Tag Archives: easy recipes

Easy Popcorn Balls

Easy Popcorn BallsIf you’ve been around here a while, you know I loathe Halloween. Biggest Halloween Scrooge there is, right here.

That said, I might do an about-face soon because I finally tried a popcorn ball at the ripe old age of 34 and I loved it. Loved. It. Sweet, airy and studded with candy, it may well make a Halloween-lover out of me! Who knows? It could change the course of my life!

(Feeling dramatic today. Sorry, not sorry.)Easy Popcorn BallsBut seriously, I have no idea why I had never had a popcorn ball before a few weeks ago. Maybe it’s a northern thing? Do Texans just not make popcorn balls? Do I secretly love Halloween? Is my entire life a lie???Easy Popcorn Balls…whatever it is, I am now firmly in support of all things Halloween as they relate specifically to spherical sticky-sweet popcorn. And also candy corn. But nothing else, okay? Okay.Easy Popcorn BallsLots of popcorn ball recipes are molten sugar or caramel-based and require a candy thermometer, but I went in a different, easier direction, using Rice Krispies Treats as a guide. Butter and marshmallows are melted together and flavored with a little salt before 10 cups of plain popcorn are folded in. I like to add mix-ins for flavor/textural diversity, but feel free to leave ‘em out if they’re not your thing. I love (!) the sweet/salty candy corn and pretzel combo I used in this batch, but if those flavors aren’t your bag, don’t fret! I’ve written a list of alternatives in the recipe. You can use pretty much whatever you want, except for un-coated chocolate (it’ll melt).Easy Popcorn BallsEasy Popcorn BallsEasy Popcorn BallsOnce the mixture is to your liking, let it cool for about 5 minutes, just until you can handle it. Then butter your hands and press heaping 1/2 cups of sticky popcorn into balls and set them on a piece of parchment. After that’s done…well, you’re done. Except for the part where you watch the World Series and eat crunchy, just barely gooey, candy corn & pretzel-studded popcorn balls and call it Halloween. Or maybe that’s just me.Easy Popcorn Balls

Easy Popcorn Balls
makes about 14 balls

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 10-ounce bag mini marshmallows (about 6 cups)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
10 cups plain popped popcorn (from about 1/2 cup kernels)
1 cup candy corn
1 cup broken pretzel pieces

Alternative mix-in ideas (use 2 cups total):
M&Ms
Reese’s Pieces
salted peanuts
chopped Twizzlers
broken Oreos
sweet cereal of choice

Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment. Set aside.

Melt butter a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add marshmallows and all and stir until smooth. Carefully fold in popcorn. Remove from heat. Fold in candy corn and pretzels, or other desired mix-ins. Let mixture cool 5 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle but still pliable.

Grease your hands and a 1/2 cup measuring cup. Use the measuring cup to scoop heaping 1/2 cups of the popcorn mixture. Coax it out of the cup by inverting/using your fingers and then use your hands to firmly press the popcorn mixture into a ball. Place the popcorn ball on the prepared pan. Continue, working quickly, until all popcorn mixture is used. Let popcorn balls cool until set.

Popcorn balls are best the day they are made, but may be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. If you are concerned about them sticking together, you can wrap each in plastic wrap.Easy Popcorn BallsEasy Popcorn Balls

Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}

Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}Sometimes it takes years of thinking and testing and cursing and problem-solving—or, to be brief, “general creative agony”—to formulate a recipe. Other times, the recipe comes up and metaphorically slaps you in your dessert-obsessed face.Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}You can guess which sort of recipe this Chocolate Mousse Pie is.

(It’s the second one.)Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}Y’all! How did I not make a Chocolate Mousse Pie sooner? How did it never cross my mind? I’ve had a magnificent Chocolate Mousse Cake in my recipe index for two years and a no-bake Oreo pie crust in there for a year and a half, and yet combining them never even occurred to me until a couple of weeks ago. Not even a fleeting thought!

