Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking

February 1, 2012

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Layered Cupcakes

Filed under: cupcakes, dessert, peanut butter — Tags: , , — Emily @ 3:04 pm

Awhile back we had some friends over for an impromptu dinner. We all pooled groceries that we had lying around the house and attempted to make something delicious at the last minute WITHOUT having to go to the store. It was really fun—and the end results were delicious. For dinner we made some rigatoni pasta with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken and a Parmesan/mozzarella cream sauce. We also had toasted bread with garlic-infused olive oil and Parmesan cheese on top. Delicious. For dessert, I found a box of chocolate cake mix and we improvised this recipe from a recipe found on They were quite possibly the best cupcakes I have ever had–so I definitely wanted to record the recipe!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Layered Cupcakes

1 box chocolate cake mix, plus ingredients necessary to make the mix (eggs, oil and water)

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup peanut butter chips

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place paper baking cups into regular-size muffin cups.

2. Mix cake mix according to package instructions.

3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter and granulated sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat until creamy.

4. Spoon 1 level tablespoon chocolate batter into each cup; evenly spread 1 level tablespoon peanut butter filling on top. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.

5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan to cooling rack; cool 15 minutes. Serve warm or cool.

Source: Improvised from recipe found on


November 23, 2011

Lima Bean Casserole

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Emily @ 11:28 am

For the last several years I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for friends who don’t have any family in town for the holidays. My family usually comes out from Chicago and we have a big gathering of friends and family—so fun. Last year my friend Jenn brought one of her family recipes. When she first mentioned what she had brought, I’ll be honest–I was less than enthusiastic. It sounded kind of gross. But being a nice host (and friend), I helped myself to a (small) portion. It was SO good! It was so good that we’ve since made it for Christmas, Easter, etc… Making it again today for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Thanks Jenn for introducing us to this awesome (and easy) recipe! 

Lima Bean Casserole

1 family size bag of frozen lima beans 
1/2-1 medium onion, chopped
8 pieces of bacon
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 SMALL block of Velveeta cheese

Cook bacon in a sauté pan and pull apart into small pieces. Cook lima beans according to package. Cook onions in bacon grease while beans are cooking. Mix beans, onions, bacon and cream of mushroom soup together. Cut the velveeta cheese block into cubes and mix in with other ingredients. Bake in casserole dish on 350 for 30 mins. Add grated velveeta cheese to top of casserole for last 5 minutes of baking (optional).

Source: My friend Jenn T.

November 27, 2010

Cranberry Salad

Filed under: fruit, holiday — Emily @ 2:01 pm

My mom grew up always having cranberry jello salad at her Thanksgiving table. When I hosted my first Thanksgiving I wanted to include everyone’s traditional dishes—even if it’s not something I would normally choose to make. It ended up being a hit! Over the last few years I’ve tried a few different variations of the same type of dish, but this recipe is definitely the best. It is also the easiest of any of the recipes I’ve tried, which I think we can all agree is ideal for Thanksgiving. I don’t think I’ll even try any more. I wanted to get this recorded in my blog so we will always have the recipe.

Cranberry Salad


2 (16 oz each) cans whole cranberry sauce

2 cups water

1 (6 oz) package of raspberry jello

1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple

1 cup chopped pecans


1 (8 oz) package cream cheese

1 package miniature marshmallows

1 pint whipping cream

In a saucepan, combine cranberry sauce and water, boiling until sauce is dissolved. Add gelatin, pineapple and nuts. Chill in 9×13 inch pan for 15 hours.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, marshmallows and whipping cream. Chill for 15 hours. When ready to serve, whip the topping mixture and spread on top of salad.

16 servings

Source: Adapted from


July 3, 2010

Chicken and Dressing Casserole

Filed under: chicken, main dish, make ahead — Emily @ 10:44 am

My friend Olivia’s mother made this for us when I was in college and visiting her family in Atlanta. It is very easy to throw together and delicious! Definitely a true Southern meal.

Chicken and Dressing Casserole

4 chicken breasts

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can of milk (fill the soup can with milk)

1 BAG cornbread stuffing (use something better than Stovetop!)

1 stick of butter

Chicken broth, as needed

Boil the chicken in water until cooked through. Shred the chicken and put in 9×13-inch casserole dish. Add can of cream of chicken soup and the milk and mix well. Pour over chicken.

Melt the butter in a medium size bowl and add the stuffing to butter. Add in broth to make moist. Top chicken with stuffing mixture.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Source: my friend Olivia

November 20, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Filed under: bars, dessert — Emily @ 3:52 pm

These pumpkin pie bars are amazing! If you like pumpkin at all, you need to make this recipe. It hasn’t really felt like pumpkin-season here in Southern California (it’s still mainly t-shirt weather), but seeing as it is almost Thanksgiving, I decided to just go ahead and make something with pumpkin! I definitely chose a great recipe to make!

Pumpkin Pie Bars

1-1/3 cups flour

3/4 cup  granulated sugar, divided

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup  (1-1/2 sticks) cold butter
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1/2 cup  chopped walnuts
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3   eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 Tbsp.  pumpkin pie spice**
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons bourbon (optional)
a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips for sprinkling on top (optional)
Heat oven to 350°F. Line a 13×9-inch pan with foil–make sure ends of foil extend over sides. Grease the foil with butter.
Mix flour, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbles.  Stir in oats and nuts.  Reserve 1 cup of oat mixture. Press remaining onto bottom of prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.
Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla, bourbon, pumpkin and spice with mixer until well blended. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture and a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips (if desired).
Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Use foil to transfer from pan to wire rack and cool completely.

