Caramel. Apple. Pie. Cookies.

These. are. AMAZING. Personally, I’m not a fan of baking pies. I’d much rather make cookies – which take half the amount of time! These, literally, taste like apple pie and caramel apples mixed together! Way too addicting.

I needed to come up with a recipe – fast! I attempted twice to make these work. I tried pureeing the apples, but only to find that made it difficult to work with the dough and much harder to taste the apple. I tried stuffing the cookies with the caramel, only to make a gigantic mess. The third time, I came up with the perfect amount of apple to cookie ratio and the perfect way to add the caramel into the mix!

The type of caramel I made is super simple and more of a sauce. If you wanted to make real caramel, you need to add heavy cream and butter. But, I’m all about using the least amount of ingredients possible and believe me, you won’t notice that the heavy cream and butter are missing! If you are in a super rush, and don’t have the 10 minutes to make my version, you can buy caramel sauce in a store. But first, do the math. You’ll probably pay $5 for a container, where if you make it at home with just 1 3/4 cup of sugar, it’ll cost you like… $.50. Save where you can, people!

For caramel:

1 3/4 cup of sugar

2/3 cup of water

1/3 cup of hot water

For sugar cookies:

1 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cup flour

1 granny smith apple, diced

2 tsp flour

2 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, add 1 3/4 cup of sugar and 2/3 of a cup of water. Stir on medium heat, and when the mixture boils, that means the sugar has completely dissolved into the water. Take out the spatula, you will NOT be using it again. Leave it boiling on medium heat and every 30 second to a minute, use the pot handle to swish the mixture around. Caramel is just burned sugar. It’s about a 10 minute process for it to burn. It will look like nothing is happening, but be patient, because all of the sudden, you’ll see it turn a light amber color! Give it a few more seconds, let it get a bit more brown, and then turn off the heat. Now add 1/3 of a cup of HOT water. Very slowly, using a whisk, mix in a little at a time. Be careful!  It will make a crazy noise, and if your pot is shallow enough, can potentially splash you. After it’s all incorporated, set aside to cool in a glass bowl.

**Side note, this caramel mixture will harden shortly after you are finished with the cookies. If you wanted to make a liquid caramel sauce to have on hand for ice cream, breads, desserts, etc, you would add 2/3 of a cup of hot water at the end, instead of 1/3. It will stay liquid instead of hardening.**

Dice 1 granny smith apple. If you have a food chopper, it’s faster than dicing. Your choice if you’d like to remove the skin. I left mine on and thought it was delicious! Use 1 cup of the apples. Add 2 teaspoons of flour, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Mix and set aside.

To make our cookie mixture, cream together 1 cup or butter and 2/3 of a cup of sugar. Then mix in 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Slowly, add in 2 1/2 cups of flour. Perfect! Easy. Done.

Now add the apples to your sugar cookie mixture. Gently. Don’t want to work the dough too hard.

Put some flour on your hands and roll out a cookie the size of your palm and flatten down a little bit. You can mold all of your cookies first, then do the caramel. Using a teaspoon measure, very lightly, make a little circle around the center of the cookie. You’re just trying to slightly indent so that the caramel will sink in. Do NOT press too hard. If you do, the cookie will fall apart after baking. (Another of my failed first attempts.) Really, a very light indent!! Now drizzle caramel in the indent, and spread all around the cookie. Bake in a 350º oven for 12-15 minutes. Once they come out and your kitchen smells like heaven, place on a cooling rack.

*Optional but highly recommended for extreme satisfaction, place your cooling rack on top of your baking sheet so you don’t make a mess. Drizzle the remaining caramel over the cookies.

These are SERIOUSLY delicious. If you had your eyes closed, you would have no idea it was a cookie. You would just think it was the best apple pie you had ever tasted!
Give this one a shot, guys, I promise you won’t be disappointed!!


Have a great week!!



NUTELLA Sugar Cookies with SEA SALT!

What can be better than sugar cookies… sea salt… and nutella?! Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I was in France this summer and ohmygosh. The amount of nutella crepes I ate. Just look at these pictures and try really hard not to be jealous.

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Since I’ve been back, I’ve been trying to come up with a quick fix for my nutella addiction. Something that wasn’t too heavy and too much nutella, because 1. it’s expensive and 2. I’m really trying hard not to eat sugar. (Sugar is really quite terrible for you, if you haven’t seen the “Fed Up” trailer yet, go check it out!!)

So since I was going to spend the following day with my grandma, I somehow came up with, “well sugar cookies with a little nutella stuffed inside wouldn’t be toooo heavy! Ooooh and I love sea salt with chocolate!” And BAM. The rest is history!

Set your oven to 350º.

Cream together 1 cup of softened butter and 2/3 of a cup of sugar.

Beat in 1 egg.

Add 1 tsp of vanilla and 1/4 of a tsp of salt. Blend. (We are using less salt because there will be sea salt on the tops of the cookies!)

Lastly, add in 2 1/2 cups of flour, mixing a little at a time.

Since Nutella can be kind of messy, stick it in the freezer for an hour or so.

Take out a ball of dough the size of your palm and squish it down into a cup into the palm of your hand. Then place a tsp of nutella and fold up the edges so the nutella is hidden. Mold into a nice circle, pat down a little and then place on a baking tray! That was hard to explain, check out the video if you’re sitting there going, “whaaaat is she talking about…” 🙂

Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top of each cookie and lightly press down.

