Easy Blueberry Blackberry Pie

blueberry blackberry pie

I’ve spent the last month doing a lot of other things than cooking & baking. I refinished some furniture, learned how to sew, spent an embarrassing amount of time decorating our Christmas tree, & threw out too many pieces of sew-on velcro because sewing in a straight line to make pillow covers is harder than it sounds.

But I’m back in the kitchen.

And just in time for winter to blow in. Brrrr. Time for hot chocolate. Christmas cookies. Mashed potatoes. Warm breads. Heavy soups. Wool socks. Faux fur blankets. Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album. Warmly lit candles. Bundles of birch wood. Red velvet tree skirts.  

And pie. It’s time for pie. Well in truth, we all know it’s always time for pie. I had a left over pie crust from Thanksgiving so I decided to make a blueberry blackberry pie today. Thickened & richened by homemade brown sugar & Penzey’s Korintje Cinnamon

homemade brown sugar

Brown sugar is super easy to make. It requires a ratio of 1 cup of granulated sugar, to 1 tablespoon of molasses (or more, depending how dark you want to make it). You can get all fancy and use a hand mixer or stand mixer to combine them, but I find using my hands is easier and actually faster. Just put your hand in the bowl of sugar and molasses and rub it, squish it, push it, pluck at it—move it around, until it combines and looks like this:

homemade brown sugar


brown sugar, cinnamon, flour

You can use frozen or fresh blackberries and blueberries. I used frozen blueberries and fresh blackberries, because that’s what I had. If you can find wild blue berries at the store, then yum…pick those, pick those! They’ll taste most distinctly. 


This pie filling is a rather simple concept: mix dry ingredients and then coat fruit. Wa-la.

blueberry blackberry pie filling

The trickiest part of pie is of course, the crust. Here’s a little trick: make extra!! Make whatever recipe you’re trying, times 1.5. This way if  you can’t get it to roll out to the thin + elastic perfection Ree Drummond can, well, you can still make a darn fine pie anyways.  You don’t need to 1.5x my recipe below, I’ve already taken care of that for you. :)

making the blueberry blackberry pie

The best part of this pie is that it gives the spotlight to what matters most: the blackberries & blueberries. It’s not overly sweet. The beauty of fruits like blueberries and blackberries is that they are delicate, and yet somehow at the same time bold.

 blackberry blueberry pie

If you want to make a lattice pie crust, you totally can. You just need a pizza cutter or knife. Cut your top pie crust in strips, and follow the instructions here: weave a lattice pie crust 

blueberry blackberry pie

Here are some other tips when making a pie crust, especially if you’re trying for the first time:

  • Remember you are making a homemade pie. It’s going to be delicious, duh. So if the crust is not perfect, it doesn’t matter. Just go for it. 
  • If you don’t have a pastry cutter to “cut in” the butter and shortening, use your hands. That’s what I do, instead of the common alternative of using forks. Forks take FOREVER and a day. I am not that patient. Just google an image like this one, and work the dough between your fingers/hands until it looks like that consistency. Is this a terrible faux pas in baking? I’m not sure, but it works!
  • When you think you’ve rolled out the bottom crust wide enough, hold your pie pan upside down just above it. Did you roll it out large enough? You’ll want about 2-4 extra inches all the way around, so that it can drape over the edges of the pie pan (see photo). Then when you finish your lattice you can use the excess to roll up around the rim and pinch to create a pretty edge. 
  • You can pinch or “flute” your pie crust with your own two hands. Check out this photo.
  • But wait…how do you get the crust into the pan in the first place? I’ve tried a few ways, but find using my rolling pin the easiest. See photo here or here, for examples of what to do.
  • Don’t have a rolling pin? Don’t give up. You can still make a pie. Use a bottle of wine or bottle of olive oil. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
  • Put a rimmed baking pan under your pie in the oven in case the filling bubbles over, to avoid a smoky panic.
  • When you fill the pie, make it a hearty little mound. You don’t want the pie to be concave.
  • Finally, we’re not trying to win an award here, we’re trying to eat a delicious pie, so if you put your heart into it, your family & friends will love the result no matter what. :)

blueberry blackberry pie

Go for it! Go make a pie. You can do it!

