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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oreo rice krispie treats

Today I left class famished.  I ate breakfast and lunch, sat through a few hours of lecture, and then left.  Hungry.  Very hungry.  I wandered into a little deli near school in search of a snack, something to tide me over while I ventured downtown to help a friend.  In my mind I had settled on pretzels, but they were nowhere to be found.  Sure, there were large bags of pretzels and small "single serve" bags of chips, but no small bags of pretzels.  I left, upset, and wandered a little further, eventually ending up at Starbucks (naturally).  A skim latte, I rationalized, would help wake me up and would render me totally functional and helpful by the time I got to my friend's.  But I knew it wouldn't be enough, and I'd need a snack, too.  Now I honestly don't remember if I've spoken about my addiction to Starbucks on this blog before, but there is one thing you need to know about it: I am addicted to Starbucks coffee drinks (and doing school work in Starbucks).  Their regular coffee is definitely not my favorite by far, and their desserts in that fridge never look all that appetizing (the calorie count on the label doesn't help, either).  But there I was, hungry, and - despite my best efforts to get a somewhat healthy snack - staring down the desserts in the Starbucks fridge deciding what to get.  Eventually, I chose the marshmallow dream bar, their version of a rice krispie treat with extra marshmallows in it, and I realized something.  Rice krispie treats are good.  Damn good.

Fairly recently, while searching for recipes, I came across a recipe for cookies and cream rice krispie treats.  I copied it down but can tell you that it was nowhere near the top of my "things I want to bake really soon" list.  That changed, however, when I took a bite of that delicious rice krispie treat and realized that (although I really don't need them), I'd like more rice krispie treats in my life.

Consider that a done deal:

6 cups rice krispies cereal
20 regular Oreos, crushed (I used double stuffed Oreos simply because I had them here for another project)
5 cups marshmallows
3 Tbsp butter

(I halved the recipe and used a smaller dish.  I know I said I'd like more rice krispie treats in my life, but just not that many)

1. Spray a 9 x 13" baking tray and a spatula with non-stick spray and set aside
2. Put the rice krispies and crushed Oreos in a bowl, and mix
3. Place the butter and marshmallows in a large microwave safe bowl.  THEY WILL EXPAND A LOT, SO MAKE SURE YOUR BOWL IS BIG ENOUGH.  Microwave them for about 3 minutes, until marshmallows are mostly melted and very puffy.
4. Remove from the oven carefullt and stir to fully combine the butter and marshmallows, making sure that the marshmallows are fully melted.
5. Pout the marshmallow mixture over the cereal/Oreo mixture and mix with the prepared spatula, QUICKLY.
6. Use the spatula to press the mixture into the dish and flatten it as needed.
7. Allow the mixture to cool before cutting into squares.


The link above gives you storage directions, although I highly suspect that they'll be gone before you have to worry about storing them...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Some new ideas on the horizon

I joined pinterest. I had debated joining for a while for several reasons. First, I don't get exactly what pinterest is. I know, I know, it's a virtual pinboard. So...? I post things I like/want, places I've been to/want to visit, things I've baked/want to bake for the whole world to see? Does the world really care that I want to visit Greece, or that I made cute cake pops? But, I digress. Secondly, I didn't need another distraction or procrastination tool. But, after running it by some friends (in a Facebook post, naturally), they recommended I join. For the recipes and baking ideas, they said.  They know me so well.  One friend sent me an email invite...and now I'm on pinterest.

Why do I bring this up? Simply because they were right (and so was I). I admittedly still don't really get pinterest, but I've wasted plenty of time searching for recipes and baking ideas.  I even had some free time on vacation and found a bunch of recipes.  It doesn't help that we consumed a TON of Oreos on vacation, and despite the fact that I don't love Oreos, I still helped eat a few.  Which caused me to find a bunch of Oreo-inspired treats (ranging from homemade Oreos to Oreo icing to things baked with Oreos in them).  I also found a few cute ideas for upcoming parties.  Stay tuned :)

JulieBakes got a makeover!

