flourless chocolate cake

When it comes to trying different desserts, I feel like I’m years behind my age.

At 30, I should have already had homemade rice pudding or creme brulee, but I haven’t. I’ve never made real homemade ice cream or a souffle or baked alaska.

flourless chocolate cake

I seem to get stuck on desserts, and most of them involve chocolate.

What can I say? I come from a long line of sugar-lovers, especially in chocolate form. But I love other desserts. Really love them! Lemon cake and ice creams and fruit tarts – there is room for everything on my dessert table. It’s equal opportunity in this house when it comes to sweets, but somehow, chocolate always seems to edge everything else out.

flourless chocolate cake

And now, after years of hearing about flourless chocolate cakes and then finally trying one in a restaurant a few years ago, I decided to try to make one at home.

apricot dutch baby pancake

Can we talk about my serious dislike for winter again? I think I figured out one of the biggest reasons I hate it.

Winter makes me realize just how lazy I am.

apricot dutch baby pancake

When it’s freezing outside and already dark when you get home from work….how are you supposed to not be lazy? Can someone explain this to me? It’s like I can’t control myself – I get home, get into pajamas, and I’m ready to be done for the night. Finished. Making dinner is such a chore to me in the winter. I just want to cuddle up on the couch, watch some tv or read a book, and then go to bed.

So, this definitely means making everything as easy as possible for myself because I know I won’t do anything with too many steps.

apricot dutch baby pancake

Enter the dutch baby.

We’ve done this before, with peaches. But this time I’m going with the classic. The first dutch baby I ever had.

Apricot.

Today is a very special day.

We’re celebrating Bev and her twin babies that will be making their worldwide debut soon – and we couldn’t be more excited!

thai chicken coconut cream chard 2

Fun fact: I met Bev for the first time a few years ago in Nashville, but didn’t really get to experience her awesomeness until a year later. Then, we bonded over Phillip Phillips on American Idol, and the rest is history.

I am so excited for Bev and her husband and the two little bundles that are on their way! My guess? Their kids will be insanely talented, super crafty, great cooks, and gorgeous. And definitely hilarious. Most definitely hilarious.

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Getting together with a bunch of other bloggers for a virtual baby shower is basically the best thing ever. I get to cook a new dish for a friend, celebrate with everyone, and stay in my sweatpants if I want to. And for Bev’s baby shower, I knew I couldn’t do a typical party food. It needed to be something different – fantastic – full of flavor. Just like Bev’s recipes.

So today, I’m bringing Thai Spiced Chicken with Coconut Cream Swiss Chard. I know.

I have something really special for you guys today.

Have you seen the America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook?

Americas Test Kitchen cookbook

This cookbook is the best cookbook I’ve ever seen. It has over 600 recipes, 18 chapters, and 2,500 beautiful color photos—yup, 2,500 pictures. It’s like having all of your Pinterest food boards wrapped up in a book cover!

Americas Test Kitchen cookbook

I mean….look at just that one page of pictures for sticky buns! I always want more pictures in cookbooks, and this one delivers.

The book brings together all the techniques, tips, and the best recipes ATK has developed in the kitchen. It’s actually a direct outgrowth of the interactive, video-based online cooking school launched by the test kitchen team two years ago. Thousands of students have taken online courses taught by test kitchen experts. In the process, the instructors have learned at what point home cooks are likely to get tripped up when making a recipe. The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook is designed to anticipate common cooking problems—and prevent them.

Americas Test Kitchen cookbook

Even though I’ve been cooking now for almost 10 years, I picked up a bunch of new tips and techniques after reading through the book. And if they had this book years ago, I probably would be much better than I am now! I can’t even imagine how helpful this book will be to someone who is new to cooking.

My biggest issue when I first started cooking was knowing what certain stages looked like in a recipe – whipped egg whites, for example, or knowing when meat has been appropriately browned (I always turn it too fast).

But all these pictures? They make sure you know exactly what to look for.

Don’t believe me? Check out the Test Kitchen blog for more reviews. But I think everyone should have this book.

perfect fried eggs

My first thing to make using this book? Perfect fried eggs. Their recipe/pictures in the book really do make for perfect eggs.

The best part of all this is that I have one copy of the America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook to give away!