Love + peace + pie,

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Easy Blueberry Blackberry Pie
Yields 1
Simple blueberry blackberry pie. Make with any crust recipe you already have!
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For the Pie Crust (enough for a top and bottom crust)
  1. 3 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  2. 1 and 3/4 teaspoons salt
  3. 9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  4. 1 and 1/8 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
  5. 3/4 cup ice water
  1. 3/4 cup brown sugar
  2. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. 2 - 12oz packages of frozen blueberries (or the equivalent in fresh)
  5. 2 - 60z packages of fresh blackberries (or the equivalent in frozen)
  6. The juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  7. 2 tablespoons butter, cut in fourths
Prepare the Crust
  1. Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening.
  2. Using a pastry cutter, two forks, or your hands, cut the butter and shortening into the mixture until it resembles coarse meal (pea-sized or bean-sized bits, with a few larger bits.)
  3. Start drizzling the ice water into the mixture, 1 Tablespoon at a time. Stir after every Tablespoon added, until large clumps form. Don't use more water than you need. I never end up using the full 3/4 cup.
  4. Dump the pie dough out onto a floured work surface. The dough should come together easily and should not feel overly sticky. Using floured hands, fold the dough into itself until the flour is fully incorporated. Roll into a ball with your hands, and divide the dough in half by slicing it with a knife. Roll each half into a ball, and wrap with plastic wrap. In the plastic wrap, flatten each into a 1-inch thick disc. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Prepare the Filling
  1. Mix sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  2. Gently stir in fruit.
Prepare the Pie
  1. Roll out your first pie crust.
  2. Line your pan with the first pie crust, so the edges drape over the sides.
  3. Pour the filling into pastry-lined pan into a nice mound. I had a little bit of filling left over.
  4. Drizzle with lemon juice and place the 4-chunks of butter evenly throughout the pie.
  5. Prepare the top pie crust. Either prepare a lattice crust (see notes in post) or you can simply roll it out round, cover the pie, and then make small slits near the center to vent the pie.
  6. After placing/making your top pie crust, seal it and flute the edges (see notes in post).
  7. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350F and bake for 45 minutes or so. You will know it's done when the filling is bubbling and the top is golden.
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/

Giant, Chewy Cookies and Cream Cookies

cookies and cream cookies

In life there is always room for improvement, and cookies are no different! I have been making cookies and cream cookies for a few years now, and I always relied on the recipe I shared a few months ago. I will not even link to it, because this recipe is SO MUCH better. 

How did this happen? It started because I wanted to make Oreo cookie bars. I was trying to make a dough of proper consistency for bars and it flopped, but what it resulted in was SO MUCH better for a cookie. It resulted in the cookies and cream cookies recipe below. These cookies are large, thick, chewy, and sweet. When you sink your teeth into them you will be absolutely transported into cookie heaven. They are everything you want in a cookie!

make your own brown sugar

oreo cookie dough

cookies and cream cookies

The three secrets to a chewy cookie? Cornstarch, extra egg yolks, and slight underbaking. It is definitely worth experimenting with these variables for any cookie recipe you have, that you are looking to make bigger & chewier. I know there are other secrets too. If you have one, share below!

The Best Cookies and Cream Cookies
Giant, chewy cookies and cream cookies. What more can you ask for? :)
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  1. 1 Tablespoon molasses
  2. 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  3. 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  4. 1/2 cup more of granulated sugar
  5. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 1 large egg + 2 egg yolks
  7. 2 and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  8. 1 tsp baking soda
  9. 1 and 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  10. 1/2 tsp salt
  11. 15 Oreos, crushed (I love Double Stuff)
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) combine 1 Tablespoon of molasses and 3/4 cup granulated white sugar. You are essentially making brown sugar. The molasses will get stuck in large chunks in the sugar. You will probably need to use your hand to press those lumps out. Once the mixture looks like standard brown sugar, that's when you're done. (Look at my photo above). It does take a bit of time and working with your hands.
  2. Add the butter, and the additional 1/2 cup granulated white sugar to the bowl and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, 1 large egg, and 2 egg yolks, and continue beating to until combined. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  4. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk together, thoroughly.
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, with your stand mixer set on "Stir." Scrape down sides as needed, and don't over mix.
  6. In a large freezer ziplock bag, crush 15 Oreos using your hands or a mallet. I usually crush them until they are very crumbly, with just a few larger chunks.
  7. Fold in the crushed Oreos to your cookie batter until equally distributed. The batter will be thick!
  8. Let the cookie dough chill for 2 hours in the fridge.
  9. When you are ready to bake these, preheat the oven to 325F.
  10. Put wax paper or parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Using your hands, roll about 4 or 5 tablespoons of dough into one giant cookie ball. Make 6 of them. The most important thing is that they are evenly sized. Place on the cookie sheet. I only placed 6 cookies on a sheet.
  11. Bake for 11-12 minutes. These will appear under-baked, but that is what you want. Take them out and let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool further.
  1. I have not made these without using wax paper/parchment paper, so I don't know if they will stick or not.
  2. I did let these chill for 72 hours once, and they turned out well too!
  3. Once cooled completely, I store these in a sealed plastic ziplock bag.
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/
 Okay, ya’ll. Time to go make these cookies for my husband in wager to see if he’ll buy me a cooking torch. Crossing my fingers that these cookies are just sweet enough to get the job done. 😉

Happy cookie-making!

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Cheesecake Bites


Today was one of those knockdown, drag-out type of days. When nothing goes the way you want it to at work, and instead of saying “you’ve got mail,” your Outlook might as well just say “hello you, another problem has just arrived” when you get a new email. 

