Ooey Gooey Choloatey Cookies

*Disclaimer-Ooops, please forgive me, but I accidentally made a mistake in the video. Please follow the recipe below. The flour should be mixed in after the eggss, sugar and vanilla have been beat. Good thing this isn't the Food Network!*

I have to admit that I don't have a serious sweet-tooth. Well actually, I think I am just able to execute deep restraint. Restraint that is so resolute, it baffles my husband, who has the second biggest sweet-tooth in his family. (Second to his brother, whose idea of a holiday breakfast is to devour an entire soft-dough kuchen, a German "cake," which consists of nearly 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of heavy cream, and 1 cup of shortening....that some serious sweet devotion!)

To be honest, I think it's part of the Conn genetic make-up to love sweets. Holidays at my in-laws are never short of cookies, pies, and pastries galore. The household consumes so much sweets come holiday time, or any family gathering, it's amazing they don't perspire sugar.

This brings us to the reason my husband (and kids) love these cookies so much. After tasting them for the first time, it became clear to me why Martha Stewart proclaims them to be "outrageous." They are perfectly sweet, and soft enough to leave a gooey trail of chocolate all over my kid's fingers. To me, that is a tell-tale sign of a perfect cookie! Just watch out....they don't last long.

The secret to making these truly magical is to use really good quality chocolate. It is so worth the investment!

Outrageous Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 20-second increments, stirring between each, until almost melted; do not overheat. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Homemade Marinara Sauce

There are a plethora of great marinara sauces on the market, so it is understandable why so many people gravitate away from making their own. For me, anything I can proclaim as homemade gives me great gratification. There is something special when a satiated guests asks where something was purchased and I can reply "I made it!" Now, maybe this is a tad bit arrogant, but I think recognition is much deserved to anyone who whips up a magical tasting treat in the kitchen. Any cook who acts modestly when receiving a compliment is really thinking "damn straight this is good." After all, us "pseudo-chefs" are slightly big-headed.

Make this is and store it in the refrigerator for 5-7 days, or freeze it for long term storage. And do not fret if you don't have a food processor, you can still make this in a large skillet. Mash the tomatoes as best as you can with a fork, or potato masher. The consistency might be different, but it will still taste mighty delectable.

Dani's Homemade Marinara Sauce

2 (14.5 ouces) cans of diced tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
handful of chopped fresh basil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano


1/3 cup of olive oil

2-3 shallots, minced (use sweet onion if not available)
1/2 cup white wine

Blend the first 7 ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat saute the onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the blended tomato sauce and the wine. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes on low heat stirring occasionally until the sauce has reduced.


Personalized Individual Cheesecake

I am a huge fan of miniature desserts, and lucky for me, they have become quite popular. (This is only evident by the HUGE come-back that cupcakes have made.) Near me, several restaurants serve desserts in small shot glass containers which allows me to taste a variety of sweet treats. Oh happy day!

What I love most about this recipe is that you can customize each cake to accommodate different members of your family. In our house, my husband and I love fruit desserts, however our kids have a very divergent concept of what dessert is. In short, if their isn't chocolate in it, it is certainly not dessert. When I make these, I usually fill them with two or three different surprises. It keeps everyone happy.

Personalized Individual Cheesecake

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs (you can also use Oreo cookie crumbs)
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 TB sugar
2 TB agave nectar (substitute for sugar if you do not have)
treats of your choice (i.e. fruit, M & Ms, chocolate chips, etc...)

2 (8 ounce) packages of room temperature cream cheese
1 cup + 2 TB of sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon put vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a standard muffin pan with cupcake liners.

To make the crust, combine the crumbs, sugar, agave nectar and butter in a bowl. Spoon about a tablespoon into the bottom of each muffin cup. Place whatever treat you have chosen on top of the crust.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese until it is fluffy and add the sugar, flour and vanilla until well combined. Add one egg at a time and continue to beat. Spoon cream cheese mixture over filling and crust. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Once cooled, top each cake with some extra treats to allow your guests to know what is in side each cheesecake.

Serves 12


Mom's Tomato and Basil Salad

Something enigmatic happens after 9 months of carrying a baby and then bearing the pain of labor. Mothers become super human! Seriously. Since I became a mother, I have been able to understand martian language (a.k.a. baby babble), remove ANY stain with the tips of my magical fingers, read minds (a.k.a. knowing what trouble lurked in the quiet sounds of a kid-centered house), reach a child in peril faster than a speeding bullet and COOK!

In college, I use to imagine that I could cook. Only then, cooking consisted of "gourmet" grilled cheese sandwiches, and by gourmet I mean adding a slice of tomato. But then, I became a mother, and just like that, Spider man and I were not so different. For him, he acquired spider senses, for me it was cooking senses. All I could do was think about what I would make for breakfast, and immediately after I ate, I would start thinking about lunch. Things just started to make culinary sense. I swore to myself that despite the crying children, the cranky husband, the loads of laundry, the playdates, the lack of free time and the fact that I had no cooking background what-so-ever, I could stand in the kitchen with Giada and, at the very least, be her sous chef. I had the "motherhood power." This was all probably some sort of bizarre, post-pregnancy, fantasy that could have benefited from a psycho analysis, but if you are a mom reading this, you know what I mean.

Now, I don't know if this happened to my mom, or if she was one of the lucky ones that popped out with a culinary thumb, but she has some serious skills in the kitchen. You should see what she can do with a head of cauliflower! I only wish I will someday be as good a cook as she. I can guarantee that much of what I will share with you will be influenced by my mom.

There really is not much frill to this salad. What makes it so great, is how well all the flavors work together. There aren't really too many ingredients, but its how they come together that makes it so fabulous!

Mom's Tomato and Basil Salad

1 box of grape (or cherry) tomatoes

handful of basil chopped

1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Mix up all ingredients


Mango Salsa Over Seared Halibut

Let me start off with a disclaimer that I am still trying to get the hang of filming, so excuse the fact that my head is cut off in some of the video!

We moved a few months ago and just a few weeks ago it was brought to my attention that we have a very fruitful mango tree in our backyard. Ever since this discovery, I have been thinking of different ways to incorporate mangoes into our meals. Now, most people do not have mango trees in their yards, so if you are purchasing mangoes at the grocery store look for mangoes that are soft to the touch, somewhat red in color, and that are oozing slightly at the top.

This dish epitomizes summer to me. It is so light and refreshing and is extremely versatile. When I first started cooking, I use to marinate fish in a very robust sauce, but as I got more comfortable in the kitchen, I realized that marinating fish in such a manner masked the beautiful taste it had to offer. A simple sprinkle of salt and pepper on each side of the fish, and a delicious topping, is all you need. Of course, you want to make sure that the fish you are purchasing is very fresh! Just ask the fish guy at your local grocery store, or fish market, and he will let you know what was freshly caught. And yes, I said caught! I try to purchase wild seafood whenever possible.

Mango Salsa

1 ripe mango (skinned and chopped finely)

1/4 red pepper (chopped finely)

3 green onions (light green parts only; chopped finely)

1/2 jalapeno (cut finely and seeded if you are sensitive to spicy food)

1 garlic clove (chopped finely)

juice of one lime

juice of half a lemon

1 tspn oregano

salt and pepper

12 ounces of white fish

Place all ingredients (except fish) into a bowl and stir well. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. Cook fish to your liking and top with mango salsa!

Serves 2