Best. Ever. Brownies.

Best Ever Brownies

A good brownie is not easy to find. I’ve had a lot of mediocre brownies in my life. They can be too cakey, too dry, too thin, too sweet, too underdone and the list can go on and on and on. A great brownie, however, can be a bit of an urban legend. Not that many brownies are truly “mmmm…” inducing treats. I actually have quite a list of requirement when it comes to being a properly delicious brownie:

1. Must be fudgy. It has to have that element of goo in the middle. That squidgy, almost underbaked (but not) center that creates a chocolate fudge layer between the more cooked outer layers.

2. Must have a crisp crust/edges. The perfect brownie always has a contrast in texture. This comes from that crisp crust that forms on the very best brownies during baking. Why fo you think people order those special “all edges” brownie pans? It’s that important.

3. Must be rich in chocolate flavor. I’ve been shocked to have chocolate brownies that are a light brown color or that don’t taste like chocolate. WHAT’S THE POINT??? Using good quality cocoa powder and chocolate chips are majorly important here, as well as a tablespoon of espresso powder, which gives anything a deep, chocolate bite.

4. Must be shared. The best thing about a great brownie? Seeing the reaction on people’s faces when they take a bite. Priceless.

Best Ever Brownies

Once you’ve made these brownies, you will never need to look for another recipe. They are that good. How could they be called Best Ever Brownies if they’re not? Do you think I could lie to you? And believe me, I brought these to work and they were devoured happily and greedily. I lost track of how many recipe requests I had! Which got me thinking if I could use these brownies as a base for different combinations of flavor.

I’ve been brainstorming and trying to think of mix-ins for these brownies, but every time I go to try it, I can’t bring myself to mess with the original. If you try it- let me know how it turns out! I want to try raspberries and goats cheese, or a salted caramel swirl, maybe a Turtle brownie? What are your great brownie creations? The possibilities are endless, if only I could try anything other than the OG Best. Ever. Brownie.

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Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

Summer is in full swing now and I’ve been enjoying being outdoors a bit more. It’s just so much more enjoyable walking the dog in the sunshine and in my case, walking down by the river is amazing (except for all the bugs!). So as you’d expect, one of the last things I want to do at this time of year is have the oven on for hours on end. Yet, in order to keep myself sane, I do need to do a bit of baking. Some super simple Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons? Done and done.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut MacaroonsThese little babies are delicious. The light, fluffy coconut clouds are dipped in a rich, bittersweet chocolate that has been melted slowly and speckled with sea salt. Then there’s the arty bit- go all Jackson Pollack after the bottoms have set and drizzle away! Who said baking isn’t fun? I’ve made these macaroons a few times before, but I thought dipping them in some slightly salted dark chocolate would elevate them to a whole new level of awesomeness! I mean, chocolate and coconut are one of those classic combinations that just belong together (Mounds or Almond Joy anyone?). If you are an Almond Joy fan, feel free to replace the vanilla extract with almond extract to get that flavor fix.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut MacaroonsMore importantly, make sure these little coconut clouds are completely cooled before dipping in the chocolate, or they can break apart. Also, that the chocolate has set before you pack them into an airtight container. Remember- watch these bad boys in the oven, they can go from perfect to disaster quite quickly in terms of browning. Be ready to impress anyone and everyone with these little dollops of indulgence!

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John Legend’s Mac & Cheese

John Legend's Mac & Cheese

This post will be short and sweet. World Cup fever has taken me hostage and I wanted to share this dish while still keeping my eyes glued to one of the most exciting tournaments in the world. I guess as an American- being a sport fan is quite natural and I’ve loved it my whole life, but moving to England has opened my eyes to the world of football (or soccer- it almost pains me to call it that now!). Of course, I’ve got an embedded hope that Team USA will pull it off and English doubt that England will get out of the group rounds, but I will be watching with fingers crossed! Who are you cheering on this time? Any predictions? Shout it out in the comments!

John Legend's Mac & Cheese

But, on to the reason you’re here, the food. This Mac & Cheese I saw on Martha Stewart. It’s John Legend’s recipe and I was drawn in by the choice in including evaporated milk in the recipe. I’ve never tried it before, so thought it was worth a shot. It made a very delicious, almost custardy cheese filling, which makes the dish incredibly satisfying. The cheese on top bakes to crispy perfection and creates a contrast in texture that the usual breadcrumb topping might provide in other versions. It’s a great dish to take to a party as it can be reheated in the oven quickly after transport. Perfect for a World Cup party perhaps?

John Legend's Mac & Cheese

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Quick & Easy Chicken Enchiladas

Quick & Easy Chicken Enchiladas

Southern Californians love their Mexican food. It’s a staple of their diet that is as normal as roast chicken in most households. The great thing about Mexican food in Southern California is that in a town as small as the one I grew up in is, there is still a great range of Mexican cuisine to suit every craving. There are your greasy, hangover-curing joints where the cheese is unnaturally stringy and the freshly fried tortilla chips are glistening and the salsa burns your tongue (in the best kind of way!). Then, there are your more fresh, “healthy” options which usually have some kind of fresh salsa bar where you can mix and match salsas and toppings to your heart’s desire. I’ve attempted recreating one of these salsas before, and boy was it a good taste of home. (BTW you can tell I’ve been craving Mexican lately by reading this, this and this.)