Luckily for me, I made my favorite m&m cookies last night so I just ate cookies all day instead of being stressed out. :) (Recipe coming soon!) Seriously though, if you get home from work and find yourself with a stress-induced sweet tooth like I often due, these cheese cake bites might just be the ticket. 

blackberry cheesecake

These cheesecake bites are super easy to make, and you can load them up with any of your favorite fruits or candies. For mine I used some leftover blackberries, a dab of blackberry jam, and some white chocolate chips. 

cheesecake bites

Ah, bliss. In the form of cheesecake bites. Exactly what I needed to refuel and get ready for tomorrow. 

Here’s to a new day!

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Cheesecake Bites
Yields 24
Simple, classic cheesecake bites customized to any fruit and toppings you desire!
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  1. 1/2 box of vanilla wafers (crushed and crumbled)
  2. 1 - 8 oz packages cream cheese
  3. 1/2 cup white sugar
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Toppings of Your Choice
  1. Blackberries
  2. Blackberry Jam
  3. White chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a miniature muffin tin with miniature paper liners.
  2. Crush the vanilla wafers until they are very small and crumbly. Place 1/2 teaspoon of the crushed vanilla wafers into each paper cup.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, continuing to beat until light and fully. Fill each miniature muffin liner with this mixture, almost to the top.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool.
  5. Top with your fillings! I dabbed about a half spoonful of blackberry jam and then decorated with a single blackberry and three white chocolate chips.
  1. This will make about 24 cheesecake bites.
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/

Brown Butter Banana Bread with Yogurt

peek a boo bread

This post can totally just be about brown butter banana bread with yogurt if that’s what you came here for. There’s an awesome recipe waiting just below. But I was super happy today and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could make this bread happy too. Then it came to me: I’ll just bake a chocolate pound cake smile into the banana bread.

The banana bread itself is moist (thanks to the yogurt) and elegantly simple. The baked in chocolate pound cake is just a bangin’ bonus. Have you heard of this type of bread? Peek-a-boo bread? I hadn’t but with a little savvy googling I learned about it. It’s essentially one yummy bread baked into another yummy bread. There’s a great recipe for peek-a-boo pumpkin bread here, and a super cute gluten-free, dairy free, shamrock version here at Angela’s Kitchen.

chocolate pound cake

I just used a Halloween moon cookie cutter on it’s side. Looks smiley enough to me:

chocolate pound cake smile

You could really choose any two breads and any cookie cutter shape you want. It works best if the breads are contrasting in color. One way to accomplish this is make a traditional pound cake loaf and color it with food coloring. The cookie cutter can’t be huge, as you don’t want your shape to stick up and out of the batter of the second bread. 

lined up pound cake smiles

Just line up your cookie cutter shapes in a 9×5 pan….

chocolate pound cake line up

and pour your second batter all around it!

mixing the banana bread

No one will know the secret chocolate smiley that awaits, but it will for sure make them smile!

loaf of banana bread

What to do with a fresh loaf of bread?

almond glaze

Coat it in a delicious almond glaze if you desire!

happy brown butter banana bread

This loaf’s smile became slightly crooked. I think it added to it’s personality. What a silly little loaf. 

Isn’t this just the happiest bread? I actually made two of these in a row. The one photographed here I covered with an almond glaze and mini chocolate chip cookies. The other one I did not glaze, and it was equally as delicious. Whether or not you choose to glaze and decorate is really dependent on just how sweet you like it. 

Happy banana bread making! 

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PS. With bread, don’t get caught up on the exact baking times in these recipes. Trust the tooth pick insertion method, even if it takes more or less time than I list. 