If you want to win this book for yourself, tell me what dish you’ve always wanted to make.

Want some extra entries?

  • Like America’s Test Kitchen on Facebook
  • Tweet about the giveaway (mentioning @branappetit and @TestKitchen)
  • Tell me one thing you always mess up in the kitchen – we can be honest here. Me? I always have problems with mashed potatoes. I don’t know what it is! It should be super easy, right? I’ve got issues.

Good luck!!

Vanilla Bean Yogurt with Orange Cranberry Sauce

Winter is not my favorite.

vanilla bean yogurt with orange cranberry sauce

And I don’t even wait until the “official start of winter” to be gloomy about it. Winter, for me, starts as soon as all the leaves are off the trees. Which is now. And it’s cold and already dark when we get home from work and I just don’t like it.

Sometimes the snow makes it better. A little prettier, for a day or two. But then it just gets messy and gross.

Honestly, there are only a few good things about winter in my book:

1. Holiday time with family and friends

2. Boots, scarves, cute hats.

3. Citrus fruit.

4. Cranberries.

5. ….and now that I’m hooked, the return of Downton Abbey.

vanilla bean yogurt with orange cranberry sauce

When I get home to complete darkness and it’s 5:45, all I want to do is get in my pajamas, pour a bowl of cereal, and get into bed. Winter makes me lazy. It’s so tempting to not do anything that I really have to fight my way through the season.

And that’s why I’m so thankful for citrus fruit and cranberries in the middle of winter. When most foods are heavy and covered with gravy, they bring a bright flavor and lightness to an otherwise dark time of year.

vanilla bean yogurt with orange cranberry sauce

One of my favorite ways to use cranberries is to make my own cranberry sauce. But I don’t use this at the Thanksgiving table. This one gets swirled into yogurt or spooned on ice cream or mixed into grain salads.

If you’re a fan of plain yogurt (like me), but get into ruts with your mix-ins (like me), here’s a new one to try. The cranberries and oranges break down into a thick, syrupy sauce that’s perfect to mix in with your yogurt for breakfast, snack, or dessert. I use honey as the sweetener, but it’s also insanely good with maple syrup! Buddy the Elf would definitely approve.

vanilla bean yogurt with orange cranberry sauce

Vanilla Bean Yogurt with Orange Cranberry Sauce

A new spin on a yogurt parfait, this vanilla-speckled yogurt and ruby red cranberry swirl is a fun new way to start your day. Or, you can layer in some poundcake and freshly made whipped cream and make it a show-stopping holiday dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Directions:

  1. Pour the cranberries into a medium saucepan.
  2. Peel the oranges and cut into sections, making sure to remove any seeds.
  3. Add the orange sections and honey to the saucepan and put over medium-high heat. Stir the fruit together and bring the mixture to boil. Lower the heat to medium and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries and oranges have mostly broken down (about 10-15 minutes).
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool before placing in the fridge. You can serve this warm or let it cool before mixing in with your yogurt.
  5. To serve, mix the yogurt with the vanilla bean paste and divide the yogurt between 4 bowls. Add about 2 Tbsp of the cranberry sauce to the yogurt, swirl in, and enjoy.

**tiptoe-ing back in**

So…..it’s been a while, huh? I won’t stay in this pity party for long, I promise. I mostly just want to say that I miss all of you! Ever since our completely unplugged summer vacation, I’ve had a really hard time getting back into the swing of things. Especially dealing with the computer. But I’m making my way back.

roasted shisitos

I’ve been cooking! And taking photos! I have a stockpile of recipes, ready to share. Now I’m just working on getting back into the routine of sitting and writing again. And now that our Downton binge-watching session is over, I definitely have more time to devote to these recipes.
Am I the only that’s this late to Downton? And seriously, people. Why didn’t someone make me start watching it before now? I can’t handle the last episode. I just can’t. I’m so ready for the new season to start. That will make the end of college football a little easier on me, knowing that I have new Downton episodes to watch.
Besides being glued to amazon prime for the past month, my other newest addiction (that I know I’ve already mentioned) is still homemade mayo. It is honestly the easiest thing I’ve ever made. And it impresses people….which makes it even nicer that it only takes 60 seconds. Yup, a minute. Less than a minute, actually. I’ve timed it.