But sometimes, we have neither the time nor the energy (cough, cough: 90% of the time) to spend hours slowly roasting chiles and tomatoes and stewing chicken in spices to make the real deal. Sometimes we need a bit of a cheat that will fulfill our deepest cravings for SoCal style Mexican food. And almost always, it needs to be quick and easy.

Quick & Easy Chicken Enchiladas

Enchiladas are fun to make. I guess it’s the whole rolling and filling of the tortillas that I enjoy the most, or maybe the scattering of the cheese, or the crisp edges of the tortillas after baking. Either way these Quick & Easy Chicken Enchiladas are not only simple, they can be thrown together in 20 minutes and not one will think that it could be that easy. They taste great, and you can also throw in additional fillings like corn or black beans in with the chicken. Or, go veggie with black beans, corn and spinach (one of my faves!) for a Meatless Monday! Any which way you have them, however, this recipe will be one that you remember for those nights where you need a speedy, satisfying supper.

Quick & Easy Chicken Enchiladas

In order to keep the tortillas crispy of the edges (one of the best bits!) make sure not to layer the extra sauce all the way over the top of the enchiladas. It’s great to have a change in texture, and you don’t want them turning out mushy. Eww.

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Whole Wheat Carrot & Zucchini Muffins

Whole Wheat Carrot & Zucchini Muffins

Muffins are one of my all time favorite baked goods. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s not exactly the shortest of answers.

1. Muffins can be eaten at any time of the day. While you may get confused, judgey looks from people  for eating dark chocolate cake or fudge at 9am (don’t worry, if it’s me you’ll get a high five!), muffins are a perfectly acceptable breakfast, lunch or dinner. Next time, watch those people being all judgey order a double chocolate muffin with their latte! But sometimes, you just don’t want to deal with all that unenlightenment so early in the morning.

2. They are a blank canvas ready to be painted. Find the right muffin batter, mix just about anything into it and you have a personalized treat ready in about 30 minutes. Create till you’ve made a masterpiece!

3. So. Darn. Delicious. Enough said.

Whole Wheat Carrot & Zucchini Muffins

These Whole Wheat Carrot & Zucchini Muffins are particularly great because not only are they easy and super yummy, they are pretty darn good for you too. Whole wheat flour, two types of veggies, oats and plump raisins for a hit of sweetness. They have all the best features of a great carrot cake or zucchini bread, all in one little hand held package. They are best enjoyed warm out of the oven or cool the next day. After that they can begin to dry out a bit, so make sure they are kept in an airtight container. I tried these out on my new colleagues at work and they were a hit! They are also a favorite of kids- so many of them enjoy seeing flecks of orange and green in a muffin that tastes so good. Just try them out and see!

Whole Wheat Carrot & Zucchini Muffins

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Rhubarb Upside-down Cake

Rhubarb Upside-down Cake

Life is messy. Sometimes you just need cake.

Moving is definitely one of the more messy times in life. I absolutely hate it. There are still a few boxes lingering around the house, taunting me, and hopefully they will get unpacked soon. But there’s always one box left unpacked in my house, always, so it would be weird to unpack them all right? But I have found the time for a bit of baking here and there. It keeps me sane int his new place that I’m calling my home. And like I said, sometimes you just need cake.

There’s nothing that says spring more to me than the longer days, itchy eyes and the pinkish hue of fresh rhubarb that come along with it. Living in England, I’ve come to appreciate the sunshine more and more, and during the warmer months the sun stays in the sky until well into the evening. If I can get my newly acquired allergies under control, it really is the best time for sitting outside the pub or late night night barbecues with friends. These have come to be some of my favorite things about living here, well, that and rhubarb of course.

Rhubarb Upside-down Cake

I told you a story about my first memories of this quirky vegetable when I made Rhubarb Crumble Muffins. Ever since I have had a fascination with it. It must be because it’s pink (most of the time). When I found some beautiful magenta-fleshed rhubarb last week, I began to think about how I could create something that would show off this elegant produce. What better way than a sticky, sweet Rhubarb Upside-down Cake?

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Huevos Rancheros (Ranch-style eggs)

Huevos Rancheros (Ranch-style Eggs)

I have such a love/hate relationship with Sunday. I love that it means leisurely brunches, relaxing with a newspaper and a variety of sports on TV. I hate that it is the day before Monday, which means the weekend is quickly coming to an end. Sunday really is a funny thing because while it is so enjoyable, for me there is always that underlying feeling of dread for the impending busy work week ahead. I used to waste my Sunday having a bit of a pity party for myself, with the phrase, “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow,” constantly being whimpered from my spot on the sofa. However, more recently I have tried to make better use of my weekend. I mean, those days are precious, I shouldn’t be worrying about Monday until, well, Monday right?

One of my favorite ways to begin my Sunday is with a really amazing breakfast. From pancakes to muffins or baked eggs, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s utterly satisfying. Huevos Rancheros (Ranch-style eggs), are a newly found love. Not that I hadn’t heard of or seen them on a menu before, but when I was younger I had a bit of an egg phobia. As I’ve grown to appreciate the wonder of the incredible, edible egg (ha!), I have tried many more egg dishes and this is my new favorite.

Huevos Rancheros (Ranch-style Eggs)

How can it not be? A warm corn tortilla topped with spiced black beans, a fried egg, Roasted Tomato Salsa and a sprinkle of cheese and cilantro is a perfect Sunday morning pick-me-up (epecially if you’ve had a few cervezas the night before!). And don’t forget how simple and easy it is to throw together (very important on busy mornings). Just try and have a bad day after this breakfast, I’d say it’s impossible.

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