Brown Eyed Baker http://www.browneyedbaker.com Sweet. Savory. Sinful. Fri, 31 Oct 2014 04:01:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Friday Things http://www.browneyedbaker.com/friday-things-102/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/friday-things-102/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 04:01:44 +0000 http://www.browneyedbaker.com/?p=32453 Einstein playing in the leaves!

1. Last week, we had a SERIOUS leaf problem in our yard. It’s since been taken care of, but Einstein sure enjoyed plopping himself in the middle of a big leaf pile!

2. I had my 29-week doctor’s appointment yesterday, and everything continues to be going really smoothly. My weight, blood pressure and belly measurements are all on target, I got my whooping cough vaccine, signed my delivery consent form… things are getting real!

29 Weeks!

3. This week, we got our Christmas cards ordered and I looooove them (got them on Minted)! I think I’m all set in terms of cards, now I just need to get organized in terms of gift buying. Something tells me I’m not going to feel like waddling through the mall in the middle of December!

4. Did you see these pictures of Melanie Griffith and her family’s pet lion from the 1970’s? I mean, OMG.

5. What was your favorite Halloween candy when you were a kid? I was always a Reese’s peanut butter cup girl (big surprise!), and pretty much any type of chocolate-based candy bar. I was always so bummed when I saw a box of Nerds – those were my least favorite candy, by far.

6. I drank my first hot chocolate of the season last night, complete with marshmallows. I might need to make this a nightly ritual!

7. For those of you that watched Boardwalk Empire, what did you think of the finale?! I was loving this season with the flashbacks, and wish they would have spent more episodes on it and developed everything a little bit better – it felt a little bit rushed to me. I thought the ending was inevitable, even though it bummed me out.

8. Did you watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown last night? I love, love, LOVE Charlie Brown holiday specials, and now I am officially ready for Christmas movies and music. Tomorrow is November, so it’s not totally ridiculous, right?!

9. Don’t forget that I’m hosting an awesome giveaway – if you are into photography, you’ll definitely want to enter the giveaway to win a One-Year Subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which includes Photoshop, Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile!

10. TGIF! I hope you have a fun and safe Halloween night! (Duke and Einstein know how to take it easy!)

Duke and Einstein - Snuggle buddies

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Food Photography Tips + Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom GIVEAWAY! http://www.browneyedbaker.com/food-photography-tips-adobe-photoshop-lightroom-giveaway/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/food-photography-tips-adobe-photoshop-lightroom-giveaway/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 04:01:10 +0000 http://www.browneyedbaker.com/?p=32403 new-camera-1-525

Looking back to when I first began blogging in 2007, it’s clear that I knew virtually nothing about taking pictures of food. My process back then went something like this:

Make something, put it on a plate or in a bowl, put it on the counter or table, snapped a picture and eat. At some point in the future, upload it and post it online. No fancy camera, no editing… it was all bare bones.

It wasn’t until months later, when I was still blogging and photographing food on a very regular basis that I realized I had quite a bit to learn about how to make the food that I knew tasted fantastic look just as good on the screen. It’s been an extremely large learning curve over the last 7-plus years, but I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way. I receive a lot of questions about the photography on this site, so I thought a little overview might be useful. Be sure to read the whole way to the end; the folks at Adobe are sponsoring an awesome giveaway!

The Set-Up

setup-1-600

The number one piece of advice that I can give, no matter what type of camera you’re using, is to shoot as much as possible using natural light. I am lucky in that there is a breakfast room right off of my kitchen that is covered in windows, and that’s where I take all of my photos. The only exception is if I’m taking step-by-step photos while preparing a more complicated recipe – those are almost always shot at my kitchen island, under artificial light. The photos just don’t have the same life, pop and color as the ones shot in natural light.

One of the biggest challenges that I faced at the beginning (and that I still face today), is “styling” the shot. This means thinking through a background, the type of plate or bowl, garnishes, props like silverware or drinks, colors and the like. This might be the thing that comes least naturally to me. I am not inherently creative and I don’t have an eye for design, so trying to set a scene is sometimes challenging for me. Many times I go the minimalist route and just let the food shine through and speak for itself. I’ve found that referencing a color wheel can sometimes help with matching colors, and that food pops on white plates, as opposed to colored or patterned plates. Lately, I’ve been using more dark backgrounds; depending on the color of the food your photographing, it can really make it stand out!

The Equipment

The Gear

While you certainly don’t need a fancy camera to get started taking photographs of food, you will notice a different in the quality of the photos once you start using one. When I first began blogging in 2007, I used a Canon PowerShot point and shoot, then moved on to a Panasonic Lumix point and shoot. In December 2010, I began using my first dSLR, a Canon Rebel T2i, which was a fantastic entry-level SLR. Two years later, in December 2012, I upgraded to the camera I am currently using, the Canon 5D Mark III. Although I’ve been using them for nearly four years now, there is so much to learn about SLR cameras, and I’m constantly Googling questions I have. There are a ton of great blogs and resources out there, but getting familiar with all of the settings and how they affect one another is best done through an insane amount of practice. Using that camera not only to photograph food, but people, pets, landscapes, sporting events – anything you can think to take a picture of – will help you familiarize yourself with all of the intricacies of the camera.

As for lenses, I started out using a 50mm 1.8 lens, which I retired after upgrading to the 50mm 1.4 lens. While I now have a variety of lenses that I use depending on what I’m photographing aside from food, the one I use for 98% of my food photography is a 100mm 2.8 macro lens. There’s nothing quite like getting up close and personal with an awesome macro lens to showcase the texture of the food you want to photograph. I find that even if I’m not taking a super close-up shot, the macro lens still tends to pick up the most amount of detail in the food, so it is absolutely my default lens.

The Editing

Lightroom Editing

Once the photos are taken, I upload them into Adobe Lightroom, which is what I use to organize my photos and do all of my editing. I typically don’t do anything too drastic, as I try to get all of the important settings nailed down on the camera before I start shooting away. I love the preset function that Lightroom has, so with one click I can make a batch of edits all at once. The adjustments that I usually tinker with are white balance, exposure, contrast, whites, saturation and clarity.

While I don’t use Photoshop on a regular basis, I will load photos into there if I need to do any advanced smudge removal, or sometimes to create collages. I would love to get some more in-depth practice at using everything that Photoshop has to offer!

Giveaway Details

The folks at Adobe have an awesome giveaway for you – they are offering up a one-year subscription to their Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which will give you unlimited access to Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Lightroom Mobile. Throughout the course of the subscription, the software will automatically update to the newest versions; no need to wait for a new release! Be sure to enter below for your chance to win! GOOD LUCK! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Adobe, but all opinions are my own.

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DIY: Homemade Peppermint Patties http://www.browneyedbaker.com/diy-homemade-york-peppermint-patties-recipe/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/diy-homemade-york-peppermint-patties-recipe/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 04:01:23 +0000 http://www.browneyedbaker.com/?p=32405 Homemade York Peppermint Patties - So easy to make and tastes EXACTLY like the original! | browneyedbaker.com

Halloween is just a couple of days away, but you won’t find any spooky decorations at my house. I’m pretty much the scrooge of Halloween… I think I stopped trick or treating before I was out of grade school, and only dressed up once (in college, and it was a tie-dye t-shirt – I made myself a hippie) since then… I hate scary movies… spiders, skulls and eye balls gross me out.

However, I do find that Halloween has one redeeming quality – the candy, of course! Now that I can get behind. I haven’t done too much in the way of homemade candy lately, and I thought the upcoming holiday would be a good excuse.

I went through a serious York Peppermint Pattie phase about 10 years ago. I loved how refreshing the combination of peppermint and dark chocolate was, plus I loved that those little patties had a smidgen of the calories of a legit candy bar. Making them at home has been on my to-do list for a long time, and I’m glad I finally got around to making them. These homemade peppermint patties are so easy to make, and I couldn’t get over the fact that they taste EXACTLY like their namesake.

Homemade York Peppermint Patties - So easy to make and tastes EXACTLY like the original! | browneyedbaker.com

The filling for the peppermint patties comes together quickly and is chilled briefly before being rolled out and cut into rounds. The round are frozen, then dipped in dark chocolate and left to set up for about an hour.

Homemade York Peppermint Patties - So easy to make and tastes EXACTLY like the original! | browneyedbaker.com

I took a couple tastes of the filling after I had mixed it, and thought it tasted good, but it wasn’t until it was rolled out and covered in dark chocolate that the familiar taste hit me. I really was stunned at what a perfect copycat recipe this is! I used 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract in the filling, which I thought was good and mild. If you enjoy a bigger punch of peppermint flavor, I would bump it up just a bit, and I’ve indicated that in the recipe below.

If you tend to eschew Halloween like me but don’t want to totally neglect the holiday, homemade candy is your answer! It also goes without saying that these homemade peppermint patties would make a most excellent Christmas treat, both for holiday cookie trays and gift-giving.

Homemade York Peppermint Patties - So easy to make and tastes EXACTLY like the original! | browneyedbaker.com

One year ago: Pumpkin Pancakes and Candy Corn and Pretzel Chocolate Bark
Two years ago: How To Make Compound Butter
Four years ago: Homemade Caramel Apples and Pumpkin Cheesecake
Seven years ago: Bostini Cream Pie

Homemade Peppermint Patties

Yield: About 50 patties

Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

A homemade rendition of York Peppermint Patties.

Ingredients:

7½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
⅓ cup evaporated milk
⅓ cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons refined coconut oil
1 to 1½ teaspoons peppermint extract
24 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

Directions:

1. Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat together the powdered sugar, evaporated milk, corn syrup, coconut oil and peppermint extract until a soft dough forms. Divide the dough in two and form into disks, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Sprinkle a clean work surface with powdered sugar, place one of the disks on the surface, sprinkle the top with powdered sugar, and roll out to a ¼-inch thickness. Using a 1⅞-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles and place on the prepared baking sheet. Gather scraps and re-roll and cut additional circles until no more dough remains. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the rounds are firm, at least 30 minutes or overnight.

3. When ready to dip the patties, place the finely chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a small saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.

4. Working with one round at a time, dip into the chocolate using a fork and allow any excess chocolate to drip off before returning the patty to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with all of the peppermint rounds and allow to set at room temperature, about 1 hour. The homemade peppermint patties can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

(Recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

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Cranberry Orange Bread http://www.browneyedbaker.com/cranberry-orange-bread/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/cranberry-orange-bread/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 04:01:03 +0000 http://www.browneyedbaker.com/?p=32407 Cranberry Orange Bread - More crumb cake than bread, this is a perfect treat to have on hand for the holidays! | browneyedbaker.com

Last fall, my sister moved into an apartment close to the city in Pittsburgh, and it didn’t take long for her to locate the neighborhood bakery. The day that I helped her do some cleaning, she gave me an assortment of cupcakes as a thank you. They were ah-mazing! Since then, she has showed up to our house and family functions with different items from the bakery, and one of my absolute favorites is their cranberry orange bread. It’s super soft, has a great orange flavor and is studded with dried cranberries. The very first time we tried it, my Chief Culinary Consultant told me I had to figure out how to make it at home. Um, that was last fall. Oops! Better late than never, right?!

Cranberry Orange Bread - More crumb cake than bread, this is a perfect treat to have on hand for the holidays! | browneyedbaker.com

The best thing about this bread is that it really isn’t much of a bread at all, except that it’s baked in a loaf pan. Rather, it has the consistency of a crumb cake or pound cake; it’s incredibly moist and dense and tastes so buttery. When I thought about how I wanted to tackle the bread, I immediately thought of adapting my favorite New York-Style Crumb Cake recipe. I doubled the recipe, baked it in a loaf pan, omitted the crumb topping and adding orange zest and dried cranberries to the batter.

I tried a couple of different iterations before settling on this one, and I think it comes quite close to the original, although my husband claims that mine is better, so… that’s good! I think this would be a fabulous loaf to have on hand for the holidays or to give as gifts. I think it would freeze well, but be forewarned that you won’t be able to stop nibbling on it once you start!

Cranberry Orange Bread - More crumb cake than bread, this is a perfect treat to have on hand for the holidays! | browneyedbaker.com

One year ago: Apple Cider Caramels
Two years ago: Pumpkin Blondies
Three years ago: Favorite Hardcore Chili
Four years ago: Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Six years ago: Buttermilk-Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

Cranberry Orange Bread

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

The recreation of a fabulous sweet bread from a local Pittsburgh bakery.

Ingredients:

⅔ cup dried cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
2½ cups cake flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, softened but still cool
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
⅔ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

To Finish:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Coarse sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8x4-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and line the pan with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over the sides.

2. Place the dried cranberries in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, cover and let steep for at least 15 minutes. Drain the cranberries and pat dry with paper towels.

3. In the bowl of standing mixer, combine the sugar with the orange zest. Using your fingers, work the zest into the sugar until all of the sugar is evenly moistened.

4. Add the flour, baking soda and salt to the bowl and mix on low speed to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, add the butter one piece at a time. Continue beating until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, yolks, vanilla and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.

5. In a small bowl toss the dried cranberries with the flour until they are evenly coated. Fold the cranberries into the batter.

6. Transfer batter to baking pan; using a rubber spatula, spread the batter into even layer. Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. As soon as the bread comes out of the oven, brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from the loaf pan by lifting parchment overhang. Leftovers should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting http://www.browneyedbaker.com/pumpkin-cupcakes-with-cream-cheese-frosting/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/pumpkin-cupcakes-with-cream-cheese-frosting/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 04:01:39 +0000 http://www.browneyedbaker.com/?p=4192 Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting - A perfect fall treat! | browneyedbaker.com

[This recipe was originally posted in November 2009; I have revamped the recipe, as well as taken new photos. These amazing cupcakes deserved an upgrade!]

I first made pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting nearly five years ago, and I have been loving that flavor combination ever since. While I loved the old cupcakes, I thought that they were a bit too heavy on the spices, causing them to overpower the pumpkin, which I wanted to shine. This updated recipe tastes almost like pumpkin pie in cupcake form – a lot of fabulous pumpkin flavor with some subtle spice undertones. Throw a dollop (well, a little more than a dollop) of cream cheese on top, and you have one utterly fantastic fall dessert.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting - A perfect fall treat! | browneyedbaker.com

I mentioned it the first time I made pumpkin cupcakes, and it bear repeating – if you’re looking to add another flavor profile to these cupcakes, adding some maple syrup to the frosting would absolutely take them over the top. I used a similar filling for the pumpkin whoopie pies that I made four years ago. The maple is an awesome complement to both pumpkin and cream cheese, so if you’re a fan, go on ahead and throw some syrup (make sure it’s pure maple syrup!) into your frosting. I’d probably use 2 to 3 tablespoons to start, and taste to see if it’s flavored to your liking. If the consistency is a little too soft, add another ½ to 1 cup of powdered sugar.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting - A perfect fall treat! | browneyedbaker.com

If you’re a pumpkin fanatic, a cream cheese frosting fanatic, a fall fanatic, a Thanksgiving fanatic, or any combination thereof, you will absolutely, positively, without a doubt adore these cupcakes.

Make sure you have some folks to share them with, or you might just want to eat them all yourself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting - A perfect fall treat! | browneyedbaker.com

One year ago: Sweet Onion and Parmesan Dip
Two years ago: Apple Fritter Doughnuts
Three years ago: Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
Four years ago: Homemade Cracker Jack

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 18 to 22 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Slightly-spiced pumpkin cupcakes piled high with cream cheese frosting.