Chocolate Pound Cake
A dense, classic, buttery chocolate pound cake.
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  1. 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1/2 tsp salt
  3. 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  4. 1/2 cup plus 4 tbsp boiling water
  5. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (plus a bit more to actually prepare the pan)
  6. 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  7. 4 large eggs, at room temp or close too
  8. 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Heat the oven to 350F and prepare a 9x5 loaf pan--I use butter to coat the sides so the loaf won't stick.
  2. Put the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk it well, to aerate the mixture.
  3. Place the cocoa in a medium, heat safe bowl. Boil about a cup of water. Once boiling, carefully measure 1/2 cup of the water and add it to the cocoa. Mix well by hand, and add 4 more tablespoons of water to fully incorporate. It will be thick.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for about 5 minutes, until it is light and airy looking. Scrape down the sides.
  5. Slowly add in the white sugar to the butter, a bit at a time, mixing on a medium speed. Once all the sugar is added and mixed, scrape down the sides and then beat the mixture again, on a medium setting for about 5 minutes, until the sugar and butter are light and fluffy and fully incorporated. It should look like clouds! :)
  6. With the mixer still running, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  7. Finally, add the vanilla and the cocoa mixture with the mixer still running, and beat well, fully incorporating all ingredients.
  8. Turn the mixer on low speed or "stir" and slowly add the flour mixture, until just incorporated. Try not to over mix. Scrape down the sides, and mix any remaining pockets or patches of flour by hand.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Bake 50-60 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert and let cool on a wire rack.
  10. If you are making the peek-a-boo bread, let the bread cool completely on the wire rack. This is important, because if it's still hot the bread is more likely to break apart when you slice it. You need it to hold together for the cookie cutters. You can prepare your banana bread ingredients while it cools if you want, that's what I did. It took 45 minutes for mine to cool. Then slice it into thick slices using a serrated knife. The slices should be a little smaller than the width of your cookie cutter. Press your cookie cutter into each slice, even the end slices. Make sure to press hard. Carefully handle your cut outs (they will be slightly delicate!) and place them upright in a row in another 9x5 prepared pan. (Or the same one you just used. Just wash it). Now you are ready to move on to the banana bread!
  1. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can totally use a hand mixer for this. I did not have a stand mixer until just a few months ago, and I would always used my hand mixer when a recipe listed stand mixer. So don't let that deter you from this lovely chocolate pound cake!
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/
Brown Butter Banana Bread with Yogurt
A classic brown butter banana bread, made moist with a bit of yogurt.
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For the Banana Bread
  1. 12 tablespoons of butter, melted and browned
  2. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  4. 2 teaspoons molasses
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  8. 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  9. 2 large eggs
  10. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  11. 1/4 cup buttermilk
  12. 1/2 cup greek vanilla yogurt
  13. 1 1/4 cup mashed banana (from about 3 medium bananas)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9×5-inch loaf pan (I use a little extra softened butter to coat my pan.)
  2. Place 12 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and let it melt. Continue letting it heat even after melted, and it will begin to foam and crackle. When the crackling stops, the butter will begin to brown. Swirl the pan as it cooks. Once the butter smells nutty, remove the pan from the flame and pour it into a small, heat safe own. Don't leave it in the pan or it will keep cooking and burn. Let cool.
  3. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, mix the sugar and the molasses. You are essentially making a light brown sugar. You will intermittently need to stop and use your hands to press out the large lumps of molasses. Keep mixing and don't give up until it looks like brown sugar.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar/molasses mixture, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla extract, buttermilk, and yogurt. Whisk in the mashed bananas. When butter has cooled, whisk in the browned butter.
  6. Add the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients. I wouldn't use a hand mixer for this. Fold together slowly and gently with spatula or stirring spoon, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any remaining pockets of flour. Try not to over stir.
  7. Spoon batter into prepared pan. If you are making peek-a-boo bread with the pound cake, make sure your cutout bread is lined up in the pan before you pour this batter. Be gentle pouring this batter, or your cutout shape might move a bit. (Which isn't the end of the world and you may end up with a smirking loaf of bread instead of a smiling loaf).
  8. If you are only making the banana bread, bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. If you're making peek-a-boo bread, it will take a little longer, 65 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 15 minutes, before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. If you made peek-a-boo bread, I wouldn't slice it until it's cooled, another 45 minutes. If you didn't make peek-a-boo bread, slice at will!
  1. Brown butter tip: this is something I recommend practicing, basically because I practice it. The different between burnt and browned butter is slight and happens in seconds. But if you take the butter off too early, it won't have the strong nutty flavor of brown butter. (I have fell victim to this before, and I might add that your banana bread will still taste darn good!)
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/
Almond Glaze
A very easy almond glaze to coat your bread.
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  1. 1/2 tsp almond extract
  2. 1 cup powdered sugar
  3. 1 tbsp milk or cream
  1. In a medium bowl place your powdered sugar.
  2. Add the almond extract and milk.
  3. Mix with a spoon until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
  4. Lift your glaze covered spoon out of the bowl, to see how the glaze drips. If it runs very fast off the spoon, it will likely run very fast off the bread. If it doesn't drip at all, it won't spread on the bread. You want to find the in-between. To test, drip it on something else (like the side of a glass) to get an idea on how it's going to run.
  1. The glazing process is really more of a preference process. For example, on one loaf I made I ended up doubling this recipe because I wanted it completely covered in a thick glaze. Just one coat would have been perfectly fine thought. No glaze would have been perfect as well, as it was on my second loaf I made.
  2. Be creative: You can sprinkle the top with chocolate chips or almonds or pecans. Those are just a few ideas!
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/



Pesto Baked Ziti (Vegetarian)

pesto baked ziti

I have been working on Pesto Baked Ziti at various times throughout the year. At first it was bland, then it was too soupy, but now it’s finally perfect. And, to my excitement, my husband agrees. There are four reasons why my husband typically wouldn’t be raving about this dish: 1) there’s no meat in it; 2) he’s not a huge fan of pesto; 3) he doesn’t like that a bag of pine nuts costs $12.99; and 4) he hates tomatoes. 