Stick in your oven for 15-20 minutes. If you make them as big as I made mine, they will take 20 minutes and make about 18 cookies. I’ve made them smaller to yield more cookies, and they will only take 12-15 minutes. Either way will be a real winner!

Can’t go wrong with these and they can be prepped, cooked and in your mouth in 40 minutes.  Quick! To the grocery!!!!

Send me some pics if you make them!

Have a great week,

Chef Stef


How to save on Salmon! (+ awesome recipe)

Here is what bothers me with our country. “Healthy food is expensive.” False. How much money did you spend at Starbucks this morning? Here’s a recipe that will cost you $3 and is so much healthier than something at McDonald’s for the same amount of money. Don’t believe me? Keep eating at fast food restaurants to save a buck or two. Just wait til your medical bills are through the roof because you didn’t invest in your health NOW.

To make 4 fillets, use the measurements below. (If making less than 4, here’s a chef secret for you…exact measurements really don’t matter, use as a guideline!)

In a small bowl, mix together:

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon of lemon zest (if you have a zester)

2 tbl olive oil

1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Great job! Now, pour a little more than half in a shallow dish to let the fish marinate in. Place your fillets in the dish and make sure each one is well coated. Let them marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge, covered with saran. It doesn’t have to marinate as long as chicken or other meat, because it’s simply not as dense. I actually marinated mine for 2 hours the other night, just because I was busy and had to marinate extra early, and it came out SO UNBELIEVABLY MOIST! But, 30 minutes works too 🙂

Place your oven on 400º. Prepare a baking sheet with tin foil. Why? So that when it’s all said and done you don’t have to clean the pan! Just throw away the tin foil!

Add your fillets to the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes, unless yours are much bigger than mine, in which case more like 10-12. I like mine not 100% cooked, I love sushi. 5-7 minutes gives just enough to time to be nice and juicy and not overly done!

Serve with the other half of the marinade that we set aside earlier. Voila! So simple. Hardly any prep work or clean up and incredibly inexpensive. But only inexpensive if you buy it my way…

Go to a restaurant and order 4 salmon dinners? $80. What a rip off! Go to the grocery and pick up salmon for a family of 4? $20. No, no, no! You’re right, that IS expensive!! Here is my trick to keeping the costs down on many of your groceries. Go to a wholesale club and buy a big chunk of salmon. Bring it home, and cut into 7-8 fillets. Wrap individually in saran and place in freezer. That brings the cost down to less than $3 a serving! When you decide you’re having salmon, take as many fillets as you need out of the freezer and place on a plate. They will defrost in no time!

Thanks for reading!

Have a great week!

Chef Stef



Two Episodes in Italy!

Man, this summer went by SO FAST! I apologize for not updating much. First I was in Europe for a month, then Connecticut, New Jersey, Canada and San Diego!!

Let’s start catching up on blog posts with the first super exciting trip. ITALY.

The lovely woman I was staying with in Umbria said she knew of an up and coming chef who worked at a bed and breakfast down the road. She called him up, asked, “Parla Inglese?” (Do you speak English?), he said yes and she handed me the phone with no type of introduction. “Uhhh, hi, I’m an American and I make cooking videos for YouTube, ummm do you want to be on one?” “….YES!”

The next day, with no clue what this guy would be like, or if he would be good on camera, I was pleasantly surprised! Not only by his good looks, but by how much of a NATURAL he was!! He ate that camera up! Alessandro and I had an absolute blast filming, as you can tell by all the giggling I’m doing. And I learned something really cool. I didn’t know Italians do NOT bread their eggplant and chicken parmigiana! Us Americans, we like to make everything unhealthy and breaded. Ugh. Happy to be able to stay in touch with Alessandro through Facebook, (yay technology!) and hopefully, he will come visit the USA this fall!

A few nights later, we went to a friend’s home for a dinner party. I asked if I could come film an episode while they cooked! Once again, no idea what the plan was for dinner, who was cooking, etc. Walked in. Very small kitchen with green tiles. Small, adorable Italian home set up on a hill in a town of 20 people. The son, Alexander was making dinner! Allll my favorite things… not. I almost died when I saw fish with heads on and clams.

So, first Alexander showed us how to make pasta con vongole, an Italian classic. (pasta with clams) Funny story. This was my last night in Italy. Five years ago, also on my last night in Italy, I was served clams. I was grossed out, but wanted to be polite, so I sucked them down without chewing. I ended up puking my guts out. So naturally, I’ve been turned off by them ever since. I couldn’t believe history was repeating itself!

Little did I know, the vongole was just the first course. Second course was every person got an ENTIRE fish, with the head still on. He cooked it in sea salt and stuffed the fish with lemon and parsley. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. When we sat down, I was brave and did try another clam. One. Just one. But, I didn’t throw up! And I did actually somewhat enjoy it! Then, to my surprise, I ate the fish. The whole thing! I cleaned it myself, picked around the scales, the head, the tail, the bones. And it was REALLY GOOD. Who would have known? My family still cannot believe I actually did it. I shocked myself at how brave I was. When in Rome, right?

So, enjoy these videos! Get a look into authentic, Italian home cooking 🙂

Have a GREAT weekend.

Keep it classy!
Chef Stef