mug on or before January 26. Current Mug holders can also redeem the offer.

To date, Bruegger’s has raised nearly $75,000 for Children’s Miracle Network. The company hopes to meet its fundraising goal of $100,000 by January 31.

WHEN: Guests who purchase a 2011 Bruegger’s Bottomless Mug will receive a free bagel and cream cheese on January 26 -- and give back to a worthy cause. Bruegger’s fundraising campaign ends on January 31, 2011.

WHERE: Nearly 300 Bruegger’s bakeries across the country. For a full list of bakeries go to

And secondly,

February 8: Bruegger’s Birthday Bash. Every bakery in the country will offer three free bagels until 2 p.m. Coupon is required and available through Bruegger’s “Fresh News” email club or on Bruegger’s Facebook page,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reverse Peanut Butter Cup Cake

It is one of those days. Today was the first day of my last semester until I have my master's and I was super excited to be getting it started.
I was hoofing it to class when my boots slipped out from under me and suddenly I was as close to being in the splits as I should ever come.
I recovered. I did. I got up and only one boy saw me...not bad. I shook it off.
I must have shook it off too hard because my coffee mug flew out of my hands, shattered on the ground and suddenly the favorite part of my morning, my hot cup of java, was spilled on the cold hard cement.
Good start, no? But you know what makes everything better? Chocolate or peanut butter. Or wait. Both. Yeah, both.
So I had some cake. Just a little slice, I promise. But I could have easily gone for more. Because it is that amazing.
The cake -- so moist. The frosting -- light and fluffy. It's like a reverse Reese's. And look, little hearts! Perfect for your sweetie on Valentine's Day... that wonderful holiday just around the corner.
So make this, and make your dreary January day just a little bit sweeter.

Reverse Peanut Butter Cup Cake

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

For the Frosting
1.5 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup butter, softened
6 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
5. While cake is baking, prepare Peanut Butter Frosting.To make frosting, combine the PB with butter and cream together (remember, light and fluffy!) Add ALL of the confectioner's sugar and begin to add in milk. It should be smooth enough to spread on a cake-- then it's done!
6. Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Add any additions like peanut butter cups.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Smoked Salmon Egg Sandwich

I've been cooking a lot lately. Cooking for one. Solo fun.
Who am I kidding? It's so much better cooking for others. Geez. The only good thing about cooking for one is that I can make whatever I want and if it sucks, I don't have to be embarrassed.
Well, this was not embarassing.
The thing that is great about this is all the elements. What I once might have viewed as just a sandwich becomes a combination of crunchy toasted bread, creamy dill spread, the smokiness of the salmon and the silkiness of an egg. I'm so game. 
I'm trying to eat healthier. I'm always trying to eat healthier, actually. Well, this satisfies that desire. It's adapted from Cooking Light, but I added a little this and that and I felt like I was in my own little Jewish sandwich shop. Hi Naomi! (And half Matt and half Melly). So L'Chayim!

Smoked Salmon Egg Sandwich
4 cups water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoon chopped dill
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 (1-ounce) slices rye bread, toasted
1 cup fresh spinach
4 ounces smoked wild salmon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Bring water and vinegar to a simmer in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Crack one egg and slowly add it to the water (in one piece as muchas possible). Repeat with remaining eggs. Simmer 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. (You can cook the eggs longer or shorter depending on how runny you like them. I'm not too runny-of-a-gal.)
2. Combine cheese, onion, dill, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; spread 2 tablespoons cheese mixture over each bread slice. Top each serving with 1/4 cup spinach and 1 ounce salmon. Remove eggs from pan with a slotted spoon; top each sandwich with 1 egg. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fort Lauderdale Restaurant Reviews

Even though at the end of the day, I usually feel better if I’m cooking my own meals, I never turn down a good opportunity to try a new restaurant. When I’m on vacation, that opportunity turns into many and soon I have a laundry list of places to share about. If you’re ever in the Fort Lauderdale area, check out some of the restaurants below.

