Holiday Cocoa Thumbprint Cookies

Final exams are finally over, which means that I am back home ready to relax and enjoy life again (not to be dramatic). The holidays are coming up right around the corner but of course my friends and I couldn’t leave school without celebrating them a little. So we made cocoa thumbprint cookies with Hershey’s peppermint kisses and mini marshmallows as fillings! (Shoutout to Jeana for making them with me :D)

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This was actually my first time using the oven, which is in the common kitchen on the first floor of my dorm. We booked it for 10 PM on a Friday night since that was the only available time – the kitchen is on high demand near the holiday season!

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Now that most of us are home now, there’s no reason to worry about not having access to an oven…which means everyone should be making cookies!! Happy Holidays!

HOLIDAY COCOA THUMBPRINT COOKIES
(makes about 2 dozen)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Mini marshmallows or Hershey’s kisses for filling

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add the melted butter and eggs and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl.

Roll  tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and then roll them in the confectioners’ sugar. Place 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Lightly flatten each ball with your fingers and make a deep 1/2-inch-wide indentation in the centers with your thumb.

Bake the cookies until puffed and slightly cracked, about 10 minutes. Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets and then add the fillings. Then transfer to racks to cool completely.

adapted from Food Network

Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles

Classes for this semester have officially come to an end, even though it feels like they just started! One of my favorite classes this year was Oral Presentations, where we worked on communication and presenting skills by giving a different type of presentation almost every week. One of my last presentations was about this blog! I showed about 20 slides of just pictures of food from my blog, which had everyone drooling by the end. The presentation went great – but the one thing I forgot was to actually bring food for everyone!

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So I promised my class I would bring in something for them next time…which is how these truffles came to be. They are a variation of my Fudgy Avocado Brownies. I love these truffles because they don’t require an oven! Even better, I only needed three ingredients.

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I actually made these twice. The first time, my suitemates said were too creamy and soft. The next time, I chopped up little bits of chocolate and added them to the mix so the truffles were a little crunchier and not just a mouthful of creaminess. Then, I refrigerated them over night to harden them. The next day, they were perfect.

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I know the question you all have in mind is…Can you taste the avocado? Some say they can, some say they can’t. It also depends on whether you tell people there is avocado in it. If you tell them, they will “search” for the avocado taste and are more likely to say they can taste it. Personally, I think the truffles are very chocolately but with a pleasant twist of a flavor.

Try and see what you think! 🙂

DARK CHOCOLATE AVOCADO TRUFFLES
(makes 18-20)

Ingredients
1 medium avocado, ripe
10 oz dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Directions

Cut avocado and scoop out flesh. Mash until there are no more chunks using a fork, electric hand mixer or food processor.

Take 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and roughly chop into small bits. Set aside.
*NOTE: This step is optional. Adding chunks of chocolate will make the truffle crunchy to break up the smooth texture. If you prefer smooth and creamy, feel free to leave this step out!

Melt the rest of the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. The best way to do this without burning the chocolate is microwaving in 10 second intervals and then stirring, and repeat until completely melted.

Scoop avocado mixture into the bowl with melted chocolate and mix until well-blended. Stir in the chocolate chip bits.

Refrigerate the chocolate-avocado mixture for an hour.

Scoop out 1 tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball using your palms. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

With the cocoa powder on a separate plate, roll the balls into the cocoa powder until completely covered.

Enjoy!!!

Easy Pecan Pie

I’m not proud to admit that my first attempt at making pecan pie resulted in some variation of maple syrup flavored eggs…ew. I tried heat up the pecan pie filling in a sauce pan and poured in the eggs too quickly, so that they didn’t  blend evenly and ended up being cooked egg on its own. I was disgusted, disappointed, and decided to settle for an easier recipe.

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Pecan pie cannot get any easier than this. You simply mix the ingredients all together, pour the mixture into a pre-made crust, and bake. There’s no “pre-baked pie crust” or “heating the pie filling before” business involved. And you’re still magically left with a delicious, ooey-gooey pecan pie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI made this pie back home in Boston for Thanksgiving. It was definitely a well-needed break and I enjoyed every second of it. I went to the Cape with my family, had tea with them in Boston, did plenty of shopping, got to bake (with a REAL oven finally!), and saw the new Hunger Games movie!

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EASY PECAN PIE

Ingredients
2 cups pecans
3 eggs
1 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll refrigerated pie crust into 9-inch pie pan.

