Category Archives: Snacks

Avocado Deviled Eggs for the Win!


Alex, I’ll take “foods Sherri’s mother never cooked” for 400 please. Originating in Italy, this round food is often filled with a mixture of egg yolk, mustard, and hot sauce.* Alex… What are deviled eggs? That is correct!

If this was a real episode of Jeopardy I would be $400 richer right now. Aside from my opening little joke, I have no cute story to tell for these eggs. All I have to offer is a beautiful photo and delicious recipe. They were not part of my mother’s recipe box or mine for that matter. It was found quite accidentally sitting in a basket, next to the avocados at my local grocery with no name or website attached.

The minute I saw it, just knew I had to try it. I don’t like regular deviled eggs. I’m not a fan of the filling. This recipe seemed perfect and while I was supposed to add the egg yolk to the avocado and mash them together, I must have missed that step somehow. I’m glad I missed it; I think it would have been too rich and mellowed the flavor of the avocado. The original recipe called for a sprinkling of paprika on top. I love the flavor of Za’atar and thought the sesame seeds would add a nice texture. I was right! These are the perfect little bite.

They make a great quick breakfast, light snack, or very deserving as an appetizer. All that’s left my friends is to Enjoy! Let me know what you think.

3 hard-boiled eggs (I like to use extra-large)
1 large avocado
3 teaspoons lime juice (lemon will work as well)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of salt and pepper
dash of hot sauce (optional)
sliced scallions
Sprinkle with Za’atar (or other spice you like)

Boil the eggs using my method. Click here for the instructions. Cook, cool and carefully peel the eggs. Use a sharp knife and cut the eggs in half vertically. Remove the cooked yolk from the egg and put aside.**

Add the avocado into a wide flat bowl and mash. Add the lime juice, garlic powder, a drop of hot sauce, salt and pepper. Mix together and spoon into each half. You can sprinkle them with any seasoning but I really like the flavor Za’atar adds. Place a couple of scallions on top and that’s it!

*FYI… the hot sauce gives it heat, which is why deviled eggs are called “devil”ed
**Instead of discarding, you could put them aside and make my mom’s thumb cookies with them! Or, if you want, add them to the avocado.

 

 

How to Turn Leftover Halloween Candy into Jazzed up Chocolate Bark

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What type of candy do you buy for Halloween? Is it the candy you wish you got as a kid? Is it candy you hate so it won’t tempt you?

When I was about 11 years old, I remember the neighbors around the corner handed out full size candy bars for Halloween. That was unprecedented, unheard of, and something I still remember all these years later! It was so exciting, my girlfriends and I switched around our costumes so we could go back a second time without being recognized!

From that day on, I always knew that when I had a house of my own, I would do something special like that for the children in my neighborhood. Fast forward 25 years and I did! Over the years I have given out large gummy lollipops, big bags of potato chips, and one year I gave out giant Pixie Stix that were almost 2 feet long! However, it’s not easy to continue this tradition in my community. Most years we get anywhere from 60 to 85 kids and it gets very expensive to give out that one big thing.

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Now we give out smaller candy, but always the good kind (usually chocolate) and with something fun like glow sticks! I bought 6 bags of candy, 3 dozen glow sticks and we didn’t have much left over. If you do have some left over, don’t bring it to your office; don’t throw it out or freeze it. You have to try this great jazzed up chocolate bark recipe. Aside from being a delicious reinvented treat, it makes a great gift. Be Creative & Enjoy!

Ingredients
1  3/4 cups good quality chocolate. I used 60% cocoa but use what you like
1/2 cup melting chocolate*
2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped candy bars and candy pieces (use as much or as little as you like)

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Prepare a quarter size sheet pan (9 x 13) with parchment paper and set aside.

In the top of a double boiler,* place the chocolates in to melt – stirring often until smooth. Take it off the heat just before all the chocolate has melted. Continue to stir and when it is all melted, gently mix in about 1/3 of the candy.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and using an offset or rubber spatula, spread the chocolate mixture evenly. Sprinkle the remaining candy on top. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours until the chocolate is set. Once firm, break the bark into pieces.

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This will make a nice gift wrapped in cellophane, or placed in a beautiful tin. It looks very pretty with colorful candy, however, I just bought Junior Mints on sale and thinking I might need to make another batch! There are endless combinations. Be creative and let me know what you come up with!

*I use a small amount of melting chocolate because I like the softer and smoother texture this yields after it’s refrigerated; it’s not a hard bark. I also like that contrast of textures – crunchy candy and smooth chocolate. If you like a firmer chocolate bark, use 2 1/4 cups chips and eliminate the melting chocolate.

**You can also microwave the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave in 30 second increments until just melted. Make sure to stir each time you check.

 

Caramel Apples – A New Halloween Tradition in Our House!

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Although today is Halloween, we here in Ohio celebrated last night. It’s one of those midwest things I still don’t understand, like why my kids never get off school for Columbus Day when we live in Columbus, Ohio! Anyway, they call last night beggar’s night and I handed out over 125 pieces of candy, pretzels, lollipops, glow sticks and Twizzlers to more than 75 cutely dressed trick or treaters!

