On one of those days when silly little things were going wrong -- the bank machine was out of cash, and the office where I need to get my dump sticker was closed at 11 a.m. for no reason at all -- I absolutely, positively needed chocolate to restore my equilibrium. With no stash of candy or brownies in the house, I pulled out a recipe I've been saving for months from Ingredient, a cooking magazine for children. Chocolate cake in a mug (or an old glass measuring cup), made in less than two minutes. Almost like a brownie, the cake, kicked up from the original recipe with grown-up pantry items (walnuts, cinnamon, crystallized ginger, sea salt), delivered nearly instant gratification. The dump sticker could wait.
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Wrap the most humble pantry ingredients in a sheet of puff pastry, and what comes out of the oven will look as glamorous as a movie star. And if, like me, you don't make your puff pastry from scratch, the most difficult part of creating a great dessert will be waiting for the pastry to defrost. My husband Ted and I raided the pantry one Sunday afternoon to put together a filling for these flaky brown sugar and walnut puff pastry swirls. A bit of lemon zest balances the sweetness, and if you have almonds or pecans in your freezer, go and ahead substitute for the walnuts. Figure on two or three per person. Really fun to make with kids, these sweet puff pastries are dressy enough for any dinner party, yet easy enough for weeknight treats, too.
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Chelsea, Alex and I dubbed these waffle brownies when we took our first bites during Wafflepalooza, and I promise that when you taste these chocolate chocolate chip waffles, you'll understand. I'm a coffee-with-waffles girl, as a rule, but these waffles beg for a glass of cold milk, just like the very best brownies. For all the chocolate chips and cocoa powder, the waffles aren't as dense as you'd expect. In fact, they're almost fluffy. In our house, these are "special occasion" breakfast waffles, the kind my husband Ted might make on Christmas morning. They also make a fine (and fun) dessert, with a drizzle of raspberry sauce on top. You can make them ahead, freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan, then pack into ziploc bags; to serve, simply pop them in the toaster.
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What if you make a recipe, and after you make it you figure out exactly what you'd change, but you've used up all of the key ingredient and can't find it in the markets within 15 miles of your house, and with gas at close to $4.00 a gallon, you have to admit defeat? That's what happened with these quick and easy apple walnut turnovers, made with store-bought discos. They're delicious, just as you see them, but one thing will make them 100 percent better: chopping the filling a bit in a food processor before you stuff the dough. If you do that, you'll be able to get more filling into your discos, and, after all, turnovers are all about the filling. I wanted to make them again, to prove it to you, but Rhode Island's markets let me down. So, when you see discos in your supermarket (you'll find them in the Goya frozen foods section), be sure to stock up. I'll do that next time.
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As much as I love chocolate -- and I do love chocolate -- I seldom bake or eat chocolate cake. Truth be told, I'm more of a cookie gal. However, when the pantry presented me with all of the ingredients for this double chocolate pumpkin pecan loaf cake, including some canned pumpkin left from baking these pumpkin chocolate chip biscotti, I couldn't resist. Despite the presence of chocolate chips, this cake is not overly sweet, yet it's melt-in-your-mouth moist. Kathy and I thought a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt would make a perfect topping, but we didn't have any on hand when we took the photographs. (Good thing, too, or you'd be seeing even less of the cake than you are now.) Make your cake ahead, let it cool completely, cut it in half cross-wise and freeze it. That way you'll have some on hand for the holidays, and some for a lucky friend or two who might stop in for afternoon tea.
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