Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

This is sort of a chain reaction recipe.  I found it on Pinterest on the blog who copied the recipe from Pioneer Woman.  I have to say these really are Uh-May-Zing.  I didn't do them overnight I baked them the same day I made them.  I do, however, plan to use that little trick in the future.  I also will at some point freeze the cinnamon rolls to use at a later date and if I have any negative feedback with either of these methods, I will note them in an appendage to this post.  I didn't use the coffee flavored glaze that PW and S&S use on their rolls, instead I used a cream cheese frosting recipe I found on Epicurius, it was really, really perfect.  In both the PW and the S&S recipes it calls for 1 c. white sugar, I opted for 1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup brown sugar because I like the caramely flavor the brown sugar provides..  Several reviewers on Sugar and Spice said that their dough was very wet; mine was not.  It was a bit on the stiff side, but in the end it didn't matter.  The rolls turned out perfectly: gooey where they need to be, crusty where they need to be, and delicious where they need to me: in my mouth.  I ate 4 in as many days and do not at all regret my decision.  I honestly don't think I will ever use another cinnamon roll recipe.  I did use a little trick I kind of made up for the rising time: I preheated my oven to warm (in my oven that is 175) and put my pizza stone in it while it preheated.  After it was done, I took the pizza stone out of the oven, put it in the microwave and put the bowl with the dough that needed to rise on top of the pizza stone, closed the microwave door, and let the warmth do it's work: like a charm, the dough rose just the right amount. 

2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. sugar
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
4 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 Tbsp. salt

1 c. melted butter, plus more as needed
1/8 c. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar  

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Mix milk, vegetable oil, and 1/2 c. white sugar in a pan.  Scald the milk (heat until just before the boiling point).  Remove from the heat and let cool 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2.  When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in the yeast.  Let this sit for a minute then add 4 c. of the flour.  Stir mixture together.  Cover and let rise for at least 1 hour.
3.  Next, add 1/2 c. flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir mixture together.  From here, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it, overnight or even a day or tow, if necessary.  Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to rise out of the pan, just punch it down.  Or continue to make the rolls:
4.  Sprinkle work surface generously with flour and roll the dough into a thin rectangle shape, about 1/4" thick.  Brush melted butter on top, then sprinkle sugar over the butter, and finish with a generous sprinkling for cinnamon.
5.  Starting with the wide end, roll the dough tightly towards you in a neat line.  Next, pinch the seam to the roll to seal it.  Spread 1 Tbsp. melted butter in each pan/dish (I got enough rolls to fill one 9" round cake pan and one 6" round cake pan, the original recipe says it will make 3-4 pans, I'm not sure how that would happen, but that's what they say) .  With a sharp knife (or with dental floss) begin cutting the dough into 1 inch slices.  Lay them in your pans.  Let rise for 20-30 minutes.  Bake at 375 for 13-17 minutes, or until golden brown.
6.  While rolls are baking: with your electric hand mixer, whisk together all of the frosting ingredients until smooth.  Slather over the top of the rolls after they have cooled for about 10 minutes.

IF MAKING AHEAD FOR LATER USE:  Instead of putting directly into the oven, put the assembled rolls into the fridge and let them rise for their 2nd rising (the step right before you bake them) in the refrigerator overnight.  Then in the morning let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then bake them as directed.  If you plan to freeze the rolls, place the pan of prepared rolls in the freezer.  On the day you plan to bake them.  Take them out to defrost and rise about 3 or 4 hours before you want to devour eat them.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lemon Bar Cookie Cups

These were very yummy.  Light and refreshing and perfect for our dessert buffet during the girl's weekend I hosted a few weeks ago.  Everyone gave them rave reviews.  Will probably use them on my Christmas goodie plate this year rather than traditional Lemon Bars, I made them a few weeks ahead of time, froze them and then pulled them out of the freezer the day before we ate them, they defrosted perfectly.  The addition of the whole wheat flour in the dough gives it a nice nutty flavor and a pleasing texture.  I used my own recipe for the lemon curd instead of the one that is called for in the original recipe; here is the link for website with the original Lemon Bar Cookie Cups recipe.