There are some traditions I have for myself on beggar’s night. I usually get my candy ready in a big black cauldron early in the day, pick up a pizza for dinner, make a pot of coffee and wait till 6pm arrives. That’s when the kids start coming and it doesn’t stop until 8pm when either the last little goblin shows up, or I run out of candy – whichever comes first! Last night I broke tradition. This was the first year my youngest son did not go trick or treating. It marked the end of  an era. This year, there was no pizza and no coffee. I didn’t even have my cauldren! However, there were caramel apples – plenty of caramel apples. A new Halloween tradition is born! Enjoy!

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No matter what you roll them in, they are delicious!

6 apples washed and dried well (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Empire) I find cold apples work best
1 pound of caramel (find a local candy making supply store to buy it in bulk so you don’t have to unwrap a million little caramels)
2 tablespoons milk
6 chopsticks
1 cup good quality melting chocolate, white or dark (optional)

Optional Toppings
Mini chocolate chips
Mini m&m’s
Chopped nuts (almonds, peanuts and pecans work very well)
Sprinkles
Crushed Heath bar candies
Crushed Oreo cookies
Sea Salt (this is especially good if you are into the salty caramel craze!)

Line a sheet pan with wax paper, spray it lightly with oil and set aside.

In the top of a double boiler, add the caramel and two tablespoons of milk. Bring the water in the bottom portion of the pot to a boil then lower the heat to a low simmer. It takes about 10 minutes or so to melt down – stir every couple of minutes.

While the caramel is melting, wash and dry the apples very well. Insert the pointy end of the chopstick into the center of the apple. I like to push it all the way down. If it’s too tough, use a rubber mallet to tap it in gently.

When the caramel is completely melted, stir it well then dip each apple in and twirl it around to coat the apple. Let the excess caramel drip off. I use a spare chopstick to take some of the caramel off of the bottom. Then set on the prepared pan. You have to work quickly with the caramel. Now on to decorating…

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You can use any size apple. I found these cute little apples at a local farmer’s market. They came out adorable!

The apples can be made several ways. Just be sure to have fun with it, there is no wrong way to create a deliciously decorated caramel apple!

You can dip them in caramel refrigerate 30 minutes and eat.

You can dip them in caramel and immediately roll into the topping of your choice. Decorate with any combination of toppings while the caramel is still wet, then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set – and enjoy. Decorate one apple at a time after dipping.

You can dip them in caramel then dip or drizzle them with chocolate and decorate with toppings. If you do this step, place the caramel apples in the fridge to set. While they are setting, melt about 1 cup of chocolate melts in a double boiler . You have to wait until the caramel is set before you dip them into the melted chocolate. This takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Then sprinkle or roll them into any topping you like.

Whatever method you choose, place them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set. They should be stored in the fridge if you’re not going to eat them right away and will stay fresh for a week or more. I found the best way to wrap them is individually in wax paper.* Cut a sheet that is about 12 x 14 or larger, depending on the size of your apple. Set the apple in the middle of the rectangle and gently bring each corner in towards the stick, then twist it to close around the stick.

*Fun fact, Thomas Edison is credited for inventing wax paper! How do you like that?

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Delicious Cream Filled Chocolate Cupcakes and oh, by the way… They’re Vegan!

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7, 270 cyclists took to the streets of Columbus, Ohio this past weekend to raise money for cancer research. You can read more about this amazing organization on Pelatonia’s website. One of those riders is my friend Hilary. She is 18 years old and rode 100 miles raising $1,800. Not only was she one of the youngest people to ride, she was also the only one on a mountain bike, which she was told is the equivalent of running a marathon in flip-flops! As a bike rider myself, I don’t know how she did it! Somehow, she did and you can see by the smile on her face how happy she was to finish! What an amazing girl!

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I am so proud of her, I wanted to do something special to celebrate her accomplishment. I already donated money for her ride; now I wanted to do something just for her. You already know I’m all about the baking! Even more than that, I love to share it with people and make them happy. My only challenge – Hilary recently became a vegan. Her path to a healthier lifestyle started gradually, first she was a pescatarian (a vegetarian who will also eat fish), then a vegetarian (no meat, fish or seafood, but dairy is okay), and now, a vegan (a vegetarian diet that also eliminates all animal byproducts). To a baker that means no milk, eggs or butter or dairy of any kind!

Although I have never baked anything vegan, I have baked many things without dairy products, making them parve in the kosher world. I figured if Hilary can ride a bike for 100 miles, surely I can bake a vegan dessert! I was up for the challenge!

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Now, where did I find this delicious recipe you ask? It is straight from Chloe Coscarelli’s cookbook Chloe’s Kitchen. She is an adorable baker and cook, who also happens to be a vegan! I first heard of her when she won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. The judges were very surprised that her cupcakes were vegan. I immediately went to the library to check out a copy of her cookbook.

