Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cracker Toffee Bars

This recipe had been sitting on my Pinterest list of things to make for a very long time.  I finally made them for our Halloween trick or treat party.  They were a total hit!  I was worried that the crackers would become soggy after storing, but they stayed good for several days.  (Well maybe that's not a plus since I polished off the pan.  Hips don't need that).

90 buttery rectangular crackers (such as Keebler Club Crackers)
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. milk
2 c. milk chocolate chips

Line a 13X9 inch baking pan with foil, spray with cooking spray.  Layer 30 of the crackers in a single layer on the bottom of the baking pan.

In a 2 quart saucepan, mix the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, butter and milk; cook over medium heat until butter is melted, stirring frequently.  Increase heat to medium high.  Once caramel boils cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour 1/3 of the caramel over the crackers in the pan.  Layer 30 more crackers over the caramel.  Repeat with remaining caramel and crackers.

In a small microwave safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until melted and smooth.  Pour over caramel top, spread evenly.  Refrigerate about 1 hour.  Store covered for up to 4 days.

Garlic Green Beans

My grandma was an amazing cook.  All holidays were filled with her delicious pasta, bread, polenta, creamed spinach, and what we called 'bacon fat green beans'.  They were fried in, you guess it: bacon fat (well the grease that is rendered from bacon fat, anyway).  They were salty, a little crispy, and so, so, so delicious.  She got sick and was unable to cook by the time I was old enough to start asking for her recipes.  Unfortunately, I don't have many that are from her first hand.  
At dinner group my friends served these green beans and they are so close to grandma's delicious bacon fat green beans that I make them fairly frequently.  These are made using butter, but I think the next time I do these I'll use bacon grease and see if they match hers at all.

4 Tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 1/4 lbs. fresh green beans
Pinch of sugar
1/4 c. water
chopped pecans
French onions, optional

In a large skillet, melt butter and toast garlic with a dash of cayenne pepper.  Add green beans, season with salt and a pinch of sugar.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add water, cover and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Uncover and continue cooking until water evaporates.  After water has evaporated, continue to fry the beans in the pan until they are slightly caramelized.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat, toss with chopped pecans and French onions if desired.

Chicken and Brown Rice Curry Salad

A friend of mine brought this to a pot luck ladies lunch a few years back.  I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I begged her for the recipe.  I love to eat this in lettuce cups, or with chopped up lettuce in a pita pocket.  It feels so light and refreshing.

3 tsp. curry powder
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 1/2 c. light mayonnaise

3-4 skin on, bone in, chicken breasts
turmeric to taste
4 c. cooked brown rice
2 c. raisins
4 celery ribs, chopped
2-3 green onions, sliced
2 c. cashews or peanuts
2 green apples, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Sprinkle turmeric over skin of chicken breast.  Separate skin from meat and rub meat with additional turmeric.  Roast chicken on foil lined baking sheet for 35-40 minutes or until no longer pink.  Remove from oven, allow to cool, then remove meat from the bone and skin, shred into bite size pieces.

Combine curry powder, ground ginger, soy sauce and mayonnaise.

In a medium bowl stir cooked chicken, brown rice, raisins, celery, green onions, nuts, and green apples.  Pour dressing over and stir all together.  Refrigerate until chilled, then serve.

Turkey and Quinoa Meatloaf

Looking for a lighter meatloaf?  This is a good recipe to try.  We like to eat this when we are on a 'healthier eating' kick.  

1/2 c. cooked quinoa
1 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 (20 oz.) pkg ground turkey
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. hot pepper sauce
2 Tbsp.+ 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, divided
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high.  Stir in the onion, cooked until softened; add the garlic, cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a bowl, combine the turkey, quinoa, onions, tomato paste, hot sauce, 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, egg, salt, and pepper; mix until well combined.

Shape into a loaf and place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Combine the 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and water; rub over the top of the meatloaf.  

Bake for about 50 minutes or until no longer pink in the middle (should reach 160-170 degrees in the center).  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Baked Chicken Breasts

Growing up my mom always cooked chicken to a crisp.  I honestly didn't know that chicken was supposed to be a juicy until I started cooking for myself.  Still, boneless, skinless chicken breasts have a tendency to dry out pretty quickly.  I have been searching for ways to prevent this from happening.  Turns out, brining is key.  This recipe turns out moist, well seasoned chicken breasts every time.  I bake up a few breasts, and keep it in the fridge for additions to salad, or for a quick bite of protein. 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pounded to an even thickness)
1/4 c. kosher salt
1 quart warm water
1 Tbsp. melted butter or olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. paprika

Pour warm water and salt into a quart size resealable plastic bag.  Place chicken into bag, place in to refrigerator, allow to brine for 15 minutes or up to six hours (the longer it brines, the saltier your chicken will be, so keep that in mind).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove chicken from brine and pat dry.  Place chicken in a single layer in a large baking dish.  Brush both sides with melted butter or olive oil.

In a separate bowl, combine the 1/2 tsp. salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.  Rub the mixture evenly over both sides of the chicken.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center (should be 170 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken).

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes (resting is also essential to keeping the chicken moist).

White Chicken Chili - Crockpot

It has been really rainy here the last few weeks and what goes better with rainy weather than a nice warm bowl of chili.  I am not at a bean eater, in fact I avoid them when possible.  My dear husband, however loves beans, and since our marriage has begged me to make foods with beans in them.  I have found that in my levels of hatred for beans, white beans rank pretty high on the palatable scale.  This recipe allows my husband to eat beans, and is mostly acceptable to me, I have been caught picking the beans out of my bowl, though (don't tell Adam).

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, uncooked
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
dash cayenne
1 (14.5 oz.) can chicken broth
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chilies (undrained)
1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained
2 (15.5 oz.) can white beans, drained and rinsed well
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 c. milk
1 tsp. chicken base
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 c. sour cream

Place chicken breasts in crockpot, sprinkle chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne over the chicken.  Pour chicken broth, green chilies, corn and beans over chicken.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

An hour before serving:   Remove chicken from crockpot and shred using two forks to pull the meat apart, set aside.  Melt butter over medium-high heat in a small saucepan.  When butter is melted, whisk in the flour, cook until flour is browned.  Gradually whisk in milk and chicken base.  Allow sauce to simmer for a few minutes, whisking frequently; add salt and pepper.  Pour sauce into crockpot, stir to combine.  Stir in the sour cream, add chicken back to pot.  

Continue to cook on low for an additional hour.

Banana Pudding

Once a month my girl friends and I get together for a dinner group.  This dessert was served at a Southern themed dinner.  It was by far my favorite dessert served at a dinner group, and I'm not a huge banana fan.  Something about the texture, the sweetness, just hit the spot.  I am not sure where they got the recipe, but I knew I had to post it here so I don't lose it!

1 (14 oz,) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 c. ice cold water
1 (3.4 oz.) box instant banana pudding
3 c. heavy cream
1 (12 oz.) box Vanilla wafers
4 c. sliced bananas

In a small bowl, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water with an electric mixer on medium speed, until well combined (about 1 minute).  Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes.  Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight.

In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed until still peaks form.  Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.

To assemble dessert: in a 4-5 quart capacity bowl, arrange one third of the vanilla wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if necessary, then one third of the bananas and one third of the pudding.  Repeat layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers of wafer crumbs on the top layer.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours or up to 8 hours before serving.