Celebrations

Since coming home from college for the summer, I’ve had a lot to celebrate. For one, being home is in and of itself a celebration; but getting to take a break from doing my own laundry (thanks mom!), enjoying my mom’s healthy cooked dinners, and getting to take my dog on runs outside have been great perks as well.

The celebrations began with the annual Schuman Family Popeye’s banquet. Because my Grandpa is from Memphis, he likes to get all of the cousins together once a year to stuff our faces at Popeyes. Although he admitted this year that he ate more BBQ than fried chicken back in the day, and even though we were missing one of the cousins, Jaime, who was still at school, the night was still crazy and fun. Our table was filled with two massive boxes of fried chicken (one spicy for Grandpa, of course, and one mild), piles of sauces ranging from honey to hot sauce, onion rings, fries, rice and beans, and my favorite, biscuits. I filled my boat-Popeye’s uses “boats” instead of plates-classic-with the extra crispy spicy chicken wings, biscuits, and a few fries. The evening was filled with greasy fingers and Grandpa’s Navy stories. Even more reason to celebrate, 6/7 cousins were there-from Berlin to London, LA to Michigan, we all made it out for a night of fried food.

This week arrived with many things to celebrate. In my opinion, occasions like a big Shabbat dinner and my friend Lena’s birthday can only be rightly celebrated in one way-with Salted Caramel Brownies.

For a while, I’ve strayed from recipes that involve melting chocolate or other ingredients over a saucepan of boiling water. It seemed a little daunting. However, with the help of a “Real Simple” cookbook and mom’s homemade guacamole as fuel, I put on my big girl pants and used this scary method to melt some chocolate and butter for the Salted Caramel Brownies. These brownies are an Ina Garten recipe, and in Ina I trust. I began to heat the water in my pan, set the bowl of finely chopped chocolate and butter on top, and stirred, praying to Ina that it would work. It did! I have a reason to celebrate-a whole new class of recipes is made available to me now that I’ve adapted to this tool. This method of melting gave my brownies a great, melt in your mouth consistency and a richness that could have never been achieved in the microwave. The salty-sweet combo was a hit amongst family and friends. Thanks, Ina, for instilling melting faith in me!

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The little celebrations cannot be overlooked. In honor of Mother’s Day- I made a simple little cookie recipe for my mom-the ultimate popcorn lover. Buttered popcorn cookies, a simple recipe with unique results. By simply popping popcorn, mixing it with a classic cookie dough, and baking it for just a little bit, you end up with a chewy, crunchy, salty sweet texture that isn’t found in most desserts. I knew I made my mom’s day when I saw the little warm cookie I left out for her to taste post-baking disappear within minutes. Like I said, the little things count.

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Buttered Popcorn Cookies

There’s so much to celebrate this summer, especially when those celebrations involve sweets and sharing foodie memories with family and friends. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the summer!

Soft and Chewy Seven Layer Magic Bar Cookies

Friday is my favorite day of the week. I love the big Shabbat dinner, I love the period of relaxation that it symbolizes, and most of all, I love being surrounded by my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins.

Shabbat dinner always begins at the same time: late. If dinner is called for 6:30, everyone shows up at 7:00. Chips, dips, crudites, and random vegetables that my aunt pickles are set out while everyone gathers around and catches up on their weeks.

Next, we surround my aunts as they light the Shabbat candles and say the blessings. Usually, they’ll break out in a chorus of some made up song or la-da-da’s. My brother and I just watch and giggle as they close their eyes and sway around the dining room.

Eventually, dinner is served. Some variation of soup, chicken, vegetables, and potatoes is often in store. And ya can’t forget about the Challah. I look forward to it all week. Soft, most, bread with a touch of honey-vanilla bread that I can’t stop myself from eating throughout the meal. If I’m lucky, my parents will get to take the leftovers home so I can nosh on them all week.

Dessert is sometimes held to a lower standard at Shabbat dinners, mostly because by the time we finish our meal everyone is far too stuffed to consider something sweet.

Which leads me to SOFT AND CHEWY SEVEN LAYER MAGIC BAR COOKIES.

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That butterscotchy, coconutty, chocolatey flavor of a seven layer bar with the soft, chewy, fluffy texture of a perfectly cooked chocolate chip cookie.