Why do I bother to try to make a pesto bake that he likes? Because I happened to love homemade pesto so much that it almost makes me cry out of joy. Almost. 

homemade pesto

Oh my, this pesto looks good.

homemade pesto

Pine nuts, parmesan cheese, + basil: the major flavors creating the rich flavor of pesto.

chopped heirloom tomatoes

I didn’t know what heirloom tomatoes were until I went to the grocery store and a produce employee mentioned he was throwing out a bunch of heirloom tomatoes. From what he told me, an heirloom tomato is essentially a tomato with great genes! (Unfortunately, it also rots quickly, as I discovered, so use them fast.)

wilted spinach

I hate throwing out spinach, which is a chronic problem of mine, so I used a solid 2 cups of packed spinach in this recipe. Delicious.

prepping the ingredients

And my beloved pine nuts. Pine nuts are delicious. I use them in homemade granola bars, pastas, all kinds of things. As pricey as they are, I find them difficult to resist. 

mixing the pesto in

I made my homemade pesto over the weekend, and then tossed together the pasta bake on a work night. 

adding the pine nuts

Pasta bakes are great for experimentation and throwing in all types of veggies, nuts, and cheeses you might have hanging out in your kitchen.

mixing the pasta

pesto bake on the plate

Homemade Pesto Baked Ziti
Rich and filling pasta bake with homemade pesto. Make the pesto ahead, and toss the pasta bake together on the fly!
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For the Pesto
  1. 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  2. 1/4 cup Italian parsley
  3. 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  4. 1 cup pine nuts
  5. 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  6. 1/2 lemon, juiced (or 1tbsp fresh lemon juice)
  7. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
  8. salt and ground black pepper to taste
For the Pasta Bake
  1. 1 lb. ziti pasta (or any similarly shaped pasta)
  2. 1 cup chopped heirloom tomatoes
  3. 1 tbsp olive oil
  4. 2 cups packed spinach
  5. 1/2 cup pinenuts
  6. 1 cup of your homemade pesto, or more as desired
  7. 1/4 cup water
  8. 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
For the Pesto
  1. Place basil, Italian parsley, and garlic into a food processor, pulse several times to combine, scraping down sides as needed. Process until all are finely chopped, 1-2 minutes. If needed, for ease of processing, add a dash of olive oil (from your 1/2 cup used for the recipe).
  2. Add pine nuts to basil mixture; continue processing, scraping down sides as needed. Process until all is finely chopped, 1-2 minutes. If needed add a dash of olive oil (from your 1/2 cup used for the recipe).
  3. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into mixture until all are finely ground.
  4. Mix lemon juice into mixture with the machine running; slowly drizzle olive oil into pesto in the running machine until incorporated and pesto is thoroughly combined. For this pasta, it's fine if the pesto is very thick. It will incorporated into the pasta and make it a bit runnier.
  5. Turn off machine and season pesto to taste with salt and black pepper.
For the Pasta Bake
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While the water is boiling, prepare and measure your ingredients. Add the past to the water and cook according to package directions.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, take a skillet and heat 1tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Place 2 cups of packed spinach in the skillet, stirring and moving it around constantly, until the spinach is wilted. See my photo above if you're wondering what it should look like. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Once the pasta noodles are finished cooking, drain the pasta. Put the pasta in a large bowl to combine with all other ingredients. Mix in chopped tomato and pesto until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add pinenuts and wilted spinach. Mix until thoroughly and evenly combined. Add 1/4 cup of water to make mixture a bit more "saucy."
  6. If you want, you can add additional pesto, to your desired level of coating.
  7. Transfer your pasta mixture to a 9x13 baking dish and sprinkle with the Asiago cheese.
  8. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. I usually stick about three metal appetizer skewers in my pasta bakes to prop the aluminum foil up and prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes. Then remove aluminum foil and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted.
  1. Use your left over pesto to make pesto grilled cheese sandwiches later in the week! The pesto will last in the fridge for 5-7 days. (Perhaps longer, I don't know...it's usually gone by then...)
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/
pesto baked ziti

Did I mention this pesto baked ziti is sans meat? Yes I did. But really, I am bringing that up again because if you are not vegetarian, you could always throw in a cup or two of chopped up baked chicken. Once again, I love pasta bakes because they can gracefully transform into any type of meal your little heart & stomach desire. <3

Happy pesto-making!

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Secret Ingredient Apple Cinnamon Muffins with Almond Glaze

apple cinnamon muffins

What is the secret ingredient to these Apple Cinnamon Muffins? 

almond glaze

It’s the same secret ingredient I use for chewy & soft chocolate chip cookies: cream cheese! Let’s face it. Cream cheese basically makes anything better. 

moist muffins

Today I went to Penzey’s Spice and picked up some specialty cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, and almond extract. In return, these muffins filled my kitchen with the rich, warm flavors of poignant cinnamon and nutmeg. Grate fresh nutmeg if you can!