1. Bimini Boatyard Bar and Grill --It's Florida. There has got to be seafood galore. But seafood (especially good seafood) is usually fairly expensive. Well, in terms of price, Bimini Boatyard was very fair. The portions of food were huge and more importantly, really tasty. We started off dinner with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and their "famous" bread which was a sweet bread served with whipped butter. It's sugary stickiness was not overpowering but completely enhanced with a layer of their whipped butter. We ordered three different dishes: Blackened Wahoo, Jamaican Festival Grouper and Blissful Belize Pompano. The menu offers specialty seafood that comes out in a specific way with predetermined side orders or the option of eight different fish, blackened, jerked or grilled, with your choice of any two sides. I jumped on the opportunity to try a new fish (Wahoo) and have some much needed wood-fire grilled vegetables and broccolini. The blackened fish was not too spicy, which made it number one in my book. The Jamaican Festival Grouper was topped with a mango and red curry glaze, plantain and pineapple mélange and asparagus. It was served alongside a roasted corn and mango salsa (which I adore). The Blissful Belize Pompano was a little "fishy" for my parents liking... but c'mon people, it's fish! I liked it (but it was my least favorite of the three). It was served with an avocado and papaya salsa type thing served with basmati rice and  more asparagus. The restaruant looks glitzy on the inside but like I said, very reasonable and very delicious! One downside -- I don't think it was on the water. Maybe it was and we just didn't sit at a window. Regardless, we're surrounded by water, so one night didn't kill us.

My wonderful Blackened Wahoo..Look at all those veggies!

The Pompano

I loved the seaweed slaw of the Grouper

2. Mangos -- This is Susie's favorite in the area. Maybe it's the festive ambiance, the extensive menu selections or the good food, but whatever the case, I'm a believer too. The first thing I liked about this place was our waitress' honest opinion about food selction. I hate it when you ask for advice only to hear that the waitress "hasn't tried" more than half of the menu. Seriously? Ours was very good about saying "this is my favorite," "this is the healthier but maybe not as flavorful version," or "everyone loves that." Very helpful because we ended up ordering four dishes that were completely devoured (and that's only the entrees). We started with a glass of Sauvy for me, a bottle of wine for the parents and a beer for Vanessa. We also got a basket of toasty bread. My only complaint is that it was cold butter. I much prefer whipped. Trivial, I know! But I'm just being honest. Bread baskets can make or break a dinner (Hellooooo Aussie Rolls from Great American chains). Anyway, we all also got a salad which meant we had four different dressings to choose from between our whole quartet: buttermilk herb, a balsamic vinaigrette, a lemon caper and a mango. Definitely a major fan of the buttermilk herb and the balsamic for the salads. But wait! I got the blackened mahi-mahi and I used the mango dressing to jazz it up a little. Genius, yes. It came with my choice of mashed potatoes, fruit, some vegetable or fries. Went with the mashed taters and was super happy. Vanessa got Chicken Oscar which was a bronzed chicken breast topped with lump crab meat and asparagus. The whole thing was covered in a rich silky béarnaise sauce that was finger licking good. I'd definitely recommend this one. Sue and Dick, who always share, split the Jambalaya and the Las Olas Shrimp, which is a scampi with black olives, garlic butter and linguine. I much preferred the Jambalaya. Very flavorful and generous. Sadly, my least favorite was the scampi, which usually I'm a huge fan of. I think the flavors from the other dishes just made it seem a little bland. Though we were all completely stuffed, our waitress recommended the key lime pie. Good decision for the palate. Bad decision for my already stuffed self. No regrets though. I must say, I make a pretty mean Key Lime Pie myself, and if you like this Florida favorite, check out my recipe!! All in all, a good choice right downtown.

Buttermilk Herb, Mango, Lemon Caper, Balsamic

Simple Salad... Lots of  Cheese


Chicken Oscar


Blackened Mahi-Mahi

How can you resist Key Lime Pie in Florida?

3. Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza -- Ahh the craft of a fine pizza. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the food we stuffed ourselves with (minus leftovers), but this was good stuff. It's the thin kind of pizza that gets those crust bubbles in it... my favorite. First of all, the salads were humongous. Between the four of us we split two but in retrospect should have gone for one. Oh well... greens are good. Vanessa and I got opted for a pizza with pepperoni and onion and my parents split one with sausage, peppers, olives, onions. The usual, for sure. Though we were tempted by the cheesecake for dessert, we just shuffled home. For good pizza, this is a solid choice.