Just…WHAT?! Who am I? What day is it? Who’s running this thing?Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}This is exactly the sort of recipe I love to have in my back pocket. It’s super simple to make and a universal crowd-pleaser. Who can resist fluffy homemade chocolate mousse, whipped cream, and Oreo crumb crust? Not this baker.Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}…or should I say “no”-baker? This is a no-bake pie, after all! There are a couple of chilling steps in the recipe, but no need to crank up your oven. I’ve got a few pies coming your way in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, but if you’re looking for one that won’t take up valuable holiday oven space, this is it.Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}But! But. It’s not even Halloween yet, so maybe let’s keep the discussion of oven space off the table for like…twelve more days. Until then though, let’s talk creamy, wonderful Chocolate Mousse Pie, or better yet, eat it.Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}

Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}
makes one 9-inch pie

Crust:
25 whole Oreos
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Mousse:
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
3 tablespoons hot tap water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Whipped Cream & Garnish:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, cold
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
chocolate curls, for garnish (optional)

This recipe requires a 3 hour chill to set the mousse. Plan accordingly.

Make the crust. Place Oreos in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until they are crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until the mixture can be pinched together. Press it into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to set.

Make the mousse. In a double boiler or the microwave, melt dark chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and hot tap water.

In a large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, vanilla, confectioner’s sugar, and salt. Use an electric mixer to whip the mixture on low for 30 seconds before whipping on high for 1-2 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.

Transfer melted chocolate to a medium-large mixing bowl. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir the cocoa powder mixture and 1/3 of the whipped cream into the chocolate. Gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the chocolate until no white streaks remain.

Pile the mousse into the crust. Spread it into an even layer and tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any large air bubbles. Gently press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface of the mousse. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Remove pie from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature while you make the whipped cream.

Combine heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to whip the mixture on low for 30 seconds before whipping on high for 1-2 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.

Pile whipped cream onto the cake before spreading it into an even layer. Use a knife dipped in warm water to smooth the outer edge of the cake. Garnish with chocolate curls, if desired.

Serve pie immediately or refrigerate. For clean slices, dip the knife in warm water and wipe dry between cuts.Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}Chocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}

Super Fudgy Brownies

Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}The world doesn’t need another brownie recipe, but I do. Sure, I already have two base brownie recipes in my archives and a few variations on them (Brownie Truffles!), but I was disappointed to realize a few weeks ago that neither has the shiny, crackly top that seems to always come with a boxed mix brownie.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}It hadn’t occurred to me that I cared about this until I was talking to a couple of friends about what makes a good brownie. Our notes were similar: fudgy, not cakey at all, not too sweet or light in color. But then they started talking about the paper-thin crinkly top on their favorite boxed mix brownies and I realized I had forgotten about that altogether.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}In my defense, I haven’t made boxed mix brownies in at least seven years—probably more like ten. But I’ve also probably eaten thousands of them, all lovingly mixed together and topped with pecan mosaics by my dad. Every last one of them has had a shiny top, and yet that has never factored into my from-scratch brownie-making. Truly, it’s never even crossed my mind! That is, until this brownie-centric conversation, after which I was consumed with the idea, as evidenced by the 60+ brownies in various states of shiny-crackliness currently taking up space in my freezer, and this pictured super fudgy, crinkled deliciousness.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}So, what produces that perfect top? Cooking/baking science wiz Shirley O. Corriher says it’s a thin layer of meringue migrating to the top during baking. Yes, meringue like in pie…but also not…?

I just confused myself. Let’s try this again.

Basically, meringue is a combination of egg whites and sugar. This combination is whipped to stiff peaks and use as a topper or made into cookies or used to make silky frosting. But that’s not the sort of meringue we’re talking about today.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Here, meringue is more…deconstructed. Essentially, sugar is whisked into butter and chocolate that have been melted together. This suspends the sugar in the flavor/texture base of our brownies. Dry ingredients are whisked in, followed by vanilla and a couple of eggs that have been beaten just until they’re starting to get bubbly. The batter is spread into a pan and baked for nearly half an hour, until just set.

