copycat levain bakery chocolate chip cookies

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Stop the presses.  This morning I made the most amazing chocolate chip cookies.  Huge.  Crispy.  Fluffy.  Ooey gooey.  I could barely wait for them to cool down before I demolished one three of these in one bite, with a glass of milk, while standing up.

To give you some background info, my fascination with these chocolate chip cookies started many years ago while watching an episode of “Best Thing I Ever Ate” on Food Network.  The episode was on cookies, and the Levain Bakery was featured.  I came to find out that the Levain Bakery is a bakery in NYC that specializes in their one of a kind gigantic cookies.  They have many varieties, such as double chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and double chocolate peanut butter, but the one that stole my heart from the start was their chocolate chip cookies.  I immediately told my mother about these cookies, who being the incredible mom that she is, surprised me the next day with a box of 4 Levain Bakery cookies.  And that’s when my love and obsession for these cookies began.  And because I now live 3 hours away from those amazing NYC cookies, today I set out to make a copycat version of these chocolate chip cookies.

Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes 6-8 large cookies)
Adapted from Modern Honey

1 cup butter, cold and cut into 1cm cubes
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup dark chocolate, cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 410F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar.  Beat on high until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Add each egg one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Beat in cake flour, flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.  Mix until combined, but be sure not to overtax.  Stir in the chocolate until just incorporated.

With your hands, make balls of dough about 2in in diameter.  Place them on a cookie sheet or silpat mat, keeping at least 2in between each ball.  You will need to use two cookie sheets, or just bake 4 cookies at a time.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops of each cookie is golden brown. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a least 5 minutes, and then another 5-10 minutes on a cooling rack.

cookie on,
Sharon

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biscoff cupcakes

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Will you judge me if I say that I choose my airliner based on the snacks they hand out?  Because I do.  Delta Airlines all the way.  And it’s because of their amazing Biscoff cookies that they hand out on every flight.  If you’ve never had these cookies, get yourself on a Delta flight ASAP! Or, you could just buy them off Amazon.  That’s where I normally buy them in bulk.  They are buttery cookies with a gingersnap-like taste, yet still so unique and decadent.  When my Amazon delivery came in the mail, I knew I needed to repurpose them into cupcake form.

Biscoff cookies are all over this cupcake.  There is half a cookie on the bottom of every cupcake, biscoff spread filling (also highly recommended and available at most stores), and biscoff spread frosting.  You can even garnish each cupcake with another half a cookie.  Perfect for any and all occasions.

Biscoff Cupcakes
(Makes 12 cupcakes)
Adapted from The Baker Chick

For the cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
12 biscoff cookies, broken in half
1/2 cup biscoff spread

For the frosting:

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup biscoff spread
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat over to 350F.  Line cupcakes pans with liners and place a half a cookie into each one.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the vanilla and beat again.  Add half the flour, then the 1/2 cup of buttermilk.  Add the remaining flour, then the 2 tbsp buttermilk.  Scrape down the bowl with a spatula to ensure all the batter is uniform.

Fill each liner about 3/4 full with the batter.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Let cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack.

Using a small knife or spoon, remove a small bit of each cupcake.  Fill each core with a teaspoon of biscoff spread.

For the frosting, mix together the butter and biscoff spread.  Working 1/2 cup at a time, add the powdered sugar.  If too thick, add a splash of milk.  If too thin, add more powdered sugar.  Pipe the frosting onto each cupcake.

cupcake on,
Sharon

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trio of fruit smoothies

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For the past year or so, I’ve grown to love fruit smoothies.  I don’t go overboard with the ingredients either.  The way I see it, if I have a way to get fruit, juice, and yogurt in my belly before 10am, that’s 100% A-okay.  I have these smoothies pretty regularly for breakfast, and I also love to have them as a post-workout “snack”.

I also love making smoothies because it’s pretty impossible to mess it up.  Pretty much any and all combinations work.  Whatever juice, fruit, or yogurt I have in the house, I can throw it in the blender and (somehow) it always comes out delicious.  Today I’m sharing three (yes, three!) different smoothies.  But again, use these recipes as just a base – feel free to include, or leave out, whatever fruit you’d like!

Pink Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings, easily multiplied)

1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup non-fat yogurt (I typically use vanilla, strawberry or blueberry yogurt)
3-4 large strawberries
1 banana
1/2 apple, peeled and seeds removed
5 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or Vitamix and pulse for 45 seconds, or until smooth.  Refrigerate before serving.  If any separation occurs, mix with a smooth or pulse for 10 seconds.

Yellow Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings, easily multiplied)

1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup green grapes
1 cup honeydew chunks
1 cup cantaloupe chunks
5 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or Vitamix and pulse for 45 seconds, or until smooth.  Refrigerate before serving.  If any separation occurs, mix with a smooth or pulse for 10 seconds.

