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!!!

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.

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

Nutella Mug Cake

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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.

Rustic Fruit Tart (Galette)

Can you believe it is already the end of August? I feel like I just returned home and now I am already packing my suitcases again. Summer is quickly coming to an end and I still have so many recipes on my “To make” list!

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I made this tart for a dinner at a family friend, Linda’s house last Friday. Since I had to work that day, I wasn’t sure if I would have enough time to make it. So the night before, I made the dough for the crust and chopped up the fruits.

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The next day, I rushed back home after work and went straight for the refrigerator so I could get my dough. I rolled it out very thin and arranged the fruits in a pretty pattern.

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The most challenging step (which really is not that challenging) was folding the crust onto the fruits without breaking it. Thankfully, my mom was there to assist with her expert dumpling folding skills! After that, I brushed the crust with egg and sprinkled sugar on it.

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Just 30 minutes of oven-time later, I had a spectacular galette! Just in time for the dinner!

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This beautiful fruit tart with a free-form crust is an iconic summer dessert. It is technically called a galette, which is a French dessert. It is literally overflowing with fresh nectarines, strawberries, and blueberries. The best part was how easy it was to make. The ingredients are simple and there are not many steps.

RUSTIC FRUIT TART (GALETTE)

Ingredients

Filling
2 nectarines, sliced
2 cups strawberries, sliced
3/4 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg (for egg wash)
additional sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Filling: Mix fruits together in a medium bowl. Coat well with sugar and vanilla. Set aside and allow mixture to soak.

Crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Add in the cubes of butter and mix until roughly blended.
Add ice water and stir with a fork until mixture becomes dough-like. Knead dough so it comes together. Shape into a ball and flatten. Wrap with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a thin 12-inch circle. Transfer to baking sheet.

Arrange fruits onto center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border on the outside. Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit carefully, making sure not to break it.

Brush crust with beaten egg and sprinkle additional sugar on it. Bake for 25-35 minutes (or until crust is golden brown).

Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature!

adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Fudgy Avocado Brownies

How to describe this magnificent creation of a brownie in 3 words?
Fudgy. Dense. Chocolate.

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This is the world’s healthiest brownie. No flour, no butter, no oil!!! It is packed with wonderful nutrients, and it features my good friend, the avocado.

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Let’s take a look at what’s inside the brownie that makes it so healthy.

Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats that are good for your cholesterol. Of course avocados seem like the last ingredient you would want in a dessert but trust me, it works! They are a natural butter and a healthy substitute. A lot of people have doubts about avocados in desserts. Well, actually, you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it! It’s as if it’s not even there.

Walnuts and almonds have omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients that lower blood pressure, lowering risk of heart disease.

Cocoa powder has plenty of flavanoids which act like antioxidants that fend off heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Seriously, how much better can a brownie get?!

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Because there isn’t any flour in the brownies (gluten-free!), the texture isn’t as cake-y as your typical brownies. Instead, they are very dense, moist, and rich. It’s almost like a chocolate mousse. One little bite is an explosion of chocolatey goodness in your mouth. They are especially delicious when eaten chilled with a nice glass of milk.

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These brownies totally beat the box brownies (which are good I’ll admit) but they are way too healthy to pass up. It makes me so excited that desserts like brownies can be healthy and just as decadent and yummy. Just another reason to love avocados. 😛

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FUDGY AVOCADO BROWNIES

Ingredients
8 ounces of melted dark chocolate
2 avocados, well-mashed or pureed
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt chocolate and set aside. Mash or puree avocados until smooth and set aside.

Use an electric mixer to whisk eggs and sugar together at medium-high speed, until very light and doubled in volume.

Gradually add in melted chocolate while blending.

Stir in cocoa, almond meal, salt, and vanilla. (To make homemade almond meal, blend slivered, blanched almonds in a blending machine until fine.)

Add in avocado and blend well. Mix in walnuts.

Pour batter into a greased, square baking pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let cool before cutting. Then refrigerate and serve chilled.

😀 😀 😀

adapted from Heather’s French Press

Easy Individual Peach Crumble

Here’s a spectacular dessert that is genius in every way possible. Are you ready? It’s a peach crumble served in a peach! No more messy baking dishes to clean up. The peach crumble is its very own dish.

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My mom and I learned how to make this from a cooking class in Boston for Gourmet cooking! We also made ratatouille (SO good), Thai steamed mussels, and prosciutto wrapped lemon basil chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese. Definitely some fancy dishes.

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The peach crumble is very simple to make and you end up with an extremely tasty dessert. The warm peach’s sweet juices soak into the crumble for a chewy texture, the cinnamon flavor dances on your tongue, and a bite of caramel tops it all off. In the original recipe, caramel is drizzled on to the peaches but I cheated by putting caramel chips on top to save time.

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For optimal results, use BIG, ripe peaches. We bought these huge, round, soft, juicy peaches that remind me of the children’s book James and the Giant Peach. Every bite will be deliciously sweet and juicy.

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EASY PERSONAL PEACH CRUMBLE
serves 4

Ingredients
2 peaches
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)
1/4 cup sugar
Caramel sauce/chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut peaches in half and remove pits. You may want to use a spoon to scoop out a bigger hole for the oats. Lay peaches on a baking sheet, skin side down, and bake for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine butter, oats, flour, cinnamon, allspice, and sugar. Use hands to combine the mixture until well mixed.

Divide the mixture into the 4 peaches. If using caramel chips, put them on top and bake for another 10 minutes, until peaches are soft and oat mixture is browned.

Serve warm and enjoy 😀