I have to be honest with you.  I haven't loved the layout of the blog for a long time.  I (secretly) wanted polka dots.  It didn't seem like a huge request.  A polka dotted background.  In pink or black, perhaps dark grey, I wasn't married to any particular color.  But I lack the prowess needed to add a background other than those pre-chosen ones on the blogger site.  That was until a conversation with a friend over vacation, in which he informed me that he could make my polka dotted background (and a banner that I had drawn out for him).  He could make my blog template dreams come true!!  I was glad he was up to the challenge, as the morning after we got back from vacation, there it was...in my inbox in a few installments...my dream banner and background.

So, friends, what do you think of this new polka-dotted blog?  Tell me what you think - I love any and all suggestions.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Granola bars....two ways

I'm leaving for vacation this weekend.  It is, in my humble opinion, way overdue and well deserved.  I ended the week at work with two very long and hard days.  Seven days in the Carribean seems to be just what the doctor, er nurse practitioner, ordered!

Our flight is at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday.  That's early for a Sunday (at least for me, if i'm not working).  Especially when you take into account the amount of time it takes to get to the airport and the amount of time before your flight that you are required to arrive.  I figured some homemade granola bars for breakfast would be a nice treat for those of us going (all 21 of us!). 

The only issue was what kind of granola bars - fruit-based or chocolate-based.  Eventually, I decided on both of them.  Besides the "add ins" in the granola bars, the recipes did vary.  The majority of the ingredients were the same - oats, honey, brown sugar, wheat germ - and involved mixing the honey and brown sugar over heat and then mixing it with the dry ingredients.  One major difference - the first batch required baking them, whereas the second batch did not (I recommend baking them the full amount of time, as I think I underbaked mine and they were a little crumbly when I was cutting them).  Additionally, the chocolate chip granola bars call for flax and rice krispie cereal.

Individually wrapped with wax paper and some twine

A mixture of the two types of granola bars all wrapped up :)
Granola Bars with Almonds and Apricots

8 oz (approximately 2 cups) old-fashioned rolled oats
1.5 oz (approximately 1/2 cup) raw sunflower seeds
3 oz (approximately 1 cup) sliced almonds
1.5 oz (approximately 1/2 cup) wheat germ
6 oz (approximately 1/2 cup), honey
1.75 oz (approximately 1/4 cup packed) dark brown sugar
1 oz unsalted butter, plus more to butter the pan
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6.5 oz chopped dried fruit (any combination - Alton Brown recommends apricots, cherries, or blueberries)

(And yes, against my better judgement, I actually WEIGHED the ingredients and didn't measure them out, which would've been SO much easier!)

Butter a 9x9" glass baking dish (I used a metal pan, and sprayed it with pam instead of buttering it) and preheat the oven to 350F.
Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ on a pan.  Toast in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.
Once the oats are toasted, remove them from the oven.  Decrease the oven temperature to 300F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Cut into squares (or bars, as I chose to do) and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

1/2 cup of honey or corn syrup (I used honey)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups quick oats
2 cups Rice Krispie cereal (I used Trader Joe's brand) 
1/4 cup ground flax seed (of note, I bought whole flax seeds and had a very hard time grinding them...I advise that you buy the flax seeds ground.  I also assume - though I didn't try (I wish I had) - that using wheat germ in place of the ground flax seeds may work as well)
1 or 2 Tbsp wheat germ
1 c. total of your favorite mix-ins

In a small sauce pan, mix honey and/or corn syrup and brown sugar.
Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved – Stir constantly.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in peanut butter.
Mix the oats, cereal, flax seed, and optional wheat germ in a large bowl.
Pour honey mixture over dry ingredients — mix well.
Stir in chocolate chips or other  "mix-ins" (ie. nuts, dried fruit, or others)
Press mixture into a 9″ x 13″ pan that has been greased or lined with wax paper.
Let cool and harden a little
Cut into bars and store in an air-tight container. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

JulieBakes has a Facebook page

JulieBakes now has a Facebook page!  If you're on Facebook, you should check it out.  Stay tuned for some sneak peaks and upcoming ideas.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's day cake pops

Valentine's day and chocolate seem to go hand-in-hand, so when deciding what type of Valentine's Day cake pops to make, chocolate seemed like the obvious choice.  So I went with double dark chocolate cake pops dipped in vanilla coating and decorated with Valentine's Day colors and all things heart-shaped.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Check out the cake pops I made last time for the recipe