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I learned 3 new, very useful baking tools while conjuring up these cookies:

1. Refrigerate your cookie dough for AT LEAST 2 hours before baking. Refrigerated cookie dough –> less thin and flat, more fluffy cookies.

2. Pressing each mound of cookie dough slightly with your palm ensures the cookies will be uniform in size.

3. Only let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire cooling rack. Don’t make the same mistake I’ve made with many other cookie recipes: keeping the cookies on the baking sheet too long keeps cooking them, possibly creating burn-y bottoms.

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These new lessons I learned made for the best texture I have ever gotten out of a cookie. A slightly crunchy outer shell surrounding a melty chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, and graham filling.

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My family definitely left room for these cookies this Shabbat. In fact, I think I saw my uncle sneak about 5 cookies before we even ate dinner 😉

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http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/07/soft-and-chewy-seven-layer-magic-bar-cookies.html

nutella lava cookie cups

Anything that happens last minute usually makes me super anxious. But last Sunday morning, when I woke to a group text from my friend Lauren asking if all of us would like to join her on her boat docked on Wilmette’s beautiful Gillson Beach, with a beautiful view of the Bahai Temple, I wasn’t the least bit anxious. I was CRAZY excited. What a perfect opportunity to whip up a last minute, yummy treat that my friends would love!

We had a new, unopened jar of Nutella that somehow had not yet been consumed, so I started there. Plus it was SO sweet of Lauren to offer to have us on her boat, and Nutella is one of her all time favorite foods (literally the girl eats it by the jar) so I knew a recipe using this fabulous spread was necessary.

These Nutella lava cookie cups are convenient (besides the Nutella, most of the ingredients needed to make the cookie cup are probably already in your pantry), they are simple (all ya have to do is make cookie dough, press into the bottom of a muffin tin, top with nutella and more cookie dough, and bake), and they are oozy, melty goodness. What a piece of cake! 😉

the cookie dough base is like making your average chocolate chip cookie: mix dry ingredients, mix wet ingredients, add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and combine.

Imagethen, my favorite part of any recipe, folding in the chocolate chips. i think my brother is telepathic and can tell when the cookie dough is complete from his man cave in the basement because as soon as the chips were all stirred in he was upstairs in the kitchen ready for a bite.

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check out dat yummy dough!

before i started making anything, i had sprayed my muffin pan with pam so that i wouldn’t have an ooey gooey mess when trying to scoop my cookie cups out of the pan. now it was time to press some of the cookie dough into that prepared pan.

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Now, for the fun part. spooning melty Nutella by the teaspoonful into the established bottoms of my cookie cups. I could have eaten the cookie cup then, without even baking it.

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One more step and then it was into the oven! I took the leftover cookie dough and pressed little bits of it on top of the Nutella and cookie base, being careful not to press too hard or the Nutella would ooze out.

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These babies baked until the edges turned a golden brown and the chocolate chips began to melt. You think they look pretty good straight out of the oven, until you let them cool for a few hours, gently take them out of the pan, and are able to see the layers of hazelnutty, buttery, ooey gooey goodness. Then they appear as a masterpiece.

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This recipe only makes about 10 massive cookie cups, so if you’re looking to feed many friends (and jealous family members who realize there are none left for them), double or triple the recipe.

As soon as you cut into a cookie cup, the golden cookie topping gently breaks apart and gives way to a melty, rich Nutella filling that pours out. YUM.

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As soon as my friends and I finished our salads, we were ready for something sweet. Lauren reached for my tupperware of desserts, lifted the lid, and was faced with a familiar smell. She closed her eyes, took a breath, and asked, hopefully but knowingly, “Do these have Nutella in them?” Her and the rest of my friends went in with the original plan of splitting the cookie cups. But obviously, none of them could resist polishing off the entire thing, some of them even munching on another cookie cup. It’s seemingly impossible to just stop at one!

the finished product!

the finished product!

My parents and brother were so BEYOND jealous they could each only try a little bit of a cookie cup that I am OBLIGATED to make these again this coming weekend. If that isn’t the sign of a successful recipe, I don’t know what is! check it out here!: http://www.tablefortwoblog.com/2013/02/25/nutella-lava-cookie-cups/