Roughly chop pecans and roast for 7 minutes.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Stir in maple syrup, butter, and vanilla extract.

Add brown sugar, flour, and the pecans.  Mix well.

Optional: Before putting pie into oven, decorate with unchopped pecans on the top of the pie.

Bake for 50-60 minutes so that a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the pie.

Cuban Guava Pastries

This week my school had a “Cooking For Change” event, where students can make an international dish and bring samples to share. Anyone can come eat samples of the dishes and vote on their favorites with coins, that are donated to Syrian refugees. My friend Rachel and I made Cuban guava pastries (pastelitos de guayaba). I’ve never had guava before so it was exciting to make something so new and exotic. In case you also have never tried guava, it is a tropical fruit that tastes like a mix of melon and strawberry!

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Rachel had made these before so she taught me how and it turned out to be very simple. Since the stores around us don’t sell guava paste, we had to make a quick trip to Giant for our supplies: guava paste, cream cheese, and puff pastry. We used a toaster oven to bake them (in several batches), which was very convenient.

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These bite-sized pastries are easy to eat and don’t create a mess. They are SO delicious, especially when they are eaten warm and fresh out of the oven. The combination of cream cheese and guava jelly melded into each other, surrounded by flaky, buttery puff pastry is…unparalleled. Another version of this dessert is using brie and jelly instead of cream cheese and guava paste, which also tastes amazing.

CUBAN GUAVA PASTRIES
(makes 30)

Ingredients
2 puff pastry sheets
1 can guava paste (or jelly)
4 oz cream cheese
1 egg

Directions

Using a rolling pin, roll out puff pastry sheets so they are thinner. (We used a glass bottle instead of a rolling pin.)

IMG_0379Cut squares of guava paste and arrange onto 1 puff pastry sheet.

Cut similar-sized squares of cream cheese and place on top of guava paste.

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Beat an egg. Brush egg in the shape of a grid onto puff pastry sheet. This is used to glue the 2 puff pastry sheets together.

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Cover with the other puff pastry sheet.

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Using a knife, cut individual squares and press 2 sheets together. Use a fork to make crimps on each side.

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Brush tops with egg wash. Bake in oven at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. If using a toaster oven, you may need several batches.

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Until this year, I have been completely oblivious to the craze for pumpkin recipes in Autumn. Have I been hiding under a rock or something?! Suddenly this year, I see pumpkin everywhere. The most pumpkin I’ve had was traditional pumpkin pie which was why I was blown away by all the different foods you can put pumpkin in. I wanted to make a pumpkin recipe so what better food to put pumpkin in than…muffins.

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It was a perfect opportunity to test out my brand new toaster oven muffin tin! If you had told me in the beginning of the year that I could make muffins in a toaster oven, I would have laughed and totally dismiss that idea. Toaster ovens have not been known to be the best method for baking since the temperature is very variable. I guess I’m either super lucky or have a magical toaster oven because my muffins came out great!

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These pumpkin chocolate chip muffins were very moist and had a subtle pumpkin flavor. I was more than pleasantly surprised. What’s even better than successful muffins is successful healthy muffins. These were made using whole-wheat flour and Greek yogurt. Pumpkins are awesome because they are rich in fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins A, C, and E.

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As my suitemates can probably tell you, I was so excited that these muffins came out well and I’ll definitely be making more muffins in the future.

Ingredients 
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1 large egg
1/4 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt (Chobani)
1/2 can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Topping:
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Line 6 muffin cups with paper liners and spray with nonstick spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and yogurt. Add the pumpkin puree and the oil, whisking to combine.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Batter will be thick.

Fold in chocolate chips.

For the topping, mix sugar with cinnamon. Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling each cup to the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in toaster oven at 300 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in one of the muffins comes out clean. Cool in pan a few minutes, then on a wire rack. If baking in a regular oven, you should bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One Serving Apple Crumble

Cooking and baking in suite 611 is going to be brought to a whole new level…I bought ramekins and toaster oven supplies! Toaster ovens can do lots of things but they can’t be fully taken advantage of without the proper equipment. I ordered a package of supplies – a 6 muffin tin, a baking sheet, and a tray that all fit in the toaster oven.

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Now let’s talk about apples. Apples are no doubt the most popular fruit of Autumn. After all, it is the season for apple picking, apple pies, and caramel apples. This fresh, crisp fruit has countless health benefits. They contain lots of fiber, Vitamins A and C, and pectin. Apples keep you full for a long time with few calories, are good for your immune system, and the pectin helps reduce cholesterol levels.