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lovin' spoonfuls

Today I came across this cute idea.  It was in a magazine that a patient had left open on the desk in the room when she left.  As I was picking it up to bring it back to the waiting room, I glanced at the opened pages.  There they were, these cute little spoons with chocolate (not to be confused with the chocolate spoons I made before), decorated for Valentine's Day, but I think they could be made for any holiday.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had plenty of Valentine's Day themed decorations at home already, but I bought a few on my way home from work.  Most important of those were conversation hearts.  I loved them when I was a kid.  Back when "fax me" was an up and coming message (ha!  Fax me?  Who OK'd that?).  An added bonus?  I already had red plastic spoons at home, leftover from the Super Bowl, and a few pink ones, too.

These are really easy to make and look great!  Can't wait to try them for other holidays.

Waiting to cool, be put in bags, and tied up.

Lovin' Spoonfuls


White chocolate
Small Valentine's themed candies
Plastic Spoons
Lollipop bags
Twist ties or ribbon


1.  Arrange spoons along the edge of a cookie sheet with a rim, so that the bowls of the spoons are level.
2.  Melt 6 oz of white chocolate for every 8 spoons that you are using.  Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, then transfer to a ziplock bag.
3.  Trim the corner off of the bag and pipe the chocolate into each spoon and gently tap the spoons to level the chocolate.
4.  Sprinkle the candies, sprinkles, and nonpareils. 
5.  Let the chocolate cool completely, then transfer to lollipop bags.  Tie with ribbon or twist ties.

You can include a note stating that the chocolate can be eaten off the spoon or used as a hot cocoa stirrer.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Burger fake-out

I don't like hamburgers.  There, I said it.  I have nothing against meat, but I just don't like burgers.  Also on the foods-I-don't-like list: ketchup.  Ketchup is actually number one on the list.  However, when I saw these "burgers" in Martha Stewart Living, I had to check them out on the blog that the magazine mentioned.  I will admit, I had grand plans for these burgers, but I ran out of time, so I just adorned them with icing "ketchup."  My original plan included fondant "cheese," dyed green coconut "lettuce," and some icing "mustard."

My original goal was to make them as sliders - mini burgers - because of my penchant for all things mini.  I started out with homemade brownies and sugar cookies, but ended up making some with (gasp!) store-bought sugar cookie dough for the sake of saving time.  I have to admit, the homemade sugar cookies looked more like "buns" to me than the store-bought cookie dough, which seemed to have flattened out a lot when they baked.  Also, the store bought cookies spread out too much so it made making sliders difficult.

I went with Martha Stewart's sugar cookie recipe and the brownies I've been making recently.  I dyed store-bought icing (cream cheese, since thats what I had in the fridge, left over from my cake pop experiment recently) red for the "ketchup" - which is the closest I'm ever going to get to ketchup.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Nutella cupcakes for Nutella day!

Today, Monday February 6th, is Nutella Day.  In honor of such a wonderful day (what would the world be like without Nutella?), I'm sharing with you these awesome Nutella cupcakes.  I stumbled on this recipe a while ago, and have made it several times, each time with a resounding round of "oohs" and "ahhs."  And generally followed by a request for me to make them again....very soon.

The recipe says it makes 12 cupcakes, but I always get extras.  This time I made 1 and a half times the recipe, and ended up with 24 cupcakes.  I love to garnish them exactly like the recipe says to: with the ganache and a few pieces of chopped toasted hazelnuts.

Happy Nutella Day!

Nutella Cupcakes



1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup sugar
8 oz Nutella
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
(The recipe later on says to add vanilla, but there is no amount listed; I usually go with about 1/2 tsp)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Whisk together the flour and salt and set aside.
3. Beat the butter until creamy. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat until well-blended. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy and pale. Beat in the Nutella until well-incorporated, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl while beating (it gets thick, don't be alarmed). Add the eggs and beat until smooth.
4.  Turn to low.  Beat in half the flour mixture just until it beings to disappear into the batter. Beat in the milk. Fold in the remainder of the flour mixture by hand until the batter is smooth (I used the hand mixer for the last part and they came out fine).
4. Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them no more than 1/2 full. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs -- if in doubt, pull them from the oven a bit early -- do not over bake. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.


