Giant Skillet Lemon Sugar Cookie

Giant Skillet Lemon Sugar Cookie
Giant Skillet Lemon Sugar Cookie

Brownie Blackout Mousse Cake

Brownie Blackout Mousse Cake
Brownie Blackout Mousse Cake

Fresh Summer Pasta with Plugra Ricotta Sauce

Fresh Summer Pasta with Plugra Ricotta Sauce - Willow Bird Baking

Fresh Summer Pasta with Plugra Ricotta Sauce

Recipe by: Adapted from Chef Kevin Kidd
Yield: 4 servings

Start with super fresh ingredients to create this simple, fresh pasta dish! I love how quick and easy this recipe is.

28 ounces fresh OR 19 ounces dried tagliatelle or fettucine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, sliced diagonally
1/4 cup white wine
2 ounces unsalted Plugrá European-Style Butter, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
8 spears asparagus, sliced into 2-inch chunks
8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped
12 fresh basil leaves, rough chopped
lemon juice, salt, freshly ground pepper, Parmigiana Reggiano as needed

Prepare an ice water bath in a medium bowl. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and blanch the asparagus for 2-3 minutes before plunging them into the ice water to stop cooking. Drain the asparagus and set it aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat and add fresh or dried pasta. Cook 3 minutes (fresh pasta) or according to package directions (dried pasta). Going to Italy made me realize I’d been overcooking my pasta my whole life: al dente means your pasta should have a definite toothiness to it when bitten. Be careful not to overcook! Drain the finished pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water for the sauce later.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add shallots and cook for a minute before adding garlic and sautéing for close to a minute or until lightly caramelized but not burnt. Add white wine to deglaze the pan. Whisk in Plugrá butter until it’s melted and blended into the sauce. Add the green onions and asparagus and stir to heat them briefly before reducing the heat to low and adding chunks of ricotta cheese. Salt this to taste — for me, this meant a LOT of salt, because it has to salt all the pasta as well. So don’t be shy.

Add the pasta into the pan (and a little of the pasta water if you need it) and toss it in the sauce over low heat. Add most of the parsley and all of the basil and toss. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the top. Now comes the adjusting: taste your pasta and add salt, more olive oil, a healthy grating of Parmigiana Reggiano, freshly ground pepper, a spritz of lemon juice, etc., as needed to balance the flavors. You should end up with a bright, flavorful, fresh tasting pasta.

Skinny Mini Coconut Cakes (and 5 beauty tips for lazy girls)

Skinny Mini Coconut Cakes (only 120 calories each!)
Skinny Mini Coconut Cakes

Skinny Mini Coconut Cakes

Recipe by: SkinnyTaste
Yield: 24 mini cakes

These little cakes are the cute, light version of your coconut cake fantasy. The frosting is marshmallowy and the angel food cakes are fluffy, making this a cloudlike coconut dream dessert. Each cake comes in at around 120 calories!

Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 egg whites from large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup coconut water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Coconut Meringue Frosting Ingredients:
4 egg whites from large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
about 1/4 cup of coconut water
1 1/2 cup shredded coconut, plus more for topping

Make the cakes: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cake flour, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites, coconut water, vanilla extract, coconut extract, and cream of tartar on low speed until it’s foamy. Turn the speed up to medium and add the granulated sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until the egg whites form medium peaks (SkinnyTaste says: “Don’t beat until the mixture is extremely glossy and stiff; it should be modestly glossy, but the very tips of the peaks formed when you dip your finger in should flop over just a bit.”)

Add the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture in two additions, folding each addition in gently. Be careful not to overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each well pretty close to the top. Bake for 18 minutes or until the tops are slightly golden. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and cool completely before removing from the pan.

Make the frosting: Place the egg whites with the vanilla extract and coconut extract in the clean bowl of a stand mixer. Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring this to a boil and cook until the syrup reaches 234 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 4-8 minutes.

When the syrup begins to boil, start mixing the egg whites on low speed so they begin to get foamy. When the syrup is up to temperature, turn the egg whites to medium-high speed and very slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the whites. Beat until the frosting forms stiff glossy peaks, tossing in the salt to mix in along the way. Gently fold shredded coconut in to the frosting.

Assemble the cakes: Use a serrated knife or unflavored dental floss, cut each cupcake into two layers (I find the floss easiest: just wrap it in a loop around the cupcake and tighten until it cuts right through). Lightly brush the bottom layer of a cupcake with coconut water and top with about a tablespoon of frosting. Place the top layer on, piling another tablespoon of frosting on top. Top with extra shredded coconut. Repeat this for each cupcake. Serve immediately (the frosting is really best the day it’s prepared, but we enjoyed these the second day also).