Now, here’s where the magic (ahem, chemistry) happens. The air that’s beaten into those eggs? It’s super important, even though it just looks like a few bubbles. That incorporated air pushes a thin layer of egg whites (protein) upward during baking. That, in turn, lifts some of the sugar that’s been mixed into the fat, producing a thin layer of meringue or, as we think of it, a crackly top!Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Did that make sense? I think it sort of made sense. I am a C+ chemistry student, y’all. If I had known I’d spend so much time thinking about chemical reactions, I may have paid more attention.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}When you look at the recipe, you may notice that I use bittersweet chocolate in these brownies instead of the usual unsweetened chocolate. This is simply because I almost always have bittersweet chocolate (Trader Joe’s PoundPlus Dark Chocolate is my go-to) and almost never have unsweetened. When I want brownies, I want to be able to make them without having to go to the grocery store, you know?! I have reduced the added sugar in this recipe to reflect using sweetened chocolate. If you have (or prefer) unsweetened, just up the sugar to 1 cup.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Did I mention that these brownies just happen to be gluten-free? Where many recipes call for flour, the dry ingredients here are a combination of cocoa powder and cornstarch. The cocoa powder provides a little structure and an extra hit of chocolate flavor—yum. As for the cornstarch, you could definitely use an equal volume of flour in its place, but I like the smooth texture it provides here, the same way it does in cakes and cookies. Plus, it means more friends can enjoy these brownies. Yesssss 😊 Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}One last thing: this recipe is easy and requires just eight ingredients! I felt this warranted a mention because there is a lot of technical jargon in this post. But I promise these are easy. They’re soooo easy. And super dense and fudgy and delicious. And they have that perfect crackly top. And perhaps you too will soon have a freezer full of brownies. It’s a very good problem to have.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}

Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}
makes 1 8-inch pan, 16 brownies

2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8×8″ rimmed square baking pan with butter. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on two sides for easy removal. Set aside.

Combine cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl, and use a fork to combine. Set aside.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Place butter and chocolate in heatproof bowl. When water comes to a simmer, turn heat to low and place heatproof bowl over the top. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir frequently until melted and smooth. Add sugar and whisk for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in dry ingredients.

Combine eggs and vanilla in a small mixing bowl. Use a whisk or fork to beat until a bit bubbly, about 1 minute. Whisk into chocolate mixture until smooth.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap full pan five times on the countertop to release air bubbles. Bake 25-30 minutes (mine took 28), until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs (not soupy batter).

Let brownies cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Use parchment overhang to remove to a cutting board. Slice into 16 pieces and serve.

Leftovers will keep an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. These may also be layered with wax paper or parchment and frozen.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}

Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}It’s that time! Tomorrow morning will be the first weekend breakfast of fall (even if you are regretting having packed away your summer clothes two weeks ago) and it should absolutely be this Pumpkin Puff Pancake. (And maybe bacon.)

(So many parentheticals today. Oy.)Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}This Pumpkin Puff is simply an autumnal take on my very favorite breakfast. Or maybe I should say “another” autumnal take—I made a Caramel Apple Puff a couple of years ago. You can have that next weekend though. This weekend, it’s all about the pumpkin.Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Mix up your pumpkin pie spice, crack open a can of Libby’s, put some of both in a blender with the usual suspects, and whirl up a smooth pancake batter.Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Pour it in a screaming hot pan with plenty of butter and go find something to do for roughly 17 minutes. I recommend figuring out which Emmy-nominated show you can manage to binge watch in its entirety before the broadcast on Sunday night (When They See Us! Pose! Fosse/Verdon!). Or, alternatively, if you’re local, determining which panel you’re going to attend at the Brooklyn Book Festival (I’ll be at the 4pm “How We Eat at Home” panel to hear Anita Lo, Carla Lalli Music and Alison Roman).

(What is it with the parentheses today?)Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Anyway…when you have decided to watch Sharp Objects and a few episodes of The Good Place…oops, sorry.

*ahem*

When your time has elapsed and your pancake is puffy and voluminous and golden, remove it from the oven. It will be big, buttery and beautiful at first, but will quickly settle into a crinkly, custardy pancake in the shape of its pan. Also, it’s going to smell magnificent, as almost all pumpkin spice-scented things do.Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Top it with whatever makes you happy—I went for my usual maple syrup and confectioners sugar, along with some toasted pecans. Keeping it seasonal, you know, because it’s officially fall in my kitchen and on this blog.Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}
makes 4-6 servings

For the Puff Pancake:
1/4 cup pure pumpkin purée (I prefer Libby’s)
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

For the pan:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

For serving:
confectioners sugar
pure maple syrup
toasted pecans

Place a large ovenproof cast iron or stainless steel pan in a cold oven. Preheat oven to 400F.