4. The Floridian -- Rachael Ray went here... and so did The Messie Kitchen, which is way more impressive. Little did they know that they were being judged by the semi-professional blogger me. We went here for breakfast, but the place is open 24-hours a day. It's a diner-type with charming old pictures and big food. Big portions. If you have a big appetite, this is the place for you. My favorite thing that we ordered was a grilled peanut butter chip muffin. Yes, grilled. Definitely tasted like dessert. I ordered an omelette with feta, spinach and onion and ate about half before I was stuffed. Vanessa got the Huevos Rancheros Wrap which was scrambled eggs with sausage in a cheese wrap with salsa picante and homefries on the side. Not my first choice because I usually don't like heavy breakfast but it sure tasted good. Dad got a "breakfast sandwich" but really it was a western omelette served on a bagel. Huge. Gigantic. Tasty. Susie got poached eggs and toast. I really can't say this was too's just poached eggs. But, all in all, a good choice for diner-style food and a bustling atmosphere.

Charming Vintage Feel

Can poached eggs look exciting?

If you've never grilled a muffin, DO IT.

Omelette? Omelet?

Huevos Rancheros

Marketed as a sandwich when really it's an omelette on bread.

5. St. Barts Coffee -- If you want an absolutely stunning view of the water for breakfast or lunch at a low price. There are about 10 tables set up outside right across the street from the ocean and every time I’ve walked by, most have been filled. The breakfast menu features big bagels – very generous – and they are grilled which gives them this great crispy crust. The BLT was my favorite but the egg sandwich is also great because they don’t use powdered eggs… what a novel idea! I got a big bowl of oatmeal and it was chock full of dried cranberries, bananas, brown sugar and walnuts. Not the most exciting thing on the menu but the point is, if you’re trying to be healthy you’ve got a few options, too. I also snagged lunch there once. Vanessa and I puttered down the beach and grabbed one Panini and one grilled wrap. I’m so predictable because I got the Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella but it was good! A lot of balsamic though. Next time I might ask for a big less. Vanessa got the Chicken Pesto wrap. I love me a good pesto and the wrap was grilled just like the Panini. Works for me. The only downside of this place? The pigeons love it. In fact, the woman sitting across from me just sat down to her plate of eggs and toast and a gigantic muffin only to have a pigeon you-know-what all over her and her iPod. Not funny. But hilarious.

Right by the ocean

Simple but tasty breakfast

Loved their grilled wraps

And as always, my TBM panini

6. Barbara Young Bake Shop -- Though I had several cups of coffee on this trip, this place was my favorite. Right on trendy Las Olas Boulevard, Barbara Young has specialty cakes, lots of breakfast items, tasty looking treats and a banging coffee menu. I didn't get anything exciting, but the iced coffee was perfect. I don't know how to convince you... but just get it, okay?

The only gloomy day...still great coffee!

The scene

Cakes in the window!

Hard at work

Loved all the old fashioned photos

7. Kilwan’s -- You will see these all over the place down here. The Michigan based company has brought full-fat dairy to skinny minny Florida, and it seems to be working. Aside from tons of creamy ice cream flavors (sugar free and fat free included), there is a complete fudge shop and candy apple gallery. I was a huge fan of my chocolate caramel cashew but didn't get a picture. Oopsies. But, if you're in the Fort Lauderdale area, there is an ice cream place I'd recommend before Kilwan's... keep reading!

8. Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor -- Oh yes. This completely gaudy, carnival-like joint is an absolute must for ice cream fanatics. As you all know, I'm a connoisseur of this creamy concoction, and this place is legit. Apart from the line busting out from the door to eat in the restaurant, another line was patiently (or not) waiting to order to-go ice cream. Sundaes, floats, shakes, cones, you name it. I was a major fan of my chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Vanessa got the mocha chip which was very tasty too. The chips were high quality chocolate, which was a nice addition. Susie got the Praline's and Cream, which is not my favorite ice cream flavor, but she seemed to think it was delicious. This is a little ways away from down town; in fact, it's in Dania Beach, but it's worth the short drive, trust me. You'll see it if you're driving toward the airport. Get it. That's an order. You won't be disappointed.

Always with the ice cream

Right after Susie almost knocked down this monstrocity over.