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. confectioners sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
3/4 c. lemon curd, recipe here
powdered sugar, optional

1.  In a small bowl combine the flours, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar; set aside.
2.  In a separate, larger, bowl, cream together the butter and 1/2 c. confectioners sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg, oil and extracts until combined.  Stir in the flour mixture.
3.  Pinch the dough into balls, using a tablespoon to measure them out and get an even size.  Place in mini-muffin tins.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make in indentation in the dough, spoon 1 tsp. of curd into each indentation.  Return to oven and bake for an additional 4 minutes or until the crusts are light brown and fairly firm.  Cool for a few minutes in the pan and then CAREFULLY transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Cheesy Southwest Chicken and Pasta Casserole

I found this recipe on Pinterest and it looked so good I just had to make it!  I was not at all disappointed.  Even my pickier eater said it was yummy and asked for a second helping.  It's almost like a southwest macaroni and cheese with chicken.  Will make again and again.
I used only 1 jalapeno and remove both the seeds and the ribs so that my non-heat-eaters wouldn't burn their mouths.  I didn't have any fresh corn so I used a bag of frozen which I defrosted and it turned out great.  I had chopped all of the peppers a few weeks before I made this and had put them in the freezer so they gave off quite a bit of water so I used the full 1/3 c. flour, it thickened perfectly.  I used one 14.5 oz. can of chicken broth and about 1/4 c. of water for the liquid.  I didn't have a casserole dish that I thought this would fit in to so I put it in a 9X13" baking dish, it was the perfect size, filled to the very top.  This recipe makes WAY more than 4 servings.  We've eaten it twice this week and still have some leftovers.  
Here is the link to the website where I found this recipe.  She has several recipes that look super tasty!  Love seeing other peoples food - it makes me happy...

1/2 lbs. whole grain pasta such as rotini
4 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. diced onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
3 ears corn, kernels removed
1/4 to 1/3 c. flour (depending on how much liquid the veggies give off)
2 c. chicken stock or milk
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 c. heavy cream
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
2 c. chopped rotisserie chicken
1 1/2 c. crushed tortilla chips

1.  Boil pasta in a large pot of water, cooking for half of the total time directed on the package.  Drain and set aside.
2.  In a large skillet or saucepan, melt butter and saute onion, garlic, peppers, jalapenos, and corn until tender, about 7 minutes.   Sprinkle the flour over the veggies; stir.  Cook for about 2 minutes then add the chicken stock or milk.  Increase the heat to thicken the sauce, then sprinkle in the cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cheese, cream, chicken and cooked pasta.  Stir to combine and melt cheeses.
3.  Pour into a large casserole dish that you have sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with crushed tortilla chips.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Yet again: chocolate and peanut butter are making an appearance together on my blog.  I can't help it: I love them with every fiber of my being.  Separately they are amazing, yet together, they are magic. They speak to my heart, sweet messages of love.  sigh...
I found this recipe on pinterest, had the ingredients and the desire so I made them.  I kind of think that next time I might make them in a 9X9" pan rather than the 9X13; I felt like the cookie layer was too sparse on the top.  I ate them anyway, don't misunderstand me.  I just feel that might improve the perfection.

1 (18.25 oz) package plain yellow cake mix
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 (12 oz) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla

1.  Preheat oven to 325.
2.  Combine the cake mix, melted butter, peanut butter and eggs in a large bowl using a mixer or spoon.  Press this into a 9X13" pan, reserving 1 1/2 c. of the mixture to crumble on top.
3.  In a small pot, melt the chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and 2 Tbsp. butter.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
4.  Spread chocolate mixture over the base and then crumble the 1 1/2 cups reserved cake mixture evenly on top.
5.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting into bars.


My husband and I visited Paris 5 years ago and I still love to remember the delicious pastry they have there.  The quality is so much higher than anything you can find here in the US.  I'm not sure if it's the ingredients, the freshness of the product, the water (as Parisiennes like to claim) or a combination of or none of the above, it doesn't matter, their baked goods are superior.  One of my cooking bucket-list items was to make croissants that closely match (as much as possible) the treats I had in Europe; while these are not the exact twin of my culinary experience in Europe, they are VERY, VERY good.  Time consuming, but if you are determined enough to see it through, they are worth every second of effort.

