Chocolate, Dessert, Feeding Babies, Gluten Free, Snack



I love when Curran brings crafts home from preschool. I do not hang them or keep them, but I love that someone else is doing crafts and artsy things with him so I don't have to. I don't like junk or tchotchkes and I suppose crafts feel like a waste of materials and money. No offense, personal opinion, and I appreciate that other people love them but one cannot be good at all of the things. HOWEVER. My heart is not completely made of stone and I love my children so I went to Michaels (a store specifically for crafty people) last week to pick up Valentines supplies. Cards, stickers, glitter hearts, paint, heart cookie cutters, we're going for it. I really wanted to buy that $4 box of pre-made Minion cards, staple a bag of mini pretzels to it and call it done but my parents always made Valentines really special for my sister and I, so I'm going to do crafts for a minute in the spirit of family tradition. My (crafty) mom still sends us homemade Valentines. Where I do fail them in enthusiasm for crafts, I make up in cooking projects. They like to bake because they've caught on to the outcome. These sunflower butter hearts fit within all the allergy rules at preschool and my kids think cookie cutters are magical. They make a mess and push each other and the whole of it is harder and slower, but I think that is the refinement happening in me at this stage of parenting. Everything is harder with them. It just is, and when I quit fighting it and resign to things like Cleo never sleeping in the car no matter how far the drive or Curran being highly sensitive and crying easily, I give up the loosing battle for control. Instead of trying to fix it or solve it, for their sake or mine, I'm better for all of us. I'll be damned if they look back and think I didn't let them in on being in the kitchen, a place I love, because it made it harder and slower for me. Our food will be our crafts if that's how I need to do it. 

So. I applaud you if you have mini bags of pretzels or conversation hearts, but if you're up for a pretty simple, two dish cooking project, these could not be easier.

/// EVENT! ///

Hugh and I are hosting a food photography workshop in Seattle, WA on April 28+29. Tickets and a few more notes are available on the shop page. This will be our third workshop at Aran's beautiful studio and the whole experience is so refreshing for us and what we do for work. Hugh will go over light and composition and editing and I'll jump in for some styling and prep food with Aran and we get to bounce ideas off each other and learn how to be better at our craft. Basic understanding of your camera is recommended but you could just use your phone too, it doesn't really matter. We'd love you to come. Feel free to contact me with any questions at all. 


Because I know someone is thinking, "can I use all maple?", the answer is not really. Brown rice syrup is thicker and sets better than maple. It's the sweetener used in most packaged protein bars. I cut it here because I like the flavor of maple better and I wanted the hearts to be a little more tender. In short, you can go all brown rice syrup for the liquid sweetener yield, but not completely maple. They sell it at all health food stores, some conventional grocery stores or more conveniently, albeit more expensive, here
These are mildly chocolatey. If you want more, add a generous handful of chocolate chips to the mixture. 

1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup sunflower butter
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup rice crisp cereal
1 cup quick cooking oats*

* the quick cooking ones have a softer texture. The old fashioned sort will work, but have a bit of a raw taste in context as they're thicker. I'd suggest pulsing them in a blender or food processor if you go this route. 


Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. 

In a large saucepan, warm the rice syrup and maple. Add the sunflower butter and coconut oil and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and let it cool a moment. Add the salt, cocoa powder, rice cereal and oats. Stir to mix. 
Tip the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth down the top with damp hands. The mixture will be sticky, damp hands will help. 
Let it set in the fridge for a couple hours before cutting them into squares or using a cookie cutter for shapes. 
They are best kept in the fridge, and will keep covered for 3-5 days. 

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Chocolate, Dessert, Summer


There was a recent article in Bon Appetite with some recipes for making perfect cookies for ice cream sams. They were thin and crisp, one of which read a bit overly fussy to me, but I can appreciate the extra effort to get something just right. That is not my life right now, I'm more about ease and speed, but I appreciate it. They looked pretty and would undoubtedly be delicious, but I'm quite happy with our current "house cookie" acting as book ends to a creamy scoop of ice cream... or as a skillet cookie, I'll put those notes below. The recipe started at Tara O'Brady's chocolate chip cookies but they're looking pretty far from her original at this point, so I'll leave you her words here. I replace some of the flour with oats and reduce the leaveners for this reason (and also because I don't want a poofy cookie for an ice cream sam). I skip browning the butter out of sheer laziness, though I assume you could handle that step if you wish. I also let the dough sit overnight a la Jacques Torres which he swears makes all the difference and is habit for me now. All sorts of cookie science here on Serious Eats. 