In the bowl of a food processor or high-powered blender, combine pumpkin purée, milk, eggs, vanilla, flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Process 30 seconds, or until no lumps remain. Let batter rest at least 5 minutes.

Once oven has reached 400F, remove the hot pan and add butter. Place pan back in the oven for 60-90 seconds, until butter has melted. Remove pan from the oven, and swirl the butter so it coats the pan. Pour in batter. Bake 17-18 minutes, until puffed and golden. Do NOT open the oven door during baking.

Remove pancake from oven—it will deflate quickly. Let cool 2-5 minutes before slicing and serving immediately with toppings of choice.Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Pumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Mango Granita

Mango GranitaI first came across a granita recipe in the summer of 2009 and thought “That looks easy and delicious. I’m going to make that.” And then ten years passed.

But I did make granita, and it was/is easy and delicious, and now I’m here to tell you to do the same. Maybe skip the ten years of procrastination though.Mango GranitaMango GranitaIf you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, granita is a semi-frozen Sicilian dessert–basically a classy snow cone. The texture is fluffy and snowy, but instead of being ice flavored with brightly-colored syrup, it’s made from real fruit with very limited added sugar, and you don’t need a special machine to make it.Mango GranitaTo make this Mango Granita, you’ll need:

  • a few pounds of fresh mango. You could probably use thawed frozen if that’s all you can find.
  • lime juice for brightness. Lime and mango are great together.
  • the tiniest amount of sugar to round things out. Yes, ripe mango is already very sweet, but cold temperatures mean that flavor doesn’t always shine through the way it does at room temperature. I like to add two tablespoons of sugar to the entire recipe. That small amount makes a big difference!
  • a pinch of salt for balance. You can leave this out if you want to, but salt is rarely a bad idea.
  • a blender (or food processor), a dish, a fork, and time.

Mango GranitaMango GranitaThe process is simple. Blitz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth, then pour the purée into a large dish and put it in the freezer for an hour.Mango GranitaWhen that time is up, remove the dish from the freezer. Starting at the outer edge, use a fork to drag the frozen purée into the looser center. This will begin the process of making fluffy, snowy ice crystals. At first, you may feel like you’re dragging a fork through soup, but an hour later, it’ll be a different story.Mango GranitaAnd then, thirty more minutes will go by and crystals will really begin to form! The grainy texture is the “gran-” in granita.Mango GranitaYou’ll know it’s ready when it looks like this:Mango GranitaMango GranitaMango GranitaMango Granita is as delicious as it is beautiful—light and refreshing and perfect for these sweltering last few weeks of summer! The texture is somewhere between a snow cone and a sorbet. Where you might think this would be icy, it’s super smooth and surprisingly creamy. This is the sort of dessert that is great for any occasion from watching Netflix in your PJs to a cookout to a dinner party. It’s vegan, nut-free, low calorie and low sugar–a wonderful option for a crowd!Mango GranitaMango GranitaBefore I get to the recipe, here are a few more tips for granita success:

  • use the largest dish you can. The shallower the layer of purée, the faster it will freeze.
  • you can use any fruit you like! I love mango, but peaches, melon or berries would be magnificent here!
  • make granita on a day you’ll be spending a lot of time at home. This recipe is low maintenance, but the ice crystals need to be scraped every hour at first and then every half-hour. Give ‘em one final scrape before serving.
  • for the love of everything, don’t wait ten years to make this. Ideally, you should make Mango Granita as soon as possible. Like tomorrow.

Have a great weekend, y’all!Mango Granita

Mango Granita
makes about a quart

3 large ripe mangoes (about 3 pounds), pits & skin removed, sliced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Combine mango, lime juice, sugar and salt in a high-powered blender and blitz until smooth. Pour into a large shallow dish (I used a 9×13-inch casserole). Freeze for 60 minutes.

Remove cold mixture from freezer. Starting at the outer edge, use a fork to scrape/drag the icier edges of the mixture into the center of the dish. Mixture will still be quite loose. Return dish to the freezer for 45-60 minutes before repeating scraping. Continue to scrape every 30 minutes for the next 1-2 hours, or until the texture is fluffy and snow-like.

Freeze until ready to serve. Give one last scrape before serving in small bowls.

Leftover granita will keep in the freezer for about a week. Scrape before serving.Mango GranitaMango GranitaMango Granita