1/3 c. warm water
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 1/3 c. warm milk
1 lbs. (about 3 1/2 cups) all purpose flour, plus more for work surface
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 1/2 sticks (14 oz.) chilled unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp. heavy cream

1.  In a liquid measuring cup, combine water, yeast and 1 tsp. sugar.  Stir to combine.  Let stand 5 minutes to allow yeast to proof.  In a second measuring cup, dissolve the remaining 2 tsp. sugar, salt and milk.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk the flour.  Add the yeast mixture, milk mixture and oil.  Blend everything together by cutting and pressing with a rubber spatula, being sure all the flour is incorporated.  The dough with be very wet.
3.  Turn dough out onto a well floured work surface.  Let stand for 3 minutes to allow the dough to absorb some of the liquid.  Start kneading by lifting near the edges, with a bench scraper, and flipping it over onto the other side. Rapidly repeat the movement from one side to the other, and end over end, until the dough feels smooth and begins to draw back into shape when pushed out, 8 to 10 times.  Do not over-knead.
4.  Transfer dough to a clean bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down the dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Using lightly floured hands, pat and push the dough out into a rectangle about 12X10 inches.  Fold the dough in three, like a business letter.  Place on a lightly floured baking sheet or plate; cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.  This second rise can be done in the refrigerator, overnight.
5.  Punch down dough.  Cover the dough again with plastic wrap, and transfer to refrigerator for 20 minutes; this will allow the gluten to relax, and make rolling out the dough easier.
6.  Place butter on a lightly floured work surface and beat with a rolling pin to soften.  Then smear it out with the heel of your hand until it is of spreading consistency, but still cold; it must not become soft and oily, refrigerate if necessary.
7.  Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, roll it out to a 18X10 inch rectangle.  Spread butter as evenly as possible over the upper two-thirds of the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border.  Fold the bottom (unbuttered) third of the dough up to the middle.  Fold the top third down to cover it.
8.  Lightly flour the top of the dough, and work surface.  Turn the dough so the edge of the top flap is to your right.  Roll dough into a rectangle, about 18X8 inches.  Roll rapidly, starting an inch from the near end, and going to within an inch of the far end.  Fold again in three, as above.  Wrap in plastic wrap, and transfer to the refrigerator for 1 hour.
9.  Remove dough from refrigerator.  Sprinkle lightly with flour, and deflate the dough by tapping lightly with rolling pin.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 8 minutes to relax gluten, if necessary.  Repeat rolling and folding process twice more, as above.  If the butter has hardened and congealed into flakes, beat the dough with light firm taps going from one side to the other until butter has softened.  It must be able to extend the length and width of the rectangle inside the dough as you roll it out until it has softened.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.  If refrigerating overnight, cover with a board and a 5 lbs. weight.  Resting overnight will facilitate shaping.
10.  When shaping the croissant, keep the dough that you are not working with refrigerated.  Place chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Deflate dough.  Roll the dough out to a 25X12 inch rectangle.  (If at any time the dough becomes too elastic to work with, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and let rest 10 minutes to relax gluten.)  Cut in half lengthwise.  Working with one piece of dough at a time, using a pastry wheel or a croissant cutter, cut into triangles with a 5 inch base.
11.  Roll the triangles out to enlarge slightly.  Roll towards the tip, creating tension by using your other hand to stretch the top of the triangle away from you.  The dough should overlap 3 times with the tip sticking out from underneath.
12.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet leaving 2 inches between croissants.  Curve the ends of the croissant inward, forming a crescent shape.  Repeat with second piece of dough.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place until very spongy and doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
13.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and heavy cream, and lightly brush over the tops of croissants.  Open the oven door, spritz the oven heavily with water from a spray bottle, and quickly close the door.  Place croissants in oven, and spray bottom of the oven with water once more.  Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes.  After 10 minutes, rotate pan to ensure even baking.  Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake until cooked through, about 5 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

This recipe was given to me by my good friend Lindsay.  
I really love ribs.  These are flavorful, tender, fall off the bone, saucy, awesomeness.  They are easy to make in that the cooking is done in the slow cooker then the ribs are place under the broiler to get the sauce nice and sticky-toasty the way ribs on the grill would be.  
So Yummy!