I made these for a dinner with friends, which is great because a sit in the freezer is necessary, making them a great make-ahead dessert. When you eat them straight off assembly, the cookie and ice cream are both too soft and they make a big mess. When you assemble them, and then freeze them again together, they become the same temperature/consistency, so they are just easier to eat. Because thin and crispy is also delicious and homemade is not always possible, in a pinch, the Tate's cookies (or gluten free chocolate chip ones from Trader Joes which are private labeled from Tate's) are perfect. Just have dinner with friends, that's the important part. xo


To make this a skillet cookie, simply press half the dough into an 10" skillet and cook it at 325' for about 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. The center will still look tender but that's ok, it will set more as it cools. Let it rest for 10 minutes before topping it with ice cream and serving.  
You can halve this cookie recipe and end up with about 16 cookies/8 sandwiches. Specifics will depend on how big you make your dough balls. 

2 sticks/ 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar or muscavado sugar
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or chips
flaky salt, for finishing
1 quart vanilla bean, coffee, or chocolate chip ice cream

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and both sugars for a good two minutes. Add the eggs, salt and vanilla and mix again, scraping down the sides so it is all incorporated. Add the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and mix again until just combined, do not overmix. Add the chocolate, one more quick mix, scrape down the sides, and store it in the fridge for at least 6 hours, up to overnight. 
Preheat the oven to 350'. Make golfball size rounds and arrange them on cookie sheets or baking pans. Press down the center gently and sprinkle them with flaky salt. Bake on the middle rack for 8-10 minutes until the edges are browned and the center still looks slightly tender. You want them slightly underdone. Remove the tray, smack it on the counter, and let them cool a few minutes. Remove from the tray and let them cool completely on a wire rack. 
Assemble each sandwich with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center and then gently smush them together to press down the ice cream ball. Freeze them for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. 
*I put a long skinny tupperware in the freezer and just stash them in there as I assemble. They should last for about a week, or longer if you keep them individually wrapped in plastic wrap. 

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Dessert, Chocolate


These are not necessarily the direction I see this site going but there is a time and place for everything and sometimes that's an excellent brownie. I was paging through cookbooks for inspiration and Hugh couldn't get past these in the Food52 Baking Cookbook. I have a people pleasing problem and I also like rich, chocolate things so here we are in deep, chocolate deliciousness. I started a Chocolate tab in the recipes section because sometimes you just need a treat that isn't made of oats or date paste. But you also sometimes do, so those will be in there too when applicable, but maybe not today. I've been trying to host more lately and have found it causes me far less stress when I make things I am familiar with versus trying new recipes. Go figure. I like trying something new but freshly baked cookies or brownies a la mode are crowd favorites. I have three go-to brownie recipes: these (if you like thinner, truffle-like ones), the peanut butter frosted ones from Ashley's book Date Night In (recipe) and the ones I tested for Sarah Kieffer's The Vanilla Bean Baking Book that comes out in November. And now I am adding these with their tender, chocolate chip center. So, if you are in the mood for the serious stuff, or you just want to finish a meal with friends with a bang, these little babes are SO good. 

Makes 6 large brownies
Adapted from Food 52 Baking

I halved the recipe as I don't often need 12 brownie-lava-cake things. Double it if you do, which closer to how their recipe is originally written. They suggest putting a few tablespoons of water in the empty spots but I found these gave the brownies a steamed texture and I prefer crunchy topped brownies. I would just leave them empty next time. 

1/2 cup/ 1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup natural cane sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch processed)
1/2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
scant 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or 1/3 cup superfine rice flour + 1 Tbsp. cornstarch for GF option)
2 tsp. finely ground coffee
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325' and generously butter and flour (6) spots in a nonstick muffin tin or line with large cupcake liners.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling it until it starts to brown and smell nutty. About 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the granulated sugar, cocoa, water, vanilla and sat. Let it cool for 5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the flour and ground coffee and mix vigorously for a minute. Stir in the walnuts.
Spoon the batter into the prepared tins. You can fill them most of the way as they do not rise much. Press some of the chocolate chips into the center of each cupcake to create a chocolate center and sprinkle a few walnut pieces on top. 
Bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges are set but the middle is still gooey. Let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove carefully. 
Serve warm with a scoop or ice cream or whipping cream if you're feeling decadent. 
Store leftovers in a resealable bag at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for a few months. 

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