I found “Chlostess” Cream-Filled Cupcakes and even though the cupcake had three components, it seemed simple enough. You can see by the fluffy cream filling, shine of the glaze and tender crumb of the cupcake, they are going to be good and something special! I will tell you that once I got started I was surprised how easy they were to make. This recipe is adapted from Chloe Coscarelli’s Cookbook and it was so good, I’d like to say I didn’t change a thing, but had to according to ingredients I had on hand. I wrote her recipe and my changes in parenthesis. I may have reworded it a little, but the recipe is the same. They are truly delicious and you don’t miss the eggs or butter. If you’re a vegan or not, you’ll love these.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold coffee or water (I used decaf)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

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Creme Frosting Filling:
1 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (find this in a health food store, or section of your grocery)
3 cups powdered sugar (also called confectioner’s sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 to 5 tablespoons soy, almond, or rice milk (I used almond milk*)
1/2 teaspoon salt (this is my splash on her recipe, I like a little salt in my frosting)

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Chocolate Ganache Glaze
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dairy free)*
1/4 cup canned coconut milk, mixed well before measuring (I didn’t have coconut milk and used almond milk which worked fine)
2 tablespoons canola oil

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with 15 cupcake liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together coffee, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Don’t over-mix.

Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full with batter. For this step I use an ice cream scoop so that all the cupcakes will be the same size. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It’s okay if a few crumbs are clinging to the toothpick. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting. I made the frosting while the cupcakes were baking.

To make the cream frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat the shortening until smooth. With the mixer running on low, add powdered sugar one cup at a time, alternating with 1 tablespoon nondairy milk until frosting reaches a nice spreadable consistency. Add vanilla extract and beat on high for 2 more minutes until light and fluffy.

To make the Chocolate Ganache: Melt chocolate chips, canola oil, and coconut milk (remember, I used almond milk in this step) in a double boiler or microwave. Whisk until smooth.

To assemble the cupcakes: Fit a pipping bag*** with a small round tip and fill with the creme frosting. I used a rosette tip and it worked very well. Insert the tip into the center of the top of each cupcake and squeeze the bag to fill the cupcake with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of frosting. Be careful when you are filling them. My first one exploded! Level off the frosting that sneaks out on top. Then, spread the top of each cupcake with a thin layer of chocolate ganache.

In another piping bag fitted with a small tip, add 4 tablespoons of the frosting and pipe a 4 loop design.

*The almond milk I used has 4 percent fat

**There are several dairy-free brands of chocolate chips. Look in a health food store or section of your grocery. If you can’t find them there, check the kosher section of your grocery. They will be labeled Parve, meaning they do not contain any dairy products.

***If you don’t have a piping bag, use a gallon size Ziploc bag, cut the tip of the bag off and insert the piping tip.

 

 

 

 

1st Place Melt in your Mouth Soft Sugar Cookies

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Hello my name is Sherri and I am crazy about cookies! I tape every episode of Unique Sweets on the Cooking Channel in hopes it will be a special episode on cookies and I will find some new kind of cookie to try. I have cookbooks about great cookies, drop cookies, rolled cookies, history of the chocolate chip cookie, the art of the cookie, fancy cookies, you name it. Every Valentine’s Day, I ship heart shape cookies all over the country to family and friends. I inherited over 100 cookie-cutters from my mother but that’s a story for another day and recipe (picture included)! I am always up for the cookie challenges my niece Brette gives me. Once she called and said what do you think about a chocolate chip cookie but instead of chips you put brownie chunks in it? My answer arrived to her in the mail 2 days later!

Now that my secret is out, back to the sugar cookies… I was watching a cooking show 10 years ago on the Food Network. I only know this because that’s the date stamped on the printout of the recipe –  September 4, 2004! It was for some kind of cookie bake-off as far as I can tell and the recipe came in 2nd place. What I wrote on the recipe all those years ago was… I should make these a 1st place cookie, really easy sugar cookie recipe, make sure to cream butter and sugar until fluffy, and show says only 2 to 3 tablespoons of buttermilk, but recipe says 3 to 4… hmm. Well I made them not too long ago exactly as written. They were good and devoured in minutes, but I felt something was missing. I have made quite a few changes to them and in my opinion they are now a 1st place cookie! Enjoy!

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Here is my version with much less sugar among other things. Let me know how yours turn out, Enjoy!

Yield 4 dozen 2″ to 3″ cookies

2  3/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine pink sea salt (or fine kosher salt)
1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 extra large egg (large would be fine here also)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons low fat buttermilk

Sprinkles, or colored sanding sugar for decorating

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I made them in red, white and blue for my friend’s daughter who is going to college next year. You guessed it, she’s going to American in D.C.!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a larger bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix just until combined. Scrape down the sides and then add the dry ingredients in two batches. Add the buttermilk one tablespoon at a time just enough to moisten the dough to make it soft, not wet.

I use a small 1 1/2″ cookie scoop for these but you could use a teaspoon to scoop a portion of the dough. Roll by the teaspoon into a ball and place on cookie sheet leaving 2″ between cookies (they spread quite a bit). Flatten with your hand slightly and then sprinkle with regular white or colored sugar on top.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until just getting golden. Let stand on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack.