Monday, May 30, 2011

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

Peanut butter and chocolate. It's a match made in heaven. I know plenty of other people have used that same phrase to describe peanut butter and chocolate, but heck, I'm going to use it nonetheless. :)

These brownies are a combination of a couple recipes... The peanut butter swirl part is from my Martha Stewart Cookie book that I've mentioned in the blog several times (including recently when I made these surprise cookies!). And the "base" brownie recipe is my go-to from scratch brownie recipe that is so super simple and delicious. It's from Nestle and I use it all the time when I need to whip up a quick batch of brownies!

Brownie Ingredients:

-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
-3 eggs
-1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp. baking soda

Peanut Butter Swirl Ingredients:

-4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
-1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
-3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and line with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang. Butter the parchment lining.

For the brownies, melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat; stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in eggs. Stir in flour, sugar, vanilla extract, and baking soda. Stir in remaining cup of chocolate chips.

For the peanut butter filling, stir together the butter, confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, salt and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.

Pour one-third of the brownie batter into the prepared pan; spread evenly with a spatula. Drop dollops of peanut butter filling on top of the batter, spacing about 2-inch apart. Pour remaining batter on top, and gently spread to fill the pan. Drop dollops of remaining peanut butter mixture on top. Gently swirl peanut butter filling into batter with a butter knife, running the knife lengthwise and crosswise through the layers.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies comes out with a few crumbs, about 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

These are seriously good. They're moist, dense, and very flavorful. The extra cup of chocolate chips adds a nice, slight crunchy texture too. I love how incredibly easy these brownies are as well. If you're looking to change it up from your typical brownie recipe, I'd suggest trying these! Perhaps with a tall glass of cold milk?! :)

Friday Favorites, 5.27.11

  First of all, I must apologize for this week's Friday Favorites being posted on a Monday! Oops. I have been good each week about posting on Friday since I started Friday Favorites... But this past week just got away from me and I didn't have time to post! 

I am excited about this week's post though. I'll be highlighting the recent celebration my family had of my grandmother's 85th birthday! My grandma actually turned 85 back in January, but we had a surprise party for her last Saturday, May 21st. That's one way to be sure the guest of honor doesn't suspect anything...have the surprise five months later. ;-) My grandmother (I should say our grandmother too for my siblings and cousins, and mother for my mom, aunt, and uncle!) is amazing at age 85. She is very active and independent and is an inspiration to us all! We all love and respect her so much; the party was only one small way for us to recognize her and all she has done and stands for. We are incredibly lucky to have her! :)

For this special occasion, my mom asked if I'd bake cupcakes. Obviously I agreed! One of my grandmother's favorite flavors is raspberry, so I made lemon cupcakes with a raspberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting. And then for the chocolate lovers out there, I made my favorite darn good chocolate cupcakes with a mocha frosting. The mocha frosting was to-die-for. I had never made it before, but you can be sure that it is a keeper and will be my go-to mocha frosting from now on!

Here are my lemon cupcakes with the centers removed, prepped and ready for the raspberry filling!

I've made this lemon cupcake recipe before; you can read all about it here. And for the raspberry filling, I used the same recipe as with the strawberry filling I've made for these lemon cupcakes....but I substituted raspberries for the strawberries, clearly. :) The frosting recipe is also the same as in my original posting about the lemon cupcakes with strawberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting.

I love filled cupcakes!

The mocha frosting that I used for the chocolate cupcakes was taken from Annie's Eats. Deeelish. Seriously. If you ever need a mocha frosting recipe, I highly recommend that you try this one! Here it is for you.

-16 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
-3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
-1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules
-2 tsp. hot coffee
-1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Mix in the confectioners' sugar on low speed until just mixed in, then increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until smooth and light, about 2 minutes. Mix in the coffee granules, hot coffee, and vanilla until completely incorporated.

I took Annie's suggestion and topped the cupcakes with chocolate-covered (dark chocolate!) espresso beans. Yum yum yum.

By the way, thanks to my mom for allowing me work space in her kitchen last weekend. :) I somewhat took over the kitchen for a few hours... And the rest of my family did ALL my dishes. Amazing! I am going to bake in my mom's kitchen more often!
Now, onto a few pictures from the celebration! Here's our grandmother as she walked into the restaurant and realized that we had something up our sleeves... 

Our family loves surprises!
A few shots of the cupcakes... I made some regular-sized as well as some minis! Everyone loves a mini cupcake. It makes you feel like you can eat more than one if you have one big and one small...

Here is my Aunt Cathy, pinning a corsage on the lovely guest of honor!

My Uncle Bob said a few words about my grandmother, and then he passed around the cover of Time magazine's issue when they highlight the world's 100 most influential people. Check out the person in the middle of the magazine cover. Very clever, Uncle Bob!

 We, of course, believe that our grandmother deserves to be on that cover!

Happy birthday again, to our wonderful grandmother and mother! We love you so much!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Surprise Cookies

Hi friends! Can you believe it's the LAST full week of May?! It's a bit difficult for me to believe... June is almost upon us!!! As I like to say, wowzers. ;-)

Anyway, enough babbling about how time flies. Onto more important matters like delicious, soft chocolate cookies topped with a toasty marshmallow and to-die-for chocolate frosting...

About a week ago, I baked a batch of these "surprise" cookies with my landlord's daughter (who is in 4th grade and is developing a love for baking! :)). Lilia and I had so much fun making these cookies together. She chose the recipe from my Martha Stewart Cookies book, and my, what a great choice it was!


For the cookies:
-1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 large egg
-1/2 cup whole milk
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-about 15 large marshmallows, halved crosswise

For the frosting:
-3 cups confectioners' sugar
-6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
-1/4 cup plus 1 and 1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
-1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. whole milk
-3/4 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl (we forgot to sift the dry ingredients, and the cookies turned out just fine!). Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined. Prepare the marshmallows by cutting them each in half.

Drop cookie dough by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake, until slightly firm, about 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will look slightly "crackled" when they're done. Immediately after removing them from the oven, press a marshmallow half on top of each cookie (tip - press the sticky half of the marshmallow down onto the cookie! it'll nicely stick on the cookie that way). Bake again until the marshmallows begin to melt, about 2 minutes more. Remove from cookie sheets, and let cool completely on wire racks.

Make the frosting; put confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl. Melt butter with the cocoa powder in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add butter mixture to the confectioners' sugar. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. Spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting on top of each cookie to cover the marshmallow. Let stand until the frosting's set.

I stored my cookies in the fridge, but the cookbook says you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Here are the cookies right after they were removed from the oven and the marshmallows were slightly toasted. Mmmm.

The marshmallows quickly deflated though as they cooled...

But not to worry, they were then topped with a decadent chocolate frosting.

Lilia and I each enjoyed a cookie as a reward for our hard work. :)

Are you drooling yet?

I gave a couple cookies to Mike too, and he said he enjoyed one of them after warming it up in the microwave a bit to make it all ooey and gooey. Great idea!

I'm always sad when I'm down to my last bite of a tasty treat. :(  

Guess I'll just have to make another batch! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Favorites, 5.20.11

Hello hello! It's time for another edition of my Friday Favorites. :)

A few days ago, Jeanne, the Adirondack Baker, presented me with a Versatile Blogger Award. Go on over to her page to read about it! Super fun. Thanks, Jeanne!

In honor of receiving this lovely, virtual blogging award, I wanted to be a responsible award recipient and do the same thing Jeanne did, which is to list 7 things about myself and 15 blogs that I love that also deserve this Versatile Blogger Award. So, here goes!
Hope you enjoy. :)

Seven facts about me:

1) Barbershop is one of my nicknames. My last name is Barber, so that gives you an idea of how Barbershop came into existence. ;-)

2) I like to run. I'm running my first full marathon in October!

3) I attended Skidmore College in upstate NY for my undergraduate degree and UMass Boston for my Master's degree.

4) I am coming up to my 7-year (SEVEN!!) anniversary of working at the VA hospital in Boston (my first day of work there was June 1st, 2004, very soon after graduating college). I cannot believe it.

5) Family family family. My family is so important to me!

6) I'm traveling to the island of Kauai this summer, and it will be my second time there. I am super excited!

7) And a fun, completely random fact about me to end on...  On a typical weekday, I wake up at 5:55 AM. Why 5:55? Well, 15 was my field hockey number in college, and anytime I see a time on the clock that adds up to 15, I get excited. So I set my alarm for 5:55 because 5 + 5 + 5 = 15.

 Random last one there, huh? ;-)


Fifteen blogs that I love to read (in no particular order!):

1) Adirondack Baker

2) Annie's Eats

3) Eats Well With Others

4) The Cooking Photographer

5) Closet Cooking

6) Daily Garnish

7) Brown Eyed Baker

8) Sugarcrafter

9) Our Best Bites

10) Bakers' Banter (the King Arthur Flour blog)

11) Lovin' From the Oven

12) Vanilla Sugar

13) Kath Eats Real Food

14) Intuitive Nourishment and Health (formerly LiveWellFitNow)

15) Mike's Imbibations

There you have it! And here are a few pictures to show you a preview of coming attractions at the Barbershop... Happy almost weekend, friends!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Colorburst Cupcakes with Lemon Pudding Frosting

Cupcakes! I've heard that they're becoming less trendy than they have been in recent years (what?!), yet everyone in my world still loves them. So, I'll keep on making them. :)

I made these colorburst cupcakes about a month ago in mid-April (took me a while to blog about them, oops). I think they're the perfect springtime treat! Yellow, green, and blue are super springy colors, wouldn't you agree? They sure do brighten a dreary, rainy day like we're having here today in Boston...

These cupcakes are a brilliant creation of Our Best Bites, a great blog I've mentioned before. If you click on this link, you'll see some pictures of the bold, bright colors used in their cupcakes. They're so pretty! As you can see, I made my version of these cupcakes with yellow, green, and blue food coloring. I actually wanted to use red but I was all out of red food coloring! Oh well. Next time.

The process of making these is rather simple, but it is more time consuming than many other cupcake recipes. You could probably make several different colors if you wanted to, but I chose to just do three.

These cupcakes are great because they're fun and creative, but they're also great because they're delicious too! I probably could have used any number of vanilla cupcake recipes, but I chose to follow the one Our Best Bites used for their colorburst cupcakes. It's nice n' easy too because it uses cake mix (but it's doctored up a bit!). I used the Betty Crocker Spring Party Chip mix pictured below.

Cupcake Recipe:

-1 white cake mix
-2 eggs
-1 cup yogurt or sour cream (I used light, vanilla yogurt)
-1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
-1/3 cup vegetable oil

 Prepare cupcake pan by lining with cupcake liners of your choice. Combine all five ingredients and mix with electric mixer until incorporated (about 30 seconds). Scrape sides of bowl and beat on medium-high for about 2 minutes. Divide batter into separate containers according to how many colors you are making. Use food coloring to create batters of desired colors.

Put a spoonful of each colored batter into the pan one at a time, layering in whichever order you desire. I probably put about one generous tablespoon-full of each color into each cupcake in a regular sized cupcake pan. I also made some mini cupcakes, and I probably put just about a teaspoon or so of each color in those. After spooning out each color, you may want to spread the batter to the outsides of each cup since the batter is pretty thick and won't spread as well on its own. A good tip, offered by Our Best Bites, is to wet the tip of your finger and spread the batter that way.

Bake the cupcakes according to the instructions on the package, and cool completely before frosting.

I systematically layered the three colors in these 12 regular cupcakes cups so that each of the three colors would appear on the bottom, middle, and top layers four times each. :) It was a little bit tricky to keep track of what I was doing along the way! 

These cupcakes really puffed up! I love how fluffy they are (they tasted light and fluffy too!).


I put together a last-minute frosting for these cupcakes because I messed up the original frosting I made. :(  Tragedy in the kitchen = quick-thinking Colleen. I didn't have the time, nor the ingredients, to make a second batch of the frosting I originally intended to make. So what did I do? I looked at the ingredients in my cupboards and came up with a backup plan!

I ended up making a super simple lemon pudding cool whip frosting. It was a big hit with my coworkers, thankfully!

Frosting Recipe:

-1 package (3.9 oz.) instant pudding mix (I used lemon; you could use any flavor!)
-1 cup cold milk (I used skim)
-1/4 cup powdered sugar
-1 tub (8 oz.) cool whip whipped topping, thawed

Stir together the pudding mix, milk, and powdered sugar with a whisk for two minutes or until smooth. Mix in the cool whip with a spoon or spatula. Spread onto cupcakes immediately or store in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Once the cupcakes are frosted, they should also be stored in the fridge in an airtight container.

I made these the evening before they were consumed by myself and some coworkers... As you can see in the above picture, as the cupcakes sat overnight in the fridge, the colored sprinkles "ran" into the frosting! It ended up looking kinda cool though, don't you think?

I was sad when I finished my cupcake. :(  It was so yummy! I loved the light, airy texture of the cupcake itself, and the impromptu cool whip frosting ended up being the perfect topping for these cupcakes. It was very flavorful and refreshing - a nice change from other typical frostings!

These colorburst cupcakes would be fun to make for a birthday party (for kids or adults :)), or for a sports team in its team colors, or for any themed party or occasion really (pink and blue for a baby shower; red, white, and blue for Memorial Day or the 4th of July; etc., etc., etc.!). Lots of options and color combinations, friends! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Egg Over Oatmeal

Egg over oatmeal? I bet you're wondering what kind of recipe this is going to be... Well, to be honest, it's not really a "recipe" but more of a suggestion to add a new idea to your breakfast options. :) I actually don't remember where this idea came from, but I had heard about someone else making this and I thought it'd be fun to give it a shot! I've made this several times for a tasty and filling weekend breakfast over the past few months. I never take the time during the week to actually cook breakfast. This would really only take about 10 minutes more on a weekday morning, but that's 10 more minutes I could sleep... ;-)

Here's what you do:

1) Cook oatmeal on the stove.
I typically make regular, old fashioned oats according to the directions on the container. You could use steel cut oats as well. I suppose you could use instant oatmeal but I prefer cooking regular oats myself... Oh, and I tend to put in half milk and half water for the liquid when I cook oatmeal.

2) Cook an egg.

3) Put the egg on top of the oatmeal.

4) Eat and enjoy.


As you probably noticed in the pictures, I put some ground pepper on my egg (and a teeny bit of salt too). I like to keep my egg pretty simple; I usually cook it over medium (so that it's slightly runny) on the stove and add s & p - that's about it. I like to have a little bit of egg and oatmeal in each bite I take. It's kinda fun to mix it all together...

I realize that when you do mix it together though it isn't the most aesthetically pleasing breakfast :), but it really does taste great. I promise! It's difficult for me to describe why this tastes good though. To many people, egg and oatmeal probably seems like a weird combination. I initially thought it might not taste all that great, but I was so very pleasantly surprised the first time I had it. The flavors really blend well together!!

This is generally a pretty healthy and filling breakfast too. You could probably add ketchup or salsa or any other condiments that you normally would like on eggs... So far I haven't done that though. I tend to stick to what I know (in general in life!), but maybe one of these days I'll change it up.

Give this fun, new breakfast a shot and let me know what you think! I really think you'll like it! :)