Peach-Bourbon Upside-Down Cake

I’ve always been impressed by the appearance of upside-down cakes. They look so elegant with the fruit beautifully arranged in the caramel on top. I never made one though because I was afraid of the potential disasters that could occur upon turning it out of the pan.  When I saw this recipe though, I decided to put my fears aside and finally give an upside-down cake a try.

After pulling the cake out of the oven and letting it sit for 15 minutes the big moment had finally arrived. I said a quick prayer and flipped the pan over onto a plate. When I lifted the pan and saw my cake in tact, it was as if the sky opened up and a choir of angels started singing. I instantly burst into an epic dance of extreme joy. Fortunately Greg was the only one around to witness this embarrassing moment.

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It turns out my fear that the cake would crumble out of the pan while leaving the fruit and caramel crusted in the bottom was completely unfounded. I didn’t even use a non-stick pan! I used a stainless steal straight sided 10 inch skillet and the cake came out just fine.

Not only did the cake come out looking pretty, it was delicious too. I really liked the addition of the ground pecans to the cake batter. They provided a mild pecan flavor, and gave the cake a little bit of texture. If you don’t like bourbon you could probably substitute spiced rum or brandy–or  you could just leave the alcohol out entirely.

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 This never gets old! 🙂

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Peanut Butter S’mores Brownies

I’ve made these brownies a couple times, and they’ve been a big hit every time! They’re like an open faced s’more, but instead of a chocolate bar between the graham cracker and marshmallow, there’s a peanut butter and chocolate brownie! The bottom layer of the brownies is a basic graham cracker crust like you’d use in a pie. After adding and baking the brownie layer, you top the brownies with mini-marshmallows and pop it under the broiler until they’re golden brown.

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Be INCREDIBLY careful when roasting marshmallows under the broiler. They go from being puffy but still very white, to very dark brown or even black in less than 60 seconds. I learned this lesson the hard way the very first time I made these brownies. The marshmallows were just starting to turn the palest golden color so I walked away from the oven briefly. When I came back the ENTIRE marshmallow surface of the brownies was black. Fortunately I was able to scrape off the burned top and they still tasted alright, but we lost most of the marshmallow layer. Ever since then, I watch the marshmallows like a hawk when they’re under the broiler.

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Peanut Butter S’mores

These cookies have all the gooey goodness of s’mores, no campfire required. I used to think there wasn’t much that could be done to improve s’mores, but several years ago I came up with the brilliant idea of spreading peanut butter on the graham cracker before adding the chocolate and roasted marshmallow- and I haven’t eaten a s’more without peanut butter since. These cookies have the same amazing flavor combination because the filling is a mixture of marshmallow fluff and creamy peanut butter. Instead of graham crackers, the filling is sandwiched between two molasses shortbread cookies.

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When I saw this recipe on The Chew a little over a year ago I knew I had to make it because I love peanut butter and Greg loves s’mores. Just a few weeks after making them I actually got to meet Carla Hall, the celebrity chef who created this recipe! Greg and I had already planned to go to a Red Wings game to see the Louisville Bats (the Cincinnati Reds triple A affiliate), and it just so happened that Carla Hall was going to be at Frontier Field doing a book signing before one of the games. After watching her cooking demonstration, it quickly became apparent that you needed special tickets in order to meet Carla and have her sign a book for you. We didn’t know that though, and so didn’t have those special tickets. I decided to get in line anyway, and fortunately no one asked to see my ticket, so I got to meet Carla Hall! She was just as nice in person as she is on TV, and we had a chance to chat about how much I loved these cookies, and about the food I’d smuggled into the park in my purse.

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Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bars

I made these ice cream bars last week as dessert for a going away gathering we had for several of Greg’s co-workers. These are supposed to be a homemade version of Good Humor’s Strawberry Shortcake bars. I’ve never had the original bars, but I thought the combination of strawberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream seemed interesting and I’ve always wanted to make an ice cream cake, so I decided this would be a perfect one to try.

Everyone who’d had a Good Humor bar before said this dessert brought back memories of eating them as a kid, except that this version was better than the original. One person even claimed that this was the best dessert he’d ever eaten! With reviews like that, I guess I won’t be buying ice cream bars at the grocery store any time soon.