2 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 tsp. kosher salt
4 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. black pepper (I used less since my older son is a heat-wimp)
2 tsp. garlic powder

1 medium red onion
1/2 c. carbonated cola
2 slabs pork baby back ribs (about 4 lbs. total), rinsed, patter dry and trimmed
1 c. purchased barbecue sauce

1.  Combine the brown sugar, salt, chili powder, paprika, pepper and garlic powder for the rub in a small bowl.  Thoroughly coat ribs with the rub, using all of the mixture.
2.  Add onion and cola to a 4-6 quart slow cooker.  Place ribs on top, cutting to fit if necessary.  Cover; cook until ribs are tender, on high heat setting for 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 hours or on low-heat setting for 6-7 hours.
3.  Preheat broiler to high with oven rack 6-8 inches from the heating element.  Transfer ribs to a foil-lined baking sheet; brush ribs with sauce.  Broil ribs until sauce caramelizes, about 5 minutes.

Cheesy Ravioli Casserole

This is a very easy ravioli dish that makes you feel like you're eating lasagna but without all of the steps of creating one.  You make it in the slow cooker which makes meal time so much less hectic, at least in my house.  It can also be done in the oven: low temperature, around 300 for about an hour, be sure the pan is covered.  
It makes ALOT of food, we always have plenty leftover for meals later in the week. You could halve it if you really need to, I just don't know how one would need to adjust the cook time.  It is meatless so if you have someone who insists on meat at every meal you could use beef filled ravioli or you could cook and crumble some Italian sausage into the sauce.
It's a hit with my family!

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 jar (26 oz) three cheese flavored pasta sauce
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
2 c. water
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 pkg. (25 oz. each) frozen cheese filled ravioli
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

1.  Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat.  Cook onion and garlic in oil about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender. Stir in pasta sauce, tomato sauce, water and Italian seasoning.
2.  Place 1 c. f the sauce in the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker.  Add 1 pkg. frozen ravioli; top with 1 c. of the cheese, layer with remaining pkg. of ravioli; top with remaining cheese; pour the remainder of the sauce mixture over the top.
3.  Cover and cook on low heat setting 4-5 hours. Sprinkle with parsely.

Yield: 12 servings

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

California Sandwich

Oh Man!  I so wish I could take credit for creating this sandwich, but I can't.  I sure am grateful to who ever thought of combining these simple and fresh ingredients in to making this. 
It. Is. So. Good.  {end of statement}
Whatever else you had planned for today, change those plans - make this sandwich instead. 
I didn't add the cheese to mine, it didn't need it.  I ate mine on a piece of toasted multi-grain bread.  It would also be good as a wrap. 
I just might cry: it is so good! 
Here is the link to the original recipe, and the following picture was taken by Rebecca Crump at I do not claim rights to this picture, but it is lovely so I used it.

1/4 c. Greek yogurt or mayonnaise, or 2 Tbsp. of each
1 Tbsp. finely chopped chives (I used green onions, because that is what I have)

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 tomato, diced
1 cucumber, seeded, peeled, and diced
Squeeze of lime juice (I used about 1 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro or basil, chopped (I used cilantro, again, it's what I had)
4 slices whole grain bread or 4 small tortillas
1/4 c. alfalfa sprouts
2 - 4 slices pepper jack cheese
Salt and Pepper

1.  In a small bowl combine the yogurt, chives and salt and pepper; set aside.
2.  In a separate bowl, toss together the avocado, tomato, cucumber, lime juice and cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
3.  If desired (and I recommend it), toast the bread slices.  Spread yogurt mixture on all four bread slices.  On two of the four bread slices layer the cheese, alfalfa sprouts and avocado salad.  Place other slice of bread on top. 
4.  Try not to laugh out load with joy.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I don't remember how I stumbled across this recipe, but I sure am glad I did.  Chocolate chip cookie dough and a cream cheese type filling: right up my ally.  They are soft and wonderful.  I halved the recipe that I found here  and cooked it in a 9X9" pan for about 30 minutes.

Simply put:  You. Are. Welcome.