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A while ago, I baked apple crisps served in an apple (similar to Easy Individual Peach Crumble) since I didn’t have any baking dishes back then. I made it at night so the pictures did not turn out so great, but I’ll post one so you can get an idea.

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They turned out SO delicious and I’ve been meaning to recreate it but haven’t had the chance. When my ramekins arrived the other day, I thought it would be perfect to make an easy fruit crumble so I chopped up some apples and added some oats and put it in the toaster oven for several minutes.

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Apple crumble is a perfect way to enjoy a warm, healthy fruit dessert during these chillier days of Fall. We’ve all heard the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” maybe one too many times but it still holds true so I’m going to be on the search for many more recipes I can use apples in. 😀

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ONE SERVING APPLE CRUMBLE

Ingredients

Crumble Topping
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Apple Filling
1 medium apple, diced in 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Combine all the crumble ingredients until they are mixed well.

In a ramekin, microwave diced apples and butter for one minute to soften apples.

Add sugar and cinnamon, stirring to coat evenly. Sprinkle with crumble topping and put in the toaster oven at 300 degrees F for 5 minutes or until the top is golden brown. (You can also microwave it for 2 minutes).

Easy Nutella Cheesecake

I could eat spoonfuls of straight up Nutella anytime, anywhere, any day. This smooth, creamy, chocolatey, hazelnut spread is something that once you’re introduced to, there is absolutely no going back. It’s just so…addicting.

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Starting last year, I’ve been incorporating Nutella in a lot of my baking. It all started with some amazing Nutella cookies stuffed with Nutella for a friend’s birthday. Ever since, I’ve been putting it into everything, like Nutella Swirled Banana Walnut Bread and Nutella Mug Cake.

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This time I made it the star ingredient of a very simple cheesecake (no-bake!) There are only 4 ingredients: Nutella, cream cheese, vanilla, and a graham crust. Just 4 ingredients for a dessert this wonderful? And no oven needed? I almost still can’t believe it.

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This delicious cheesecake was for my really good friend, Bahareh’s birthday. Since it was my first time making it, I was worried how it would turn out in the end.

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Well, it was spectacular! One forkful was an intense rush of that creamy Nutella flavor. It was different from regular Nutella since it had been in the freezer for 4 hours. If you’re a fan of Nutella, you’ve got to try this cheesecake because chilled Nutella…it’s a whooole new experience 🙂

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EASY NUTELLA CHEESECAKE

Ingredients
1 jar (13 oz) Nutella
18 oz cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 graham crust
6 Ferro Rocher chocolates (optional)

Directions

Beat the cream cheese and vanilla together until blended.

Mix in the Nutella using a hand-mixer or food processor.

Spread mixture into graham crust so that it is smooth.

Decorate with Ferro Rocher chocolates (optional).

Chill in fridge for at least 4 hours.

adapted from delishhh

Frozen Chocolate-Covered Bananas

Some days, in between meals, I am in desperate need of a little snack before I run off to my next class. I’ve found that bananas are a college student’s best friend when in a hurry. They give you energy (potassium!), they are mess-free, and you can eat them with as little as 3 (humongous) bites.

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Unfortunately, bananas are not the most interesting fruit. They can get boring. To mix it up, sometimes I add some excitement by eating bananas with peanut butter. One day, I got the idea of a fancier banana that brings this fruit to a whole new level…frozen-chocolate covered bananas! I thought it would be a simple, easy-to-make treat since all it took were 3 ingredients…

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Problem 1: I did not have any popsicle sticks for the bananas. I didn’t even know where I could buy popsicle sticks around campus! So, I used spare wooden chopsticks that we use for sushi!

Problem 2: The slow-cooker crockpot I brought from home that I was going to use as a chocolate melter wasn’t working. I took a chance with the microwave but was skeptical since I’ve never successfully melted chocolate with a microwave. This time I microwaved the chocolate chips with 20 second intervals and stirred in between with a chopstick and it worked out nicely!

Problem 3: I thought it would be difficult to dip the bananas in a bowl so I heated the chocolate up in a mug for easier dipping!

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And the best part of this yummy snack? They’re covered with chopped almonds! I was SO delighted when I found out the school grocery store (which has been re-done over the summer to look like a miniature version of Whole Foods) has unsalted mixed nuts. Over the summer, I had become heavily dependent on Costco’s deluxe unsalted mixed nuts for snacking and felt devastated that I wouldn’t have them at school. I immediately bought a whole bag of nuts as soon as I found out we had them!