**Substitution for pumpkin pie spice: 1 tsp. each of ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and allspice

Source: Joy the Baker

November 17, 2009

Pumpkin Dip

Filed under: dessert, make ahead — Emily @ 3:44 pm

I’ve seen this recipe for pumpkin dip for many years now, but for some reason I’ve always put off making it. It just didn’t sound like it would be very good. Boy was I wrong! I’m kicking myself for not making this years ago. It is SO good—and incredibly easy. It has become my go to recipe for the Fall.

Pumpkin Dip

12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin (canned)
4 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Beat together cream cheese and brown sugar until well blended. Add pumpkin, syrup and cinnamon; beat until smooth.  Keep refrigerated and serve with apples, gingersnaps, vanilla wafers, and graham crackers.

Source: Pennies on a Platter

October 29, 2009

Cheesy Creamed Corn

Filed under: lamb, side dish, vegetables — Emily @ 7:48 pm

My husband is a huge fan of lamb. For our first night spent in Michigan with my parents, we had a delicious lamb dish along with some really great and easy side dishes.

Cheesy Creamed Corn

3 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups chopped scallions (roughly 6 scallions)

12 ears corn (cut from cob)

2/3 cups cream

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 large garlic clove

6 ounces queso fresca

1/2 cup cilantro

Cook together the butter and scallions for several minutes. Combine the scallions with the corn, cream, cornstarch and garlic clove in a large bowl. Top with queso fresca and cilantro.

Source: Food and Wine Magazine

October 15, 2009

Garlic Pilaf

Filed under: rice, side dish, Uncategorized, vegetarian — Emily @ 8:02 am

This is a great side dish that is quick to throw together and goes with most entrees.  I am notorious for putting all my effort into the main dish and neglecting sides. While this takes a few extra minutes, most of the time is down time, so you can put everything together and then focus on the main dish. It is definitely worth it! I recently had this with one of our favorite easy and quick dishes, Laughing Cow Chicken–which I will share soon!

Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf

2 Tbsp. butter

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 cup long-grain white rice

2 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Have ready a covered casserole dish.

In a saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and rice to the pan and cook until both are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Pour the mixture into the casserole dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes.  Stir in the remaining 1½ cups chicken broth and bake, covered, for another 45 minutes.  About 15 minutes before it is finished baking, stir in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Note: This recipe can be doubled without increasing the baking time.

Source: Annie’s Eats

October 13, 2009

Sweet-and-Sour Brisket

Filed under: beef, freezer, main dish, make ahead — Emily @ 8:48 am

This brisket is unbelievable. My husband actually said “this is the best meat dish I’ve ever eaten…” and yet, it is very easy to throw together. It is best if you make it a day or two in advance and let it marinate for awhile—it just continues to get better and better. After eating it for a day or two, buy some big, crusty sandwich rolls and enjoy it with a side of jus. Since it’s essentially just slabs of meat, the picture really doesn’t do it justice. But I promise, you will not regret making this dish.

Sweet-and-Sour Brisket

1/2 cup red wine

1 can (14 ounces) low-sodium beef broth

3/4 cup chili sauce, such as Heinz

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 brisket (about 5 pounds)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 medium yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the sweet-and-sour sauce:

Combine the wine, broth, chili sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, thyme, and bay leaf in a medium bowl. Set aside.

To prepare the brisket:

Season the brisket on both sides with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 6-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the brisket, fat-side down, and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn the brisket over and cook until browned, 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pot. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Place the brisket on top of the onions and cover with the sauce.

Cover the pot, place in the oven, and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board, scrape off the excess fat, and cut across the grain of the meat into 1/8-1/4-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them. Spoon the sauce over the brisket, covering the meat well. Bake until the meat is fork tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours more.

For the best flavor, let the brisket cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the brisket in a large pot and smother with the sweet-and-sour sauce to enhance the flavor and preserve moistness. Cover and bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Tip: This brisket freezes beautifully. Because the flavors get better over time, we refrigerate the brisket for a day or two before freezing (if you can resist eating it!) Thaw the brisket before reheating it.

Source: Bride and Groom First and Forever

October 11, 2009

Easy Appetizer: Chili Cream Cheese Dip

Filed under: appetizers, beef, dips — Emily @ 8:00 am

This easy dip takes about 5 minute from start to finish to put together. It has 3 ingredients and is really delicious–perfect for throwing together a quick appetizer for impromptu guests or to bring to a sporting event.  All you need is a microwave!

Chili Cream Cheese Dip

1 package of cream cheese (nonfat or regular), at room temp

1 can of chili with beans (or homemade chili)

1/2 package of mild Cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Spread the cream cheese on the bottom of a microwave-safe dish. Pour the chili over the cream cheese and sprinkle the cheese on top. Heat in the microwave for approximately 3-5 minutes (varies depending on your microwave). Alternatively, you can heat in the oven. Just looking to heat and melt the cheese on top.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Source: my mom

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