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The recipe calls for store bought ice cream and strawberry sorbet, and I’m sure the dessert would have turned out TOTALLY FINE if I had actually done that. But this is me we’re talking about. And I’m crazy. So I made them both from scratch.

Ice cream really isn’t difficult to make at home, and it tastes infinitely better than most stuff you can buy at the store. It’s especially easy when you make Philadelphia style ice cream like I did for this recipe. Instead of tempering eggs and cooking the custard on the stove before cooling and freezing it like you would for French-style ice cream, Philadelphia-style ice cream just involves mixing cream, milk and sugar and freezing it. Philadelphia-style ice cream tends to freeze a bit harder than custard based ice creams, which makes it ideal for using in a frozen dessert that you want to be firm enough to hold its shape.

I’d never made sorbet before, because I always assumed that since sorbet sounds more fancy than ice cream that it would be more difficult to make. I couldn’t have been more wrong. You just purée fruit with sugar, freeze it and BAM! You’ve got homemade sorbet!

I’ve included both the vanilla bean ice cream and strawberry sorbet recipes below in case you really want to go all out. But seriously, this would still be an amazing dessert made with any brand of ice cream you love. You could also change up the flavors using a different sorbet and freeze-dried fruit combination.

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Homemade Nutter Butters

I don’t think I’ve ever had a Nutter Butter, but I love I’m obsessed with peanut butter, so when I saw this recipe I thought I’d give them a try. I can’t tell you how they compare to the original, but I can say that these are really good cookies. The cookies are peanut buttery but not too sweet, and they have a nice texture from the oats and chopped peanuts. The filling is really creamy, making it a perfect addition to the slightly crunchy cookies on either side of it.

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When followed exactly, the recipe makes a small amount of filling. The most recent time I made these cookies, I had to use a bit less filling for each sandwich than I would have liked, and I ended up with two or three cookies without filling. If you like lots of filling in your Nutter Butters, or if you want to be sure not to run out of filling, just add a bit more peanut butter and butter. After all, you can never have too much peanut butter!

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Chocolate Stout Cake

I made this cake for my family’s Father’s Day celebration this past Saturday.  My dad has been asking for cake since Easter, when instead of bringing over a carrot cake like my mom suggested, I came with pie instead.  Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting has always been my dad’s favorite, so when Father’s Day arrived, I knew this would be the perfect dessert!  This cake is rich and moist, and with the bittersweet chocolate in the frosting, and the stout in the cake itself it has a wonderful dark chocolate flavor.

I discovered the recipe for this cake several years ago around St. Patrick’s Day when I had a bunch of stout left over after making some Guinness beef stew.  I’m not a fan of beer at all.  And when the label says “extra stout” I read that as “extra disgusting.”  I was worried that the beer would taint the entire cake, and I would end up with a dessert I wouldn’t want to eat.  But I had several bottles of stout sitting around,  and I certainly wasn’t going to drink them, so I gave the cake a try.  When I anxiously tasted the finished product I was surprised by what was without a doubt the best chocolate cake I have ever tasted!

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Great Grandma Campbell’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

It seems fitting that my very first post should be of my oldest family recipe.  These are the chocolate chip cookies I grew up eating as a kid probably because these are the cookies my mom grew up with.  As the title of this post implies, this recipe comes from my great grandmother, Mary Campbell.  I hadn’t made these cookies since my junior year of college (which was almost ten years ago!) mainly because I love to try new recipes whenever I can.  This weekend is going to be a busy time in the kitchen for me though since I’m making food for a Father’s Day celebration on Saturday, and for refreshment time after church on Sunday.  When I have to make so much food in a short period of time I like to stick mostly to recipes I’ve made before.  So when I realized I already had a carton of buttermilk in the fridge, I knew Grandma’s cookies would be just the thing!

These cookies are quite a bit different from other chocolate chip cookies I’ve tried.  They aren’t as sweet as many recipes, but instead have a slight tang that comes from the buttermilk.  Because of the addition of buttermilk, the resulting batter is likely a bit more runny than the recipe you’re used to.  Although the consistency is slightly different, the batter is still completely scoopable.  Even though it looks like the batter might  spread all over the cookie sheet  I promise you it won’t spread any more than cookies normally do.  If you pull the cookies out of the oven after 8 minutes, they’ll still look raw, but they’ll end up deliciously moist and soft.  (I HATE dry, crunchy chocolate chip cookies!)

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