3 oz high-quality bittersweet chocolate chips
1.5 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
(I add just under 1/8 tsp of hazelnut extract, too)

1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

1. Place the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stopping to stir after each interval, until the mixture is shiny and smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
2. When the cupcakes are completely cool, using a spoon, top each one with about two teaspoons of the ganache, and with the back of the spoon coax it as close to the edges as possible without letting it drip down the sides.  Sprinkle on a bit of the chopped hazelnuts.
3. Let the ganache set before storing in an airtight container at room temperature overnight--these cupcakes truly taste better the next day. If serving immediately, refrigerate them for about five minutes and the ganache will quickly set.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super bowl

This year's super bowl is exciting not only because the home team is playing, but also because I actually have the day off! In the past six years, I have worked every super bowl Sunday. I chose to celebrate having the day off by hosting a little get together at my apartment for the game.

In traditional Julie fashion, I planned a hugely elaborate menu, sticking mainly to hors d'ourves/snack-y foods and desserts.

I started a few days early by making the sweet and spicy candied nuts, the jalapeño-cheddar scones (which I didn't get to serve), and the roasted and shredded beef. Then, I made some of the chocolate lollipops. My original intent was to make football lollipops as well as helmet lollipops in the colors of the teams playing, but finding/making navy chocolate proved to be harder than I thought it would.

Then I pared down my menu. Pretty substantially. It was way too much food for the dozen or so people who were expected.

The day before I started with the remaining foods on my now-paired-down list. Greek lamb meatballs, buffalo chicken mini meatballs (the original recipe called for mini, it wasn't my doing!), my grandmother's hot dog appetizer (which I also didn't get to serve), spinach dip (which I also didn't get to serve), and macaroni and cheese. I took a short cut with the salsa, hummus, jalapeño poppers (from the freezer aisle), and buffalo wings (from a local bar) and bought them.

Dessert was chocolate lollipops, nutella cupcakes in football wrappers, and cookie-and-brownie "burgers" (idea taken from this blog, but I made everything from scratch). Why nutella cupcakes, you may wonder? Because tomorrow is Nutella Day and I promised a friend I'd make Nutella cupcakes for Nutella day!

Congrats to the Giants on an awesome win!

View photo.JPG in slide show
Some of the spreads

Macaroni and cheese

The first time I set out to make homemade macaroni and cheese years ago, I decided I'd go with a fancy version.  It was called "Cheesemonger's Mac and Cheese" and used, among other cheeses, brie.  I remember tediously taking off the rind of the brie and then cutting it into cubes which was, given brie's natural softness, difficult at best.  Then, I hand-grated the other cheeses.  It was hard work and I anxiously awaited the final version, only to be let down by the finished product.  I remember it being bland and not at all cheesey (in the "full of cheese" not the "corny sense of humor" way). 

I set out on a mission to find a new, cheesy-tasting macaroni and cheese, and actually found it in the same place, on epicurious.  The second one I made was exactly what I was looking for in a mac n' cheese, and it's been my go-to mac and cheese recipe since then.  Just a warning: this recipe makes A LOT of cheese sauce.  So much so that I recommend you either half the sauce or double the amount of pasta.  I add a little jack cheese just for a little extra richness.

This is mac n' cheese made with half of the sauce and topping recipe, and 1 pound of pasta! 

Macaroni and Cheese


For topping:
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
2 cups panko or 3 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/4 pound (1.5 cups) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (I add some jack cheese)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

For cheese sauce:
1 stick unsalted butter
6 Tbsp flour
5 cups whole milk
1 pound (6 cups) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (again, I add some jack cheese, too)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Make the topping.  Melt butter and then stir with the panko crumbs and the cheese for the toppings until well combined.
3. Make the cheese sauce.  Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour. Cook the roux, stirring, for 3 minutes.  Then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer while whisking occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Remove from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper.
4. Make the pasta.  Cooke pasta in a pot of salted water (2 Tbsp salt in 4 quarts of water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to 2 buttered 2-quart shallow baking dishes.
5. Put together the mac and cheese.  Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Food holidays

No, I'm not talking about breaks from food; I'm talking about holidays celebrating food!  My friend is opening a bar next month called Woodrow's.  It's here in New York City in Tribeca.  For those of you in the tri-state area, you should definitely check it out when it opens!  If you're on Facebook, you can check it out there, too.  But tonight, Woodrow's brought to my attention all of these wonderful national food holidays.  Check them out on Woodrow's calendar.  But here are a few of my favorites:

Friday 2/3 is "National Carrot Cake Day"
Monday 2/6 is "Nutella Day"
Thursday 2/9 is "National Bagels and Lox Day" (how random?)
Saturday 2/18 is "Drink Wine Day" - this coincides well with my vacation that starts the next day

Hope everyone had a great "National Baked Alaska Day"!