apple cinnamon muffins

Secret Ingredient Apple Cinnamon Muffins with Almond Glaze
Apple cinnamon muffins made moist and rich with a bit of cream cheese. Finished with a cinnamon crumble top and light and airy almond drizzle glaze.
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Homemade Brown Sugar
  1. 1 cup granulated white sugar
  2. 1 tbsp molasses
Cinnamon Crumb Topping
  1. 1/3 cup homemade brown sugar
  2. 1 Tablespoon granulated white sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  5. 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (+ a bit more, to desired texture)
  1. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  2. 1/2 cup homemade brown sugar
  3. 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  4. 2 large eggs
  5. 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened to room temp
  6. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  7. 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted if you are extra ambitious
  8. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  9. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  10. 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  11. 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated if you can!)
  12. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  13. 1/8 cup milk
  14. 1 and 1/2 cups chopped apples (2 small apples, different flavors if you want)
  1. 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  2. 1.5 tbsp milk
  3. 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  1. Make the homemade brown sugar, to be used in the muffins and the cinnamon crumb topping: In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) combine 1 cup of granulated white sugar with 1 tbsp of molasses. Continue mixing until they are thoroughly combined. You will know you are finished because it will look just like brown sugar. You may need to stop mixing and use your hands to press apart the lumps of molasses, and then continue mixing. Don't give up until it's light and fluffy. :)
  2. Make the crumb topping, to be used on the muffins: In a medium bowl, combine 1/3 cup homemade brown sugar, 1 tbsp granulated white sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour. Use a spatula or a spoon to stir. The crumb topping should be thick and crumbly. I ended up adding maybe a tablespoon additional of flour with my hands. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray and line with muffin liners. See below for what to do if you don't have muffin liners.
  4. Make the muffins! In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), beat the 1/2 cup unsalted butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup homemade brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Beat on high until creamed, 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as you need.
  5. Add 2 large eggs, 1/2 cup cream cheese, and 2 tsp of vanilla extract. Beat on medium 5-7+ minutes, until they are combined and uniform in texture. There should be very few lumps of cream cheese, though their might be a few. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  6. In a large bowl toss together 1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp salt.
  7. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and slowly mix with a whisk, add the milk, just until combined. Fold in the apples with a spatula, just until combined.
  8. Spoon the muffin batter evenly between the 12 tins.
  9. Press a handful of the crumb topping into the top of each, it's okay to press it down a bit, you want to make sure it stays.
  10. Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F degrees, then keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350°F (177°C) and bake for 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Let the muffins cool completely.
  12. Make the glaze: whisk all of the ingredients together and drizzle over muffins.
  13. Eat the muffins!
  1. Store the muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for 4-5 days. Make sure they are completely cool before you put them in the airtight container. Freezing them is another option, simply freeze, defrost, and serve.
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/
If you run out of muffin liners, you can always use parchment paper like I did. I notoriously forget to buy muffin liners. (And I have actually just now, with these muffins, ran out of parchment paper.) Check out my favorite blueberry muffins here for more details on using parchment paper, as well as a tip on piping batter into the muffin liners! 

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but these apple cinnamon muffins have me thinking about apple orchards and pumpkin spice…fall is coming…

Happy baking + almost time to pull out the plaid! xoxo

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Easy Summer Vegetable Lasagna


It seems I start every post with “I love (insert type of food),” but once again, it’s true: I love lasagna. I usually think of it as a winter food, and one that requires a few hours of prep if done well. But this is a quick and easy summer recipe using, yes, you guessed it, ready to bake lasagna noodles! And it definitely won’t take you hours. 

A heads up, I did skip a few steps in the photos below. So make sure to follow the instructions, not just the photos.


Use a deliciously smokey flavored cheese to give this dish the perfect pop and flare.


This lasagna is great for improvising. In this recipe, if you keep the sweet onion and spinach mix, you can substitute almost any vegetables you desire for the zucchinis and eggplant. 


The pan looks like some sort of splatter design I drew in Paint on my computer in the 90’s.


Oven-ready lasagna noodles are a great choice, this coming from someone who likes to do a lot from scratch. I find they work best in lasagnas because they stay firm, whereas homemade or store-bought pot boiled noodles don’t. Especially in a vegetable lasagna, when the veggies add a lot of water already, oven-ready noodles are preferred.


Spread as much or as little tomato sauce as you desire. (Or as your acid reflux desires.)


Eggplant will shrink about half it’s size so don’t be shy with it. 


And a beautiful mix of yellow and green zucchini, like little polka dots on a dress. 


Layer with ricotta cheese, fresh herbs, and parmesan cheese. 


Sprinkle some cheese, a layer of noodles, a bit more sauce…


Some sweet onion and spinach…


…and finally some more smoked shredded cheese.






Yes, I do love lasagna. Not as much as I love my husband. But I definitely do love lasagna. And did I mention, he loved this meal too?  