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes:
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ cup canned pumpkin
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, both sugars and the vegetable oil until completely combined, making sure to break up any chunks of brown sugar so no lumps remain. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture in two additions, folding with a rubber spatula until no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide the batter between the baking cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

5. Make the Frosting: With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese, vanilla and salt and continue to beat for an additional 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar gradually and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Using a decorating bag and tip (I used the Ateco #827 tip) or an offset spatula, frost the tops of the cupcakes. (If you like the frosting piled high as pictured, this is the perfect amount of frosting. If you prefer less, you can scale the frosting down.) The cupcakes can stay at room temperature for a few hours, but should be refrigerated for longer-term storage up to 4 days.

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Friday Things http://www.browneyedbaker.com/friday-things-101/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/friday-things-101/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 04:01:38 +0000 http://www.browneyedbaker.com/?p=32390 2014.10.16-1-600

1. These two boys have been extra snuggly lately and I just want to eat them up. Granted, it’s more of Duke snuggling next to Einstein and Einstein tolerating it, but at any rate, it’s adorable and I love it :)

2. I’m currently 28 weeks (+4 days) and counting… Hellooooo third trimester!

2014.10.20-week28-4-600

It’s hard to believe that my due date is less than three months away; I can’t wait to meet this little guy! :)

3. I think I mentioned it the last time I went to the dentist, but my husband and I have had an ongoing competition to see who could go the longest without getting a cavity, as neither of us had ever gotten one (we chalk it up to the crazy coincidence that we both went to the same dentist as kids!). I’m super sad to report that my 34-year cavity-free streak has come to a halt. I may have whined and begged my dentist not to tell my husband (who was in the waiting room). She said it’s super teeny tiny and that pregnancy hormones often wreck havoc on the mouth, causing gingivitis (which I didn’t have) and tooth decay that hadn’t been present before. I was still totally disappointed in my teeth, but I honored our bet and bought my husband lunch at Noodles after our appointment.

4. I’ve been trying to get organized for the holidays in advance this year since I’ll probably be in total baby mode come December; I’ve already ordered holiday-themed stamps and return address labels, now I just need to pick out Christmas cards! I also have thank you cards and stamps ready to go for after the baby shower. I’m ready to bask in the glow of Christmas lights and sip on some hot chocolate.

5. This Buzzfeed post of 22 Surefire Ways To Annoy Your Type-A Friends was totally spot-on… I got antsy just reading it!

6. If you’ve been following BEB for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that I’m from Pittsburgh, and I’ve mentioned Primanti Brothers sandwiches on more than one occasion. They’re a cult classic here – piled high with meat, provolone, tomatoes and… coleslaw and French fries. I know, most people think it sounds crazy until they try it. Now, Primanti Bros. is shipping party packs, complete with everything you need to make a handful of their sandwiches. If you’re a Pittsburgh transplant in another city, this is seriously a dream come true! I would have killed for this when I was living away from home for a couple of years.

7. Are you playing fantasy football this year? My team is in dire straits… I’m 3-4 and things don’t look to be improving any time soon. Such a bummer!

8. I can’t believe that the series finale of Boardwalk Empire is this Sunday! I’m anxious to see how they’re going to end everything. The only other series I’ve been watching has been Scandal, although I still need to watch last night’s episode. I’m still hooked! I just saw that The Americans will be back on in January, and I’m looking forward to it; I’ve always thought it was an underrated show. What have you been watching lately?

9. Thoughts and prayers are with Ottawa this week, and the Canadian community in general. The anthem before the Penguins hockey game on Wednesday night gave me chills:

10. TGIF! Duke wishes you a cozy weekend!

2014.10.19-4-600

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BEB Readers: Most Popular Cookbooks and Kitchen Equipment http://www.browneyedbaker.com/most-popular-cookbooks-and-kitchen-equipment-2/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/most-popular-cookbooks-and-kitchen-equipment-2/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 04:01:35 +0000 http://www.browneyedbaker.com/?p=32380 10 of the Most Popular Cookbooks and Kitchen Gadgets Among BEB Readers | browneyedbaker.com

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been in multiple stores that already have their Christmas items on display, while Halloween items are sitting on clearance racks. Retail marketing continues to befuddle me, which is probably why I had no luck looking for Thanksgiving decorations two weeks before Thanksgiving last year. I can’t keep up! The holidays are hurtling towards us at a serious clip, and my mom has already asked me what I want for Christmas. Twice. I have no idea. I’m still trying to figure out if our baby is supposed to sleep in a crib, a bassinet, a pack n’ play, a rock n’ play or the dog bed (kidding!) come January. What I want most for Christmas is to not go into labor during a snow storm. That’s about it… I’m so easy to shop for, right?!

In the event that you’ve already started your shopping or have been putting together your own wish list, I thought it would be fun to run through the most popular cookbooks and kitchen gear among BEB readers thus far in 2014. I always love to see what other people are buying, and there have been some seriously awesome cookbooks released this year. One thing is for sure – you all love your ice cream and soup! My kind of people :)

10 Most Popular Cookbooks

1. The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments

2. New England Soup Factory Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes from the Nation’s Best Purveyor of Fine Soup

3. America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook

4. 500 Soups: The Only Soup Compendium You’ll Ever Need

5. Williams-Sonoma Collection: Soup

6. Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

7. Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food

8. Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery

9. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

10. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

10 Most Popular Kitchen Items

1. Tovolo Glide-A-Scoop Ice Cream Tub

2. Norpro Cream Canoe Pan

3. Progressive Freezer Pop Maker

4. Le Creuset Petite Oval Au Gratin Dish

5. Norpro Stainless Steel Cannoli Forms

6. John Boos Block Board Cream with Beeswax

7. CIA Masters Collection Wire Cooling Rack

8. KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

9. Taylor Candy and Deep Fry Stainless Steel Thermometer

10. Fat Diddio Oblong Tart Pan with Removable Bottom

What were some of your favorite cookbook and kitchen gadgets this year??

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip http://www.browneyedbaker.com/girls-love-their-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/girls-love-their-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 04:01:00 +0000 http://chelley325.wordpress.com/2007/07/14/girls-love-their-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough/ Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip - A sweet, creamy dip that tastes like chocolate chip cookie dough without the guilt of raw egg! | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

When I was a kid and my mom would bake cookies, there was an unwritten rule that my sister and I would get to lick the beaters when my mom was done. This usually happened in the midst of holiday baking, and I have such fond memories of hanging out in the kitchen, waiting for her to be done with the mixer so that I could swipe some of that sweet, sugary cookie dough off the beater. At some point along the way, raw cookie dough became bad news amidst worries over salmonella. I don’t think my mom ever made us stop eating cookie dough, but it sure took some of the fun out of it! Luckily, this sweet dip tastes almost exactly like raw cookie dough (minus the gritty, sugary texture), which means all the sinful goodness without the raw eggs!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip - A sweet, creamy dip that tastes like chocolate chip cookie dough without the guilt of raw egg! | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

Almost ten years ago, one of my best friends and I were lucky enough to work at the same place. We routinely used our work breaks to bring binders full of recipes to the corporate cafeteria and swap favorites. This recipe was one of the recipes that she gifted to me during one of those escapes from the cubicle, and it continues to be one of my favorites.

I love that it’s not a straight-up dessert, but rather an awesome sweet snack that’s perfect for get-togethers. If you grew up stealing bites of your mom’s cookie dough, you’ll absolutely love this dip!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip - A sweet, creamy dip that tastes like chocolate chip cookie dough without the guilt of raw egg! | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

One year ago: Compost Cookies
Two years ago: Pumpkin Seed Brittle with Vanilla Bean and Cardamom
Four years ago: The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Five years ago: Egg Bagels

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

A sweet, creamy dip that tastes just like chocolate chip cookie dough without the guilt of raw egg!

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
⅓ cup light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese
½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
Graham crackers or Nilla wafers, to serve

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and salt over medium-low heat, stirring continuously, until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, whisk in the vanilla extract, and set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar for 1 minute, until smooth and fluffy.