Sweet-and-spicy candied nuts, take 2

About three and a half weeks ago, I made these sweet-and-spicy candied nuts, with one major flaw: I accidentally left out the granulated sugar!  Desperate to try and salvage them, I tossed the warm nuts, just out of the oven, with granulated sugar with some success.  However, when it came to planning for the super bowl, I thought that these nuts - in their original form - would be a great snack.  Plus, I promised you I'd eventually make them properly.

Now these nuts definitely hold up to the rave reviews.  I made mine with a few shakes of cayenne pepper, but they could've used a little more.  Some were perfectly spiced, but a few bites were more sweet than spicy.  They're super easy to make, amazingly tasty, and would make a great gift if you want to bring a homemade gift to someone's home - plus they travel well!

Check out the original blog post for the recipe.  But check out what they look like when made properly.  I just hope these last until the super bowl...

 Sadly, I've learned that pictures of candied nuts don't do them justice.

Jalapeño-cheddar scones

Most people will be surprised to see this recipe on this blog.  I think it's because most people forget that baking can be savory, too.  I've made this recipe a few times before, and it's always a big hit.  They have great jalapeño flavor without being too spicy (I think to increase the heat you can add extra jalapeños or sautee them briefly (or not at all) to increase the heat factor, though I haven't tried either of those yet).  I choose to cut mine into little circle scones instead of the typical wedge-shaped scone.  I also make them mini (by now, you shouldn't be shocked).  Why mini scones, you might ask?  The answer is simple - I like to serve them as an appetizer, straight out of the oven (while most sweet scones can be served room temperature, these are really the best straight out of the oven, as the cheese is still soft and melty).  And I think they'll be perfect for my superbowl party this weekend (while I am not a football fan, I am rooting for the home team, so here is my shameless bias: GO GIANTS!).

Since I have an extensive menu planned (again, not a huge shocker here), I figured I'd try and start a few days early.  I made the scones tonight and the put them in the freezer.  They can be baked straight from the freezer, too - all you need to do is add an extra minute or two.  Just be sure to put the egg wash on after you take them out of the freezer (translation: don't freeze them with the egg wash on them).  I made a double batch so that I could give some to my parents to take to the super bowl party that they're going to.

But of course I had to test them out tonight, you know, just to make sure they're OK ;-)

After I cut out all the circles, I refolded the dough and cut out more.
Not wanting to be wasteful, I used the scraps from the second round
and just made a few wedges to bake up tonight.

And my little taste tester (minus the egg wash, since I wasn't making an entire egg wash tonight just to glaze this little guy and his few "tester" buddies):

Jalapeño-Cheddar Scones (from SmittenKitchen.com)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces) cold butter, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, divided
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, diced - I always use white cheddar, although i'm not completely sure why.  I've also thought about trying monterey jack or pepper jack cheese, but I always stop myself, because why fix something that doesn't need fixing?
2 small jalapeño peppers, minced

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and sauté the jalapeños in it until soft. Let them cool, then mix them with the cheddar cheese in a small bowl and coat them with one tablespoon of the flour.

Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt. Cut in the remaining butter with a pastry blender, fork or two knives, until the butter bits are pea sized.

Lightly whip two of the eggs and cream and add to the flour-butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, fold mixture until it begins to come together. Add the cheddar-jalapeño mixture to the dough and mix until everything is well-mixed.

Put the dough on a well-floured surface and gently knead it till it comes together well (less than one minute). Pat dough out to a 3/4- to 1-inch thickness and either cut into 8 triangles or the shape of your choice with a biscuit cutter. Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the scones with egg wash and place on a parchment-lined (or well-oiled) baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.