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FROZEN CHOCOLATE-COVERED BANANAS
makes 4

Ingredients
2 bananas
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup almonds (or other nuts), crushed
4 popsicle sticks (or wooden chopsticks)

Directions

Peel bananas completely and cut in half.

Put a popsicle stick through each banana half. Freeze for 1-2 hours.

Melt chocolate using a chocolate-melter. If using a microwave, microwave for 15-20 second intervals, and stir chocolate in between so you don’t overheat it. For convenience, heat it up in a cup or mug.

Take bananas out of freezer and dip in the chocolate and then the crushed nuts. Make sure to cover with nuts immediately after dipping because the chocolate freezes quickly.

Place bananas back in freezer for 1 hour and then enjoy!

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Nutella Mug Cake

No oven? No problem!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sadly, the kitchen in our college dorm suite does not have a conventional oven. Although we won’t be able to bake cakes, we can still make mug cakes!!! Mug cakes are a college classic since they are a super quick, one serving snack or dessert. This was my first time making one so I was skeptical yet fascinated at the same time.

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These Nutella mug cakes were dessert after the home-made dinner my suitemates and I had (Chicken and Spinach Quesadillas). It was our first time sitting at our small dining table and eating a proper, home-made meal. It took about 2 hours to make the guacamole, quesadillas, and mug cakes and probably less than 20 minutes to eat it all! Still, it was worth it. The four of us agreed that we should try to cook dinner like that every Sunday night, a good way to start off each new week.

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The mug cakes turned out interesting…They were so rich that none of us could finish a whole mug cake in one sitting. The hard part about cooking them in a microwave is that they don’t get heated evenly so some areas were more cooked than others. Overall, it was impressive for a 4 ingredient dessert using a microwave, although not the same as a regular cake of course. Nonetheless, I’ll definitely be making more mug cakes in the future!

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NUTELLA MUG CAKE

Ingredients
4 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup Nutella
3 tbsp milk

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a mug and mix with a fork until evenly blended.

Cook in microwave for 80 seconds. The top should look done but if still wet, microwave for another 15 seconds. Use a toothpick to test whether cake is still gooey on the inside. Let cool in mug completely before eating so that it sets.

adapted from Kirbie’s Cravings

Summer Berry Trifle

My summer officially comes to an end in 12 hours, when I board the plane back to school. Three and a half months full of cooking, working, reading, and seeing friends could not have gone by faster. I am super excited to return to school and see all my friends, but at the same time it’s tough to let go of the carefree days of warm weather and no stress. So to conclude this summer with a bang, I am posting a special treat…a summer berry trifle!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trifles are breathtaking – they look beautiful in their elegant glass containers, standing proudly with a multitude of layers. Aesthetically, these layers of fruit, cream, and cake all blend together amazingly (not to mention the fusion tastes even better). You can make out the different layers but they meld into each other so it’s hard to tell where a layer starts and ends. Basically, a trifle is a bunch of blurred lines (summer song reference anyone?)

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Assembling the trifle is so much fun because you get to see how 3 simple ingredients slowly build up into a gorgeous masterpiece. I had leftover ingredients from the trifle so I made mini ones! They are so cute and would definitely be an awesome treat if you’re only serving several people.

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The task of making my own trifle seemed daunting, but it is actually quite simple. There are 3 parts – the cake, cream, and fruit. For the cake I used store-bought pound cake. The cream was a heavenly mixture of homemade whipped cream and pudding. For the fruit, I used freshly chopped strawberries and blueberries. Yum!

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So that’s all for my summer recipes! Now it is time to head back to college and see if I can make magic in a college dorm kitchen. My mom and I just shipped 2 boxes full of cooking utensils to my dorm so soon enough, we’ll find out if I can make this year’s college dining experience not so average. 😉

SUMMER BERRY TRIFLE

Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 package of instant vanilla pudding
3 cups milk
1 pound cake (9 in.), cut into cubes
3 cups strawberries, cut in halves
2 cups blueberries

Directions

Use an electric mixer to beat heavy cream until stiff peaks are about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until stiff peaks form.

Prepare pudding with milk according to instructions. Fold in half of pudding mixture into whipped cream until blended. Set aside.

In a trifle bowl, layer cubes of pound cake, cream mixture, and berries. Repeat layers.

Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.