3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly beat in the cooled butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Transfer the dip to a serving bowl and refrigerate if not serving immediately. Remove from the refrigerator 15 to 30 minutes before serving. Serve with graham crackers or Nilla wafers. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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Apple Slab Pie http://www.browneyedbaker.com/apple-slab-pie-recipe/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/apple-slab-pie-recipe/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 04:01:38 +0000 http://www.browneyedbaker.com/?p=32349 Apple Slab Pie - Perfect for serving a crowd! | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

My grandma was much more of a “cooking grandma” than a “baking grandma”, so many of my memories surrounding her food revolve around dinners, not necessarily desserts. She did have a handful of sweet treats in her repertoire (things like icebox cake, ambrosia and biscotti) that she would serve, but the focal point was always the actual meal. The only pie I remember her ever making was apple, and it was never in a traditional round pie plate… it was always in a sheet pan or a 9×13-inch baking pan. I never asked why, but knowing my grandma, she would have figured that a 9-inch pie plate wouldn’t make enough to feed everyone on a typical Sunday. Having just enough was never enough for her; she wanted to make sure that if someone wanted seconds or thirds, there would be plenty left.

Apple Slab Pie - Perfect for serving a crowd! | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

As someone who loves a high crust to filling ratio when it comes to pie, slab pie is right up my alley.

There is an abundance of butter, flaky crust, and just the right amount of juicy, spiced apple filling.

Apple Slab Pie - Perfect for serving a crowd! | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

The filling set up beautifully and was perfect when the pie was sliced – it didn’t run and the apples didn’t slide out every which way, which is a huge pet peeve of mine when eating a big slice of pie. Most times I find that I end up eating the filling separately, since it ends up all over the plate and not neatly packaged inside the crust.

As you can see, this filling was perfectly sturdy and had just the right amount of apples and thickener. It was a thing of beauty!

Apple Slab Pie - Perfect for serving a crowd! | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

If you love pie in any of its many forms, you owe it to yourself to make a slab pie. It’s less fussy than traditional pie, and it will ensure that everyone can take a crack at seconds if they’d like.

It’s the only way my grandma believed in feeding people, and I’m happy to follow in her footsteps!

Apple Slab Pie - Perfect for serving a crowd! | browneyedbaker.com #recipe

One year ago: Slow Cooker Apple Butter
Two years ago: Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Three years ago: Skillet Apple Crisp
Five years ago: How to Roast Garlic

Apple Slab Pie

Yield: 12 to 18 servings

Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

A traditional apple pie made in a jelly roll pan - perfect for crowds!

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
3¾ (470 grams) cups all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, very cold
¾ cup ice water

For the Filling:
3½ to 4 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 8 medium apples), peeled, cored and chopped into ½-inch chunks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon salt

For the Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
Pinch of salt

Directions:

1. Make the Crust: Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of tiny peas. Gently stir in the water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Using your hands, knead it two or three times to form a ball. Divide the dough roughly in half (it’s okay if one is slightly larger). Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour (or up to two days).

2. Preheat oven oven to 375 degrees F. Line the bottom of 10x15x1-inch baking sheet or jellyroll pan with parchment paper.

3. Prepare the Filling: In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice until coated. Add the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt, and stir to evenly coat.

4. Assemble the Pie: On a lightly floured surface, roll one of your dough halves (the larger one, if you have two different sizes) into an 18x13-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and gently work the dough into the corners and along the edges of the pan. Trim any overhang off the sides to ¾-inch.

5. Turn the apple mixture onto the dough and spread into an even layer.

6. Roll the second piece of dough (the smaller one, if they were different sizes) into a 16x11-inch rectangle. Drape over the filling and fold the bottom crust’s overhang over the edges, sealing the two pieces of dough together. Crimp the edges, if desired. Using a paring knife, cut nine small slits over the surface of the top crust.

7. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water and salt. Brush a thin coating of the egg wash evenly over all of the exposed crust.