Easy Summer Vegetable Lasagna
A fresh and easy twist on lasagna, perfect for the summer.
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  1. 9-12 oven ready lasagna noodles (depending on the dimensions of your pan, I used 9 in my pan)
  2. 1 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  4. 1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
  5. 4 cups (packed) fresh spinach leaves
  6. 1 medium green zucchini
  7. 1 medium yellow zucchini
  8. 1 eggplant
  9. 15oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  10. 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  11. 1 large egg
  12. 1 tbsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  13. 1 tbsp fresh basil, minced
  14. 1-1/2 or so cups tomato sauce (really, to your own preference)
  15. 2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
  16. 1 cup smoked mozarella/provolone/gruyère/cheddar (whichever you can find) cheese, grated
  17. Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare all your ingredients: chop, slice, mince!
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-heat for about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic. Continue cooking until onions become soft and translucent, about 2 or so more minutes.
  3. Add the spinach leaves to the onions and garlic. The pan will be heaping and awkward! It's okay. Cook it, stirring regularly and carefully, until all the spinach begins to wilt, about 2-3 minutes. Then remove from heat.
  4. Meanwhile, using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, carefully slice the zucchinis and eggplant into rounds. Slice thinly, but if you slice the eggplant too thin it disappears.
  5. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, half of the parmesan, the thyme and basil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the egg and stir again until well mixed.
Prepare in the Pan
  1. You're all set to go! Spoon a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch dish, just enough to coat the bottom with a thin layer. It doesn't have to be perfect.
  2. Layer a third of the lasagna noodles along the bottom of the pan, and top with a generous layer of sauce. Layer the eggplant slices, then the zucchinis, in rows, overlapping slightly.
  3. Divide the ricotta mixture in half, and using your fingers, spread the first half in a layer, as best you can. It doesn't have to be perfect.
  4. Sprinkle a third of the mozzarella and a third of the smoked cheese on top.
  5. Add a second layer of lasagna noodles, layer with sauce, and top with the spinach and onions, followed by the remaining ricotta, another third of the mozzarella and another third of the smoked cheese.
  6. Add the last layer of lasagne noodles, top with all the remaining cheese.
  7. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 40 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and the lasagna is cooked through.
  8. Turn the oven up to 400 degrees, remove the foil, and cook uncovered for an additional 12 minutes until the cheese begins to bubble and turn golden brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.
  1. This recipe freezes well!
  2. The cheese measurements are forgiving: use a little more or less as you desire.
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/

Happy cooking, baking, and eating!

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PS. If you are wondering if I ever think it’s too hot to turn the oven on, the answer is unequivocally no! My husband may disagree..:)

Best Recipe for Soft, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

   chewy chocolate chip cookies

My husband calls me “The Cookie Monster.” This, because I literally buy a cookie everywhere we go. We are at the gas station. I must buy a cookie. We are at target. Cookie, please. We are out to dinner and of course! We must stop on the way home to buy a cookie. Cookies are dangerously close to crossing over to being considered a necessity in my life. My favorite type of cookie is exactly like these chewy chocolate chip cookies: soft, moist, and sweet!

mixing in the flour

I use mini chocolate chips because my husband doesn’t like the regular sized ones. I have grown to prefer them myself, as well! 

mixing the cookie dough

If you don’t have a cookie scoop, buy one! It will change your cookie world. I got one as a gift and I freaked out when I opened it. I couldn’t believe the luck I had come in to. 

scooping the cookie dough

chocolate chip cookies on rack

chocolate chip cookies on rack

chewy chocolate chip cookies

Best Recipe for Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Soft, chewy, moist and DELICIOUS chocolate chip cookies!
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  1. 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  5. 1/4 cup cream cheese, room temp
  6. 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  7. 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. 2 large eggs
  10. As many semi-sweet chocolate chips as you want! I use mini chips, about half to 3/4 the bag.
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. It's a good idea to stir the flour in the jar before you measure it. This provides some aeration. When you measure, use a light hand. Chronically over measuring flour can be the hidden culprit of dry cookies! (When I measure flour, if I get the feeling that my scoops have been on the heavy side, I will cut 1/8 to 1/4 cup of flour off the recipe.)
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can always use a hand mixer), cream together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, light brown sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. Be sure to let the ingredients cream for the full amount of time, as this will set the tone for the entire batch.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the flour mixture, beating to combine.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 3 hours. You can go longer, but the cookies I made here I only chilled for 3 hours.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  7. Line two or three cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop 1 to 2 tablespoon mounds of dough onto baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. I use a small size cookie scoop. The size of the scoop will affect the baking time.
  8. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes*, or JUST until lightly golden brown. Let them cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack. Once completely cooled, store in an air tight container. *(Please see the notes for more discussion on bake time!)
Baking Tips
  1. Right along with the problem of over-measuring flour, is over-baking cookies. I am constantly trying to find the balance between baked, but not burned. When it comes to ovens and baking environments, everyone's is different. I hesitate to even list an amount of time to bake, because it depends so greatly on other factors. Therefore, I encourage you to focus on what the cookies look like, and not the time.
  2. For drop cookies like these, err on the side of underbaking ever so slightly.
  3. Pull them out when you see the first hint of a golden shade on the edge, even if only on a few of the cookies.
  4. It's okay if the tops don't look completely baked: they're still hot, so let them cool a few minutes and finish baking. Then see how they look.
  5. If you let the cookies cool and settle for a few minutes and they still don't look done, you can always put then back in the oven for a few more minutes. I've never had negative results with this, at least on simple drop cookies like these.
  6. Lift up the bottom of the cookie and see if it is golden brown. If it is, the cookie is done.
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/
 Happy baking! I hope you enjoy your chewy chocolate chip cookies.