Chocolate & Pretzel Cereal Treats

Dear Mrs. Harolds,

I may have been in 3rd grade with a fledgling worldview and a tiny stature, but if there was one thing I understood, it was justice.

Justice (and, incidentally, righteous indignation) were bred into every last molecule in my stubborn, pint-sized being. Thus, even though children often unwittingly grant adults unbridled authority and unquestioning amnesty, I knew on that gray day in the middle of November that you were being unfair.

There was precedent for said unfairness. I had a nervous habit (and still do, actually) of picking at my lips, which were always dry for some reason. One day you walked by and roughly pushed my arm down while I was standing in line, and I remember the shock of the physical correction. In the confusing moments that followed, I tried to evaluate whether or not that was an appropriate action for a teacher to take. I finally decided that it most certainly was not.

There was also that time when Logan stole my troll doll pencil. He’d been eying it all day while Chris and I used it to produce elaborate troll doll plays. When it went missing, I confronted him and, while he looked decidedly uneasy, he denied any knowledge of its whereabouts. When I informed you of this, fully trusting that you would remedy the situation because that’s what adults are supposed to do, you shrugged. “If he says he doesn’t have it,” you said, “there’s nothing I can do about it.”

My tiny heart burned with indignation. There was sure something I could do about it if you wouldn’t intervene! I marched right over and yanked Logan’s bookbag open before he even had a chance to protest. There, looking happily up at me from on top of a social studies book, was my troll doll pencil. I grabbed it and stalked away as you watched in surprise.

But this was a wholly different situation. This time, you were implicitly criticizing my dad. Perhaps you didn’t know this about me, but that’s one of the last things you want to do in my presence.

It all started with that chocolate rice cereal treat. It was snack time at school, so I pulled the treat from my bookbag and began to tear open the foil wrapper around it. I’d been bringing the cereal treats for my snack ever since my tapioca pudding cups had, without warning, become inexplicably gross to me. But for some reason on this day, my cereal treat was like a magnet for your keen eyes. You strode over to me before I’d even taken a bite.

“You can’t eat that for snack time. Snack time is for healthy snacks.” I looked around at others’ crackers and chips, confused as to why my snack alone warranted this criticism (indeed, if I’d known what I know now, I’d have retorted that crackers are about as worthless for you and a lot less fun).

“Well, this is what my dad bought for me for snack time,” I responded, unsure of how to proceed.

“You can’t eat them. Don’t bring them anymore.” I thought of the box of cereal treats sitting at home designated for my snack time. I thought of my parents’ slim budget. I thought of how hard they both worked to provide for our huge family. You didn’t know it, Mrs. Harolds, but you’d just planted the seed of a lifelong grudge.

I didn’t throw the cereal treat at you or throw a crying fit, although my 3rd grade brain probably considered both of those options. Instead, I mourned about it all day and, with considerable angst, revealed to my parents that night that I couldn’t bring cereal treats anymore. Lest you feel victorious about that fact, however, I’d like to remind you that I’m sitting here 20 years later writing a vindictive description of you for the amusement of the general public. For good measure, I may even tell folks about your nose hairs and the time you threw whiteboard markers at us.

Not only that, but I’m doing all of this in a post that shares a recipe for some indulgent, sugary, chocolatey, salty-and-sweet cereal treats. Some particularly marshmallowy ones, even.

I don’t know, but I’d say I had the last laugh.


P.S. Or, I don’t know, maybe the fact that I’m still annoyed at you 20 years later does mean you win. Grr.

And another P.S. to my readers: Have you ever had an unfair teacher? Here’s your space to vent! Unless you’re one of my students, in which case, go do your homework.

Chocolate & Pretzel Cereal Treats

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from Kellogg’s
Yield: about 12 bars

These are cereal treats on steroids! You can mix any kind of cereal you like, but here I’ve chosen to combine chocolate and plain rice cereals. The addition of salty pretzels and gooey chocolate chips make these treats indulgent and delicious. As a bonus, they’re super easy to make!

1/4 cup butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows or 1 package (10 ounces) large marshmallows
2 cups chocolate rice cereal
2 cups plain rice cereal
2 cups pretzel wheels (broken into pieces, but not pulverized), plus whole pretzels for topping
3/4 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips

Spray a 13 x 9-inch pan with cooking spray and set it aside. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in the marshmallows (I use a spatula coated with cooking spray) until they’re completely melted and remove the pan from the heat.

Add the cereal, pretzel pieces, and chocolate chips and stir until they’re thoroughly coated. Pour the mixture out into your prepared pan. Use a sheet of wax paper to press the mixture into an even layer in your pan. Quickly press whole pretzels in rows all along the surface of the bars.

Let the treats cool completely (and maybe even drizzle some melted chocolate over them!) and then cut into squares to serve. The treats can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for two days, or can be frozen (separated by wax paper) for up to 6 weeks.

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