Craving: Chocolate Chex Crunch

Chocolate Chex Mix Buddies

Maybe you’ve heard of this chocolatey-peanut-buttery snack mix as “Puppy Chow” or “Muddy Buddies” – but I think those are terrible names! So maybe “Chocolate Chex Crunch” isn’t very creative, but at least it’s descriptive (and a little more appetizing). Easier to make than Rice Krispies Treats, this Chex™ cereal recipe should be in every chocolate lover’s repertoire. Truth be told, I can’t stop eating the stuff – to the point where my kids have started to hide the container from me (“for my own good”). I use good-quality Ghirardelli semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, so the addition of vanilla (per the Chex recipe) isn’t really necessary. You can find the original recipe on the back of Chex cereals, or my version below. Continue reading

Festive Peppermint Patties

Festive Peppermint Patties

My Ivy-educated, strawberry-blonde sister-in-law Cele has a dry wit and too many talents to itemize, though right up at the top of the list would have to be baking (which she’d deny) and her signature Christmas Cookie Platter. Such precision! Every cookie is perfectly uniform, as if each dough ball were weighed and measured before being shaping into a crescent or whatever. And for me, the stars of Cele’s famous Platter (and the first to disappear) are her quarter-sized, chocolate-dunked peppermint patties. Continue reading

No-Bake Grasshopper Pie

No-Bake Grasshopper Pie

Sure – red, white and blue flag cakes are really cute and patriotic, but there’s an easier summer dessert that will get just as many ooohs and ahhhs from the crowd: No-Bake Grasshopper Pie.  In summer, sometimes simple is best. Especially if simple involves mint chocolate chip ice cream. And Oreos.  Continue reading

No Yolk: Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta “Eggs”

April Fool's Panna Cotta Egg

Old-world panna cotta is experiencing a renaissance these days, and for good reason. This no-bake, gluten-free dessert is a giggly blank canvas for seasonal flavors and embellishments, from rhubarb compote to gingerbread crumbles. Sounds fancy, but panna cotta is really just barely-sweetened Jell-O made with cream (or milk or Greek yogurt) instead of water. Since it must be made ahead (in order to set up in the fridge), panna cotta perfect for entertaining. Busy restaurants love it for this reason as well.

Back in 1999, when I was voted one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs, I began experimenting with all kinds of different flavorings, shapes and toppings for panna cotta.

That's me - front row, second from the right.

That’s me – front row, second from the right.

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Shortcut Cake Pops

 

If you have kids or visit Starbucks on a regular basis, you know about cake pops.  They’re like Tootsie Pops, but made of mashed-up cake instead of candy (so therefore better for you?), dipped in a glossy coating and dressed up with sprinkles or other accoutrements.

(For some awe-inspiring creations, check out Bakerella.com or search “cake pops” in Pinterest.).

If you’ve ever tried making cake pops, you know that they can be TIME CONSUMING. First you have to bake a cake (albeit from a boxed mix) and let it cool. Then you crumble it up and mix it with a can of frosting.  This dough-like mixture becomes the base for the cake pops. After that you shape, chill, dip and decorate.

Doesn’t it seem crazy to bake a nice cake only to smush it all up? Some smart person though of using Munchins for the centers.  That’s definitely a shortcut (and a lot less messy), but if you’re looking for that gooey-cakey texture or want to shape the cake pops into something other than spheres, the donut holes just won’t do.

Well, hold onto your lollypop sticks, folks. I’ve come up with a trick that may forever change the way you make cake pops:  [cue drumroll]

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