Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie & Homemade Peanut Butter Cups


This year, my older brother got quite the home-cooked birthday meal. My mom and younger brother made dinner, which featured all of my brother’s favorite flavor combinations — buffalo sauce with a gorgonzola spinach artichoke dip to accompany chicken cutlets and baked onion rings. And for dessert, the winning combination of peanut butter and chocolate.


My brother sent me a recipe for a chocolate peanut butter pie made with Nutter Butters, so I set out to recreate the recipe using homemade ingredients. I wanted to make homemade peanut butter cups instead of using Reese’s, and based on everyone’s reactions, I’m sure I’ll be making these again soon.


I also wanted to use natural ingredients for other components of the pie such as the crust, which uses almond flour as a perfect base that complements the peanut butter. And to keep the pie a bit lighter, I used mascarpone as an alternative to cream cheese and coconut cream as a substitute for heavy cream. I decided not to mess with the Nutella, since you really can’t improve the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread.


The pie takes a while to set, but once it does, it is delicious straight from the freezer. The Nutella layer is sweet and refreshing, resembling chocolate hazelnut ice cream. The peanut butter mascarpone layer is light and not too sweet, and the crust is a strong anchor. Though I did like the peanut butter cookie crust, next time I might try a chocolate cookie crust instead to balance out the peanut butter cream.


I had planned to top the pie with more of the peanut butter cups, but these homemade chocolates proved to be a popular dessert on their own. I think the pie held its own as well without too much candy accompaniment.


I’m glad I got to make a new dessert — which I think will be requested again next year — for my brother’s birthday. Over the next three months, we have three more birthdays in my family, and I can’t wait to experiment with everyone else’s favorite desserts. Stay tuned for more summer birthday treats!



Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

 Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

Makes 24 mini peanut butter cups

–       3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

–       1 ½ cup natural creamy peanut butter

–       2 tbs. honey

–       ¼ cup powdered sugar

–       2 tsp. vanilla extract

–       sprinkle of sea salt

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler on the stove. Spray mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray or use mini muffin liners. Spoon about a tablespoon of chocolate into each muffin tin, spreading out the chocolate to create an even layer and to coat the sides as well. In a separate bowl, mix the peanut butter, honey, powdered sugar, and vanilla until combined. Spoon about 1 tsp. of the peanut butter mixture into each muffin tin. Completely cover the peanut butter dollops with the remaining melted chocolate. Sprinkle sea salt on top of each peanut butter cup, and place in the refrigerator to harden for at least two hours.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Inspired by Crazy for Crust


–       2 cups almond flour

–       1 cup natural creamy peanut butter

–       ¼ cup agave

–       pinch of salt

Mix together all ingredients until combined. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Peanut Butter Cream:

–       1 cup natural creamy peanut butter

–       8 oz. mascarpone

–       ¼ cup agave

–       pinch of salt

Stir together all ingredients with an electric mixer until incorporated and fluffy.

Nutella Cream:

–       1 14-oz. can of full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight

–       1 cup Nutella

Whip the cream from the coconut milk with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add Nutella, and mix until combined.

To Assemble:

Spoon the peanut butter cream onto the baked cookie crust, and smooth for an even layer. Reserve ¼ cup of the cream for decorating the pie, if desired. Next, add the Nutella cream over the peanut butter layer. Freeze for at least six hours or overnight. Right before serving, decorate if desired by piping the peanut butter cream on top of the cake. Top with one or multiple homemade peanut butter cups.

Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies


This has been quite the summer thus far. I left my job at the beginning of June, started a new job — where I worked for three weeks before deciding it wasn’t the right fit — and moved out of my apartment (almost). Amid all of this change, I also got to visit Toronto and Niagara Falls with my family and spend a weekend laying on the beach in Montauk with some friends from college.


This summer, I’m also lucky enough to get to travel to Israel through the Birthright program. As part of the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, young Jewish people between the ages of 18 and 26 get a 10-day all-expenses paid trip to Israel. I went to Israel in the summer of 2008 with my family and loved the culture, food, and landscape. I can’t wait to go back, meet new people, and eat delicious Israeli food.


Tahini is known mostly as the essential ingredient that gives hummus its creamy texture and slightly nutty taste. And though I love hummus, tahini can be much more versatile. Though tahini is a little too salty to eat like other nut butters, when combined with agave and chocolate chips, it provides a wonderful yet unexpected base to this sweet and savory cookie.


I was inspired to make a tahini cookie when I saw a recipe in a recent Birthright newsletter. The original recipe called for granulated sugar and butter, so I knew I would make something a bit different when I set out to make my own. It’s not that I don’t like using butter and sugar in baking — no question, they turn out delicious treats. But, typically when I bake, I like to make healthier sweets that I can snack on. Cue the agave and gluten-free flour. Similar to natural peanut butter in consistency, tahini contains plenty of oil, so I didn’t even have to make another addition.


Add as little or as many chocolate chips as you like, but I will say that my family requested more chips. Maybe it’s just my family’s collective sweet tooth, or maybe more chocolate is generally preferred. My family is also split on whether these cookies are better straight from the freezer or at room temp. (I like the freezer option, especially in this 90 degree heat). Give these cookies a try, let me know how they turn out and what you, your family, and friends think of this surprising treat.




Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies 

–       2 eggs

–       2 tbs. vanilla extract

–       ½ cup agave

–       ¼ cup milk (I used almond milk)

–       1 cup tahini

–       3 cups flour (I used gluten-free)

–       ½ tsp. baking powder

–       1 tsp. baking soda

–       ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

–       2 tbs. sesame seeds

Combine wet ingredients, and stir until incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and mix until dry ingredients are incorporated into the dough. Add the chocolate chips, and stir until combined. Spoon cookies onto lined cookie sheets, press down with a fork, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.

Strawberry Raspberry Jam Pie Bars


The weather in New York this past weekend was perfect. It finally feels like spring is exactly as it should be — 70 degrees and sunny. To celebrate, I met up with some friends from work for a picnic in Prospect Park.


I first went to Prospect Park this past fall and was blown away by the park’s beauty and magnitude. The green hills and trees make you feel like you’re not even in New York City. It’s a long subway ride from Astoria, but boy, is it worth it.


Last night’s picnic was met with not only good weather and company, but also, of course, delicious food. My friend Ally is also a food enthusiast, and she and her husband made a curried chickpea and carrot salad, a cucumber and avocado salad, and homemade pizza — all so fresh and flavorful. I brought along Ina Garten’s Mediterranean pasta salad, which I highly recommend if you’re in need of a good picnic or summer potluck dish.


And for dessert. Every time I thought of a dessert idea last week, I’d meander over to Ally’s desk and share my plans. First it was banana cake with caramel frosting. Then it was lemon cake squares. Finally, I settled on these pie bars. I’m glad I did.


These bars are a great picnic dessert because they have all the flavors of a homemade pie without the fuss of slicing and plating. These bars hold up well in transit (even across public transportation in three boroughs!), can be made in advance, and are easy to put out for a self-serve gathering.


The lemon zest in both the crust and the filling complement the sweetness of the jam and serve as a reminder that we really are heading toward summer. The spices in the crust and crumble add warmth and create that comforting freshly baked pie taste.


The jam that’s mixed into the filling is sweet enough that additional sugar isn’t needed. Of course you can change it up by adding some whole berries or swirling extra jam into the filling, which would make these pie bars burst with even more flavor.


I hope you had a wonderful spring weekend and that the next few weeks leading into summer bring you beautiful weather, fun with friends, and delicious food.


Strawberry Raspberry Jam Pie Bars

Adapted from Joy the Baker


–       3 cups flour

–       1 ½ cups turbinado sugar

–       ¼ tsp. salt

–       ¼ tsp. ground ginger

–       ¼ tsp. all spice

–       1 tsp. cinnamon

–       3 sticks cold unsalted butter

–       zest of 1 lemon


–       4 eggs

–       ½ cup raspberry jam

–       ½ cup strawberry jam

–       1 cup sour cream

–       ¾ cup flour

–       ¼ tsp. salt

–       zest of 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients for the crust in a food processor. Once combined, the mixture should be crumbly but should hold together when squeezed. Press the mixture into a 9×13 inch pan. Leave 1 ½ cups aside for the top of the bars, and refrigerate. Bake the crust at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk all ingredients until smooth. After the baked crust has cooled for about 10 minutes, pour the filling on top. Distribute the remaining crust evenly over the top of the filling so that it resembles a crumble. Bake for about an hour or until the filling has set.

Notes for next time:

–       Pecans or walnuts would be a welcome addition to the crust. They would add both crunch and a buttery texture that would allow you to cut down on the amount of butter used. A mixture of finely ground and coarsely ground nuts would work well here.

–       Add more lemon zest or juice. The consistency of the filling of these bars is similar to that of lemon squares. Adding more zest and juice to the filling would create a lemon square/fruit pie bar hybrid that would be lovely.

Fruit Tart


Whenever there’s a holiday that celebrates my mom – namely her birthday or Mother’s Day – I can always guess what she’ll ask me to make for dessert. Before my mom even got to make her request this year, I said, “Don’t say fruit tart.”


Needless to say, I made a fruit tart for Mother’s Day. On this day, it doesn’t matter that me or my other family members have gotten a little tired of the standard fruit tart my mom loves so much. It’s my mom’s favorite dessert, and it will always make an appearance on our dining room table on this day each year.


This year for Mother’s Day, we went all out. We always stay home and cook for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because in our minds, nothing can beat the taste and price tag of home cooked meals.


For brunch, I made a vanilla Dutch baby and homemade pork sausage patties. Dinner starred veal Milanese, which my younger brother made, with a side of eggplant caponata that I whipped up. This berry tart closed out the day, which was full of cooking, baking, and dish washing from start to finish.


The crust of this fruit tart is a little sweeter than other pie crusts I’ve made, but I think my family liked the sugar cookie-esque taste. The chocolate layer is a simple yet extra special addition, and the pastry cream is chock full of flavor from the vanilla seeds.


This is my second time making this type of pastry cream, and I have to admit that it isn’t one of my favorite things to make. It always takes longer than I want to thicken up, and when it does, I can never seem to completely get rid of the lumps. But, it tastes good in between the chocolate and fruit, which is really all that matters.


You can of course use any type of fruit you like and omit or change the chocolate layer. A layer of white chocolate would be a nice twist. My mom loves dark chocolate, though, so that’s what our tarts will continue to feature.


I hope you all had a lovely Sunday celebrating your moms. I think I speak for everyone in my family when I say that we all got to enjoy Mother’s Day this year by treating ourselves to some delicious dishes including my mom’s favorite fruit tart.


Fruit Tart

Adapted from The Dessert Spot


–       12 tbs. cold, unsalted butter

–       ½ cup sugar

–       2 cups flour

–       ½ tsp. salt

–       1 egg

–       1 tbs. cold water

Pastry Cream:

–       2 cups milk

–       ½ cup sugar

–       1 vanilla bean

–       ½ cup cornstarch

–       4 egg yolks

–       3 tbs. butter

 Chocolate Layer:

–       ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate

–       ¼ cup cream or half and half


–      ½ pint raspberries

–       About 10 large strawberries

Start with the crust, since it will have to refrigerate for at least an hour before being rolled out. Combine all ingredients for the crust in a food processor, and process until dough forms into a ball. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out dough on a floured surface and press dough into a nine-inch tart dish. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Heat the milk and ¼ cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Using a paring knife, split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the whole vanilla bean to the milk mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Once the milk has heated, remove the vanilla bean. Add a little bit of the milk mixture to the egg mixture, and whisk until combined. Continue to temper the egg yolks until all of the milk has been added to the egg mixture. Add the liquid back to the saucepan and add the cornstarch. Whisk until the cornstarch dissolves, and let the liquid come to a boil. After it starts boiling, the mixture should become thicker. Turn off the heat and start mixing to work out the lumps. Add in the butter and continue to stir. Refrigerate until cool.

Once the crust has been baked and cooled, make the chocolate mixture. Heat the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan until melted. Smooth the chocolate mixture over the baked crust. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until the chocolate has set.

Add the pastry cream on top of the chocolate in a smooth layer. Cut the strawberries in whichever type of shape you like and arrange fruit on top of the pastry cream until completely covered.

Lemon Blueberry Cake


Lately I’ve been having fantasies about moving to a small town in a different state. Somewhere like Oklahoma or North Carolina. Somewhere where, at least in my idealized view of the place, life is a bit easier than here in New York.


Whenever I think of living in a small town, I undoubtedly think about one of my favorite TV shows, Gilmore Girls. I think about the Dragonfly Inn and all of the delicious creations Sookie made.


This lemon blueberry cake seems like the type of thing that would appear on the Dragonfly Inn’s menu. This cake has a small town charm to it. The lemon makes this cake bright and sunny, just as I imagine small town people to be. And baking with fresh fruit always reminds me of how satisfying it must be to bake with fruit you’ve grown or picked yourself. I imagine that, if I lived in a small town, I’d have a small garden and the luxury of picking seasonal fruit from nearby farms.


Of course much of this is my romanticizing small town life. I’m sure there are just as many, albeit different, challenges to everyday life as there are in other places. But for some reason, this cake just seems to be the perfect thing to be eaten while sitting on a porch on a warm spring afternoon, talking to your neighbors about how pretty the flowers are this time of year.


Wherever you may eat this cake from, I do hope you make it, as it has all the right flavors to match this sunny, spring weather. I tried to ramp up the health factor of this cake by using nonfat yogurt, decreasing the amount of sweetener, and substituting coconut oil for the vegetable oil, but other moisture, sugar, and fat stand-ins would work just fine.


This cake was just the thing I needed on this early May afternoon, unwinding on my couch after a long walk this morning and catching up with a friend on the phone (who just happened to be sitting on the porch of her new home down south!) I may not be in Stars Hollow, but this cake makes me feel just a little bit closer.


Lemon Blueberry Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

–       3 eggs

–       1 cup Greek yogurt (I used nonfat)

–       zest and juice of two lemons

–       2/3 cup agave syrup

–       ½ tsp. almond extract

–       ½ cup coconut oil, melted, plus more for preparing the pan

–       1 ½ cups flour plus one tablespoon, plus more for preparing the pan

–       2 tsp. baking powder

–       1 tsp. salt

–       1 pint fresh blueberries

–       1 tbs. turbinado sugar

Whisk all of the wet ingredients until incorporated. Add the 1 ½ cups of flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until combined. The batter will be very thick, but should still be moist. In a separate bowl, combine the blueberries and 1 tbs. flour. Stir until blueberries are coated, and fold blueberries into the batter. Coat a loaf pan (or any type of pan, really) with coconut oil and flour, and add batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on top of the batter, and bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate Tiramisu


I think I deceived some people last Sunday when I showed up to Easter dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house without that almond citrus cake. Luckily, I had made this chocolate tiramisu, which I think relieved any disappointment.


My Aunt Grace is known for her tiramisu, but when I heard she wasn’t making it for Easter this year, I decided that instead of depriving my family of the sweet and creamy Italian dessert, I’d step up to the plate.


I decided to make a chocolate variation of traditional tiramisu since I can think of very few pairings better than chocolate and coffee. Putting a twist on Giada’s recipe, I added a layer of chocolate on top of the whipped cream mixture to amp up the chocolate component. I think that layer was the best part.


This recipe only takes about an hour to make, from melting the chocolate to assembling the layers. But it does take a bit longer to set. The lady fingers in my tiramisu still had a bite after a few hours in the fridge, so I think some extra refrigeration time would have done it well. By the time the tiramisu is ready, the cookies should be softened from the coffee bath and cream, and all three layers should be singing in unison.


This tiramisu is a definitely a winner that would be the perfect end to a dinner party or any meal where you’re looking to impress. The prep work is simple, and the results are fancy and decadent. You can also finish the top layer off with a shaving of dark chocolate or a dusting of cocoa powder, but I think the chocolate swirl looks divine. I can’t wait to make this one again.





Chocolate Tiramisu

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

–       1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

–       4 cups heavy cream

–       4 egg yolks

–       ¾ cup sugar

–       1 tsp. salt

–       12 oz. mascarpone cheese

–       ½ cup coffee

–       About 25 lady fingers

Melt the chocolate chips with 2 cups heavy cream and ½ tsp. salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until melted and smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, ¼ cup sugar, and the remaining ½ tsp. salt. Continue whisking over a pot of simmering water until the mixture has thickened and is pale yellow in color. Take the bowl off the heat, and fold in ½ cup of the melted chocolate. Refrigerate once incorporated.

Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 2 cups heavy cream with the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, whip the mascarpone cheese using an electric mixer until soft and airy. Fold the mascarpone into the whipped cream until incorporated. Fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream mixture until incorporated and smooth.

Dip the lady fingers into the coffee, and place in a layer on the bottom of a 5-inch deep dish. Spoon the whipped cream mixture on top of the lady fingers, then spoon the melted chocolate on top of the whipped cream. Repeat until another three layers are formed. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.


Almond Citrus Cake


Happy Easter! I was hoping to get this recipe up before today, but alas, so life goes.


I actually made this cake last week for Passover since the almond flour makes it perfectly Kosher for the holiday. After tasting it, I knew it would be a great Easter dessert, too.


As I was discussing with a co-worker recently, lemon is one of those ingredients that just screams springtime. Now that it actually feels like spring in New York, I’m more than a little excited to start cooking with fresher and lighter ingredients.


This almond citrus cake is a perfect way to celebrate spring’s arrival. The combination of lemon and orange in this cake is just right, with the two fruits working in harmony to create a delicious citrus flavor. The addition of orange zest and a slight reduction of sugar from the original recipe really helped to make this cake bright and not overly sweet.


You can certainly use the original flours — hazelnut and quinoa — that The New York Times recipe suggests, but I love almond flour. (It’s also what I had on hand.) I really recommend the addition of almond extract if you decide to use almond flour to bring out the sweet and nutty flavor.


On first inspection, this cake resembles corn bread. But upon tasting it, you’ll see that even though the cake is a little crumbly, it is also incredibly moist from the olive oil and light from the egg whites.


This cake was a big hit at Passover, and I imagine it would go over just as well at an Easter brunch or as a sweet finish to any spring or summer meal.    Happy Spring!



Almond Citrus Cake 

Adapted from The New York Times

–       4 eggs, separated

–       2/3 cup sugar in the raw, plus 2 tbs.

–       2 lemons, zested and juiced

–       1 orange, zested and juiced

–       ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for coating the pan

–       1 tsp. almond extract

–       1 ½ cups almond flour

–       ¼ tsp. salt

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow. Beat in the zest and juices, olive oil, and almond extract. Mix in the almond flour and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter in three batches. Pour batter into an 8 or 9-inch springform pan brushed with olive oil. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before removing from the springform pan.