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P.S. If you truly are a cookie monster like me, you might make yourself a cookie ice cream sandwich. Yum, yum, yum.

chocolate chip cookie sandwich

Blueberry Muffins (That Actually Rise!)

I have spent many weekend mornings making muffins. Usually I bake them with oats and wholewheat, but this past weekend I wanted to make a muffin that rose and billowed upwards towards the sky! So I knew I needed to rely on my good friends, all-purpose flour and baking powder. These are the best rising blueberry muffins I have ever made. I have also made these muffins with strawberries and mangos. Whatever fruit you have. I recommend fresh fruit, not frozen, with this recipe (but have made them with both, you certainly could go for it).

blueberry muffins

I ran out of muffin liners, so I just used some parchment paper in the muffin pan. If you are out of muffin liners, do not simply spray the muffin pan, as these muffins will still stick. I have done this, and it’s a mess and you’ll be sad because your pretty muffins will be destroyed as you try to excavate them.

To use parchment paper instead of muffin liners, cut the parchment paper into squares, and then fold it into the pan. There is a photo of mine a few photos below. The bigger the squares, the more parchment paper you will see. If you pour your muffins very carefully (which I did not in this instance) you can even use parchment paper to make the muffins look fancier. UPDATE: If you use parchment paper, be sure to spray the pan with nonstick spray first, before you put the parchment paper in, as this will help the pieces stay in place while you fill them! :)  To pour muffins into your liners carefully here is the method I have used before:  

pipe muffin batter

pipe the muffin batter

Pour the batter into a ziploc bag. Then just pull the bag out, cut the corner, and essentially pipe your muffin batter into the liners.  

muffin batter in parchment paper

These blueberry muffins can be frozen and defrosted throughout the week.  

blueberry muffins

Blueberry Muffins That Rise!
Moist and billowy blueberry muffins. Perfect for a slow morning with coffee, or to simply grab on-the-go as you're headed out the door.
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  1. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  5. 1 cup granulated sugar
  6. 2 large eggs
  7. 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  8. 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  9. 1/2 cup milk
  10. 2-1/4 cups fresh blueberries (or any fruit you have!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. When you measure the flour, be sure to measure with a light hand. I usually stir the flour in the jar before I measure. If you don't, you may be chronically over measuring flour, which was something I did in the past before I researched.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and almond extract.
  5. Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beating on low speed to combine. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick.
  6. Add the berries to the batter and gently hand mix until evenly distributed. Again, do not overmix.
  7. Scoop the batter (or pipe it!) into the muffin tin. The muffin cups will be very full which is great.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden. Stick with a toothpick to see if it's done. Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool completely.
Adapted from Once Upon a Chef
Adapted from Once Upon a Chef
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/

Happy baking!

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Wasabi Deviled Eggs


Do not do what I did while making these! And that’s lose your mind for even 1 second because if you do, you might forget that you already know what Wasabi tastes like and that it’s really hot when consumed by itself. I ended up with a tablespoon of Wasabi in my mouth, before I remembered duh! I know what this tastes like and I do not want to eat this by the tablespoon!


I make these instead of standard deviled eggs, because my husband is allergic to paprika.  I think you will like these. Even if you wouldn’t typically like wasabi. They are not too spicy, but give the traditional deviled egg a zesty, fancy twist.  


The word “deviled” (in relation to food) started being used to describe spicy foods in the 19th century. Did you know there is also such a thing as an “angel egg”? I did not. Evidently, it’s when you stuff the egg with something healthier. Interesting. 

Here, I put mine out as an appetizer, with some tapenade crackers. Recipe here. 


One minor tip; instead of hard boiling your eggs, trying steaming them. Unless you have hard boiling down to a science. (Which I don’t.) If you don’t either, I think steaming is easier. Find the instructions here. 

Happy egg eating!

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Wasabi Deviled Eggs
Yields 16
A peppy, perky, spicy twist on a traditional deviled egg.
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  1. 8 eggs
  2. 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  3. 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoons wasabi paste
  5. coarse salt
  6. Fresh pea shoots and pickled ginger, as needed for decor
  7. A few shakes of parsley (if you want)
  1. Hardboil or steam your 8 eggs.
  2. Cut each egg in half lengthwise; spoon out egg yolk and place in a bowl.
  3. Mash yolks with a fork until smooth; stir in mayonnaise, green onions,vand wasabi paste. Season with salt.
  4. Arrange egg white halves cut-side-up on a serving platter.
  5. Spoon yolk mixture into whites; garnish each egg half with pickled ginger and pea shoots and a shake of parsley.
  1. Use a cookie scoop to spoon the yolk mixture into the white if you have one. Makes it very, very easy.
  2. Consider placing herbs or leaves underneath the eggs on your platter to prevent them from sliding around.
Adapted from All Recipes
Adapted from All Recipes
Kara the Cook http://karathecook.com/