8. Bake the Pie: Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before serving, about 45 minutes. Leftovers will keep at room temperature, well-covered, for up to three days.

(Recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

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Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs http://www.browneyedbaker.com/slow-cooker-bbq-ribs/ http://www.browneyedbaker.com/slow-cooker-bbq-ribs/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 04:01:59 +0000 http://www.browneyedbaker.com/?p=32351 Crock-Pot BBQ Ribs - The easiest, most flavorful ribs you'll ever make at home! | browneyedbaker.com #slowcooker #recipe

Homemade ribs are one of the few things that have truly intimidated me in the kitchen. I have saved countless recipes for barbecue ribs, but all of the hands-on time, plus precise grilling temperatures and placements, left me feeling less than motivated to tackle them at home. I mentioned to you on Friday that I’ve been trying to make more use of my slow cooker, and last week while I was making my grocery list, I asked my Chief Culinary Consultant if there was anything in particular he’d like for dinner. He suggested some type of meat in the slow cooker, so I started poking around for ideas. I threw out some new ideas, and when I mentioned barbecue ribs, he immediately got excited. Ribs it was!

Crock-Pot BBQ Ribs - The easiest, most flavorful ribs you'll ever make at home! | browneyedbaker.com #slowcooker #recipe

I ended up mashing together a number of different recipes before I came up with my game plan. A lot of the recipes I found called for simply throwing the ribs into the slow cooker with a bottle of barbecue sauce; however, many of those reviews stated that the meat lacked flavor. So, I decided a rub was in order. Done.

The next hurdle was figuring out how to eliminate a fatty, soupy sauce if the ribs cooked down, releasing juices and fat into the barbecue sauce. Some recipes recommended par-cooking the ribs in the oven to help with this, but that seemed to defeat the purpose of having an easy, throw-it-together-in-10-minutes type of meal. I opted for cooking the ribs sans sauce for the first seven hours; between the rub and layers of onion, the meat was wonderfully flavored. Then, the accumulated liquids were drained out, the ribs returned to the slow cooker with the barbecue sauce, and cooked for an additional hour. I was positively thrilled with how this method worked out.

The resulting ribs were literally falling off the bones, and were bursting with sweet, smoky and slightly spicy flavors. We enjoyed the ribs exactly how they came out, but if you prefer a stickier, more caramelized coating of barbecue sauce on your ribs, you could place them on a foil-lined baking sheet once they are done in the slow cooker and broil them for a few minutes.

Now that we’ve had these ribs, I don’t feel like I need to master the on-the-grill version anymore. These could not be simpler or have a better texture and flavor! If you’ve been intimidated by making ribs at home, this recipe is your answer. Served with my favorite mashed potatoes and cole slaw, we were definitely going back for seconds!

I have a feeling this is going to be a weekly request at this house ;-)

Crock-Pot BBQ Ribs - The easiest, most flavorful ribs you'll ever make at home! | browneyedbaker.com #slowcooker #recipe

Three years ago: Salted Caramel Popcorn, Pretzel & Peanut Bars
Four years ago: Pumpkin, Cinnamon Chip & Pecan Granola Bars
Five years ago: Potato Rosemary Bread
Six years ago: Wendy’s Copycat Chili
Seven years ago: Soft Pretzels: Part II

Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes

The absolute easiest way to make ribs!

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 pounds baby back ribs, back membrane removed, cut into sections to fit the slow cooker
2 large yellow onions, sliced
1 cup water
1 (40-ounce) bottle barbecue sauce (your favorite)

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, brown sugar, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Rub the spice blend evenly over both sides of the ribs.

2. Spray a 6-quart slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Place a layer of sliced onions on the bottom. Alternate layers of ribs and onions. Pour the water over the top of the ribs. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours; the meat should be extremely tender and falling off the bone.

3. Using tongs, remove the ribs to a large plate. Pour off all accumulated liquid and the onions. Return the ribs to the empty slow cooker and pour the barbecue sauce over top, turning the ribs so they are evenly coated. Cover and cook on low for an additional 1 hour. Cut and serve!

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