9. David's Café -- Well, this was in South Beach, but if you're here, this little cafe is a great place for Cuban cuisine. Vanessa and I stumbled upon it while wandering the streets. We were mostly looking for iced coffee but were tempted by the menu so gave in and just had lunch. First and foremost, their iced coffee was to-die-for. Loved every last drop of it, including the foam on the top. And I loved our waiter… he was so friendly. Anyway, I got roasted chicken with moro and plantains. Moro was just an extremely flavorful rice and black bean combo. It was the perfect amount of spice and complimented the chicken well. I was the most excited about the plantains. I like a little more bite to mine but the flavor was nice and not too heavy. The chicken was an herby spicy leg, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. Vanessa on the other hand, got a Cuban sandwich. That was a wise decision. It was SO good. The bread was perfectly crispy and grilled and filled with pork, ham and swiss cheese with pickles and mustard. Sounds like a sort of strange combination but it went together perfectly. If you’re going to get Cuban food, Miami seems like the appropriate place. The best thing was that she only ate half of it (and this was Friday) and so I had the leftovers on Monday and it was still awesome. That's good eats.

Reason alone to go to South Beach


Well, not the most colorful plate ever.

Cuban! I will be recreating this shortly.

10. BREW Urban Cafe -- We saw BREW while exploring the streets. In fact, we probably wouldn't have gone in except this older man looked very happy sipping on his coffee reading the morning paper so we asked if it had good joe. Obviously. He said "best for ten years!" and that's a bold statement. Needless to say, we tried it. Yes, I got (drumroll please) iced coffee! Good stuff. And Susie and Dick liked their bold hot coffee. This place was a little quieter than Barbara Young's, so it might be a good place to get work done. Then again, I went here on a workday morning instead of the holiday weekend, so that might be the culprit. Whatever the case, this place seemed to have tasty looking baked goods and a solid cup-o-joe. So it's a solid choice. Please, people, branch out from Starbucks and Dunkin! You will be glad you did.


So urban?

Gallery in the coffee shop... not as good as Habatat!

Iced coffee goodness

11. Downtowner Saloon -- This place was recommended to us as "the place that locals go," and who are we to turn down local color? This was a nice diversion from the overcrowded joints up on the main street, and while not quite "dive" caliber, it was close. The bar had lots of old pictures and a well-weatherd feel, and you could tell it wasn't full of a bunch of dumb tourists (like us). Every day has a different special, so there's a reason to go back seven times a week! If you're going to be offended by the wait staff calling you "baby" or sitting down next to you to talk for a bit, don't come here. But, if you're like me, and appreciate a little character, try it. My dad started with a cream of mushroom soup that I was not excited about. Our waitress was right though, it was the best I've ever had! I ordered a New York Strip Steak which came with mashed taters and broccoli. And it was steak night so it was pretty inexpensive! Susie got Pasta Primavera with Fried Scallops. If you're expecting a lot of vegetables (because it was a primavera) guess again. It had some parsley sprinkled around the side. That's enough green right? Tasty scallops and pasta, but I would have liked a little more veggies in there. Dad got the Pork Loin with mashed potatoes and gravy. Down-home cooking. Excellent gravy. Good deals. Good food. Good service. Charm. If you're more bougie, this place probably isn't for you. It gets a thumbs up from The Messie Kitchen though.

Where friendships last forever.

We went it's not crowded

Specials from the waitress to you.

More of the scene.

Strip steak, dinner of champions.

"Midwesterners love their gravy." Okay, Dad.

It really was the best cream of mushroom soup, EVER.

I don't see primavera but still pretty tasty.

Don't you dare miss 2-4-1!

12. Carlos and Pepe's -- This was a little Mexican place that was away from all the hustle and bustle of downtown. Maybe it was my deep craving for good sangria, or maybe it was a colossal vat of guacamole, but this place was really tasty. I ordered what I thought was tacos al carbon with steak, but instead received chicken and steak. The tacos were very simple and I had to add my own toppings, but I really liked that the only thing they put on top was fresh cilantro. It made for a very fresh tasting plate. My parents split combination fajitas which I always love. Vanessa got a chimichanga... awesome. The chicken was so tender and I mean, anything smothered in cheese is okay with me. The only down fall of Mexican is the ridiculous amount of chips I eat. Oh well, vacation right?

<3 Sangria

Holy Guacamole

Gooooooooooo Mexico! Tacos!

We will call this... CHIMICHANGA

Fajitas are always a good choice

Well folks, that's all for me. Fort Lauderdale was awesome. Good food. Good weather. Good times. I'm looking forward to my parents retiring here. Hint hint, Mom and Dad! If you're ever in the area, check out any or all of these for a safe bet. Happy eating!