Green Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings, easily multiplied)

1/2 cup coconut water
1 cup green grapes
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 banana
2 cups spinach, lightly packed
5 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or Vitamix and pulse for 45 seconds, or until smooth.  Refrigerate before serving.  If any separation occurs, mix with a smooth or pulse for 10 seconds.

smoothie on,
Sharon

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easy no-bake granola bars

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It’s a new year!  That means it’s time to start those resolutions to work out more and eat healthier.  I like to think that I exercise enough times a week and eat healthy, but it’s never a bad idea to have a little check-in with yourself!  Unfortunately, breakfast is where I’ve always cut corners.  I know, I know – the most important meal of the day, and I have a habit of messing it all up.  Usually I’ll just have a small serving of cereal or yogurt, but sometimes, I skip it all together.  Oops.

These granola bars are the perfect fix.  Not only are they incredibly easy to make, they’re also the perfect grab and go meal for those busy mornings.  Make them, eat them, love them, repeat!

Easy No-Bake Granola Bars
(Makes 18 bars)
Adapted from Once Upon a Chef

6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 cups quick oats
1 3/4 cups crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup sliced pecans
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil.  Lightly butter the baking pan.

In a large pot, combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey.  Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Lower the heat and simmer for another 2 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla extra and salt.  Add the oats, rice cereal, pecans, and wheat germ to the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and use a spatula to even everything out.  Pour the chocolate chips over the entire mixtures and press down with a spatula so that they stay put.

Refrigerate the pan for 2 hours.  Remove the aluminum foil and uncut bars from the pan and set on a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, cut the granola bars into 18 equal rectangles.  Store in an airtight container.

– resolution on,
Sharon

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homemade marshmallows

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It’s been a frigid couple of weeks here in the northeast, so we’ve been staying cooped up in the house.  So with fantasy football over, a tired puppy, and a quiet evening, boredom officially sets in.  I’ve been wanting to try out homemade marshmallows for a long time.  And when K said, “let’s make s’mores!” a few days ago, I knew that was the kick I needed to go for it.

I was surprised at the ease of making these marshmallows.  The actual work is short and minimal.  The hardest part is waiting for the fluff to set and turn into actual marshmallows!  That fluff looked so good – I could have eaten the whole bowl right then and there!

Marshmallows
(Makes about 2 dozen)
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Vegetable oil, for brushing
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/8 cup water
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup very cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Brush a 9×9-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil.  Line with parchment paper, and brush the parchment paper with more vegetable oil.

In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/8 cup water.  At high heat, bring to a boil and stir until all the sugar appears to dissolve.  Continue cooking without stirring until the temperature registers 238 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup cold water and gelatin.  Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.  Start mixing at low speed, and slowly add the syrup mixture to the gelatin mixture.  Every 3 minutes, slightly increase the speed.  After about 12 minutes, the mixture should be stiff.  Add in the vanilla and beat again.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Set aside, uncovered, until firm, about 4 hours (or overnight).

Cover a work surface with confectioners’ sugar.  Remove the marshmallows from the baking dish and onto the work surface.  With a sharp knife, cut the marshmallows into small squares.  Coat each marshmallow in more confectioners’ sugar.

– food on,
Sharon

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baba ganoush

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When you’re a kid and your mom tells you that she’s making eggplant for dinner, you’re less than excited.  I think my common responses were “no, thank you, mom” or “can I have some fettuccine Alfredo instead?”  But as you’ve seen by my previous recipes, like this one for eggplant parm, I’ve grown to love eggplant.  Not only is it so versatile, it’s an incredibly filling vegetable.  I’ll never pass up some filet mignon, but some days, a healthy vegetarian meal is all you need.

Shirley and I grew up eating homemade hummus, tahini, and baba ganoush at home, and I’ve been making it in my own home ever since.  If you’re unfamiliar, baba ganoush is a popular Mediterranean side dish consisting of cooked eggplant and spices.  It is incredibly easy to make, so flavorful, and a great side dish if you’re sick of yet another day of chips and dip!

Baba Ganoush
(Makes 3 cups)

2 medium eggplants
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Bake the eggplants in a 375 F oven until very soft, about 30 minutes.  Allow the eggplant to cool, and then peel completely.

In an 8-cup food processor, combine the eggplant, garlic, lemon juice, and mayonnaise.  Process until the mixture is uniform.  Drizzle in the olive oil and process, being careful not to over-process.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve as a side dish with vegetables, crackers, or pita!

– food on,
Sharon

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national ice cream day: chocolate ice cream

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I couldn’t imagine a better day than national ice cream day to return to blogging.  For as long as I can remember, I have loved ice cream.  And ice cream that’s topped with chocolate shell?  Swoon.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional Haagen Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s (Phish Food is my favorite!), but there’s something about homemade ice cream that is just incredible.  From how easy it is to make and customize, to the creaminess and tastiness, it really is a no-brainer.  I’ve already shared our vanilla bean ice cream, but in honor of national ice cream day, it’s time to shake things up!  And what better way to do that than with chocolate – a lot of it!

chocolate ice cream
(Makes 1 quart)

20 oz chocolate of at least 70% cocoa
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and at medium-high heat, slowly bring them to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 5 more minutes, or until the chocolate melts and the mixture is homogeneous. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Pour into an ice-cream maker bowl and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

– ice cream on,
Sharon