My family ate nearly half the pan in less than 5 minutes.  I could have single-handedly eaten the whole pan, I am currently having to restrain myself (thus, why I am blogging, so I don't cave in and lick the dish clean)

2 (18 oz) refrigerated cookie dough
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1.  Preheat oven to 325.  Lightly grease a 9X13" baking pan.
2.  With one package of cookie dough tear apart and sprinkle over the entire bottom of the pan.  (Spaces between cookie dough are ok and preferred).  Lightly pat down.
3.  In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and eggs until creamy (little chunks of cream cheese are ok).  Pour mixture over cookie dough in pan.  Spread evenly over cookie dough.
4.  With remaining cookie dough, tear apart and sprinkle over cream cheese mixture.  As before, spaces between cookie dough are ok.  Lightly pat down.
5.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until even light browning on top or toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cold Garlic Noodles

The night that we had our 'Guilty Pleasures' Recipe night one of my healthy friends brought this dish.  It is super light tasting and perfect for summer dinners.  I double the sauce and marinate my chicken in half of it before grilling, using the other half for the noodles.  The chicken is optional so this could also be a great vegetarian dish.  Use any sort of noodle you would like, I use whole wheat spaghetti.

8 oz. angel hair pasta -- cooked and drained
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. oil
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. minced cilantro
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. mined garlic
1/2 lbs. chicken or turkey breasts (optional)
1/4 lbs. snow peas, trimmed
1 carrot, julienned

1.  Blend lemon juice, oil, soy sauce, cilantro, sugar, and garlic.  Pour over pasta and toss.  Stir fry or charbroil chicken then slice into thin strips.  Toss the chicken and veggies with the pasta.  Chill.

You can double the sauce if you are serving the next day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sarah's Salad

During the summer a simple salad is the perfect solution for dinner.  My friend Sarah sent me this recipe.  We had it last night with Buttery Pan Rolls and Grape Salad.  The whole family enjoyed it and will keep the recipe around.

1 head of lettuce - chopped
1 bunch of spinach - washed well
3/4 lbs. sliced mushrooms
1/2 lbs. bacon - cooked and crumbled
1 thinly sliced red onion
3/4 lbs. grated Swiss cheese
3/4 c. chopped cashews

3/4 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/3 c. white vinegar
3/4 c. oil
1/3 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
3/4 tsp. salt

1.  Blend all dressing ingredients in blender for a minute or 2, until very well combined.  Refrigerate until ready to serve the salad.
2.  Toss all salad ingredients together then add enough dressing to coat.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hazelnut Caramel Chocolate Bars

Stop. The. Presses.   THESE ARE SO GOOD!
My family loves Nutella.  The delicious chocolate hazelnut spread.  You know the one: the one you want to lick the spoon after using it to spread on it's edible medium. 
I saw Rachel Allen on our local PBS station making these bars and knew it was destiny.  Unfortunately, neither she, nor the PBS station had this recipe on their website so I had to search the web and found them here.  The recipe is written in British, but fortunately, I happen to own an electronic kitchen scale so I used it to measure my ingredients, then I wrote down the American measurements, and I present them to you. 
These are chocolate-y, hazelnut-y, caramel-y and yummy.  The base layer lands somewhere between a chocolate shortbread and a brownie, the caramel layer is studded with awesome, toasty, crunchy hazelnuts, and the chocolate glaze on top is exactly what the doctor ordered. When my oldest son tried them he said it is heaven in his mouth. 
Here are the 2 slight problems I had:  
1.  Cooking the caramel too long.  I think that if I had stopped at minute 11 the consistency would be much better.  I cooked mine for the full 15 minutes because it still hadn't gotten to a 'dark caramel colour', however, it had entered somewhere into the stage between 'firmball' and 'hardball', it is chewable but quite sticky.  Next time I will for sure take it off the heat at minute 11 to ensure more of a caramel candy consistency. 
2.  The butter fat separated from the candy.  I had to pour it off of the caramel before I spread it on the chocolate base layer.  I suspect it has to do with the amount of butter. 
Neither of these issues are a big enough deal for me to never try making these again, I love having Heaven in my mouth.

14 Tbsp. butter
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 2/3 c. fine sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/4 c. flour

9 Tbsp. butter
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/4 c. + 3 Tbsp. fine sugar
4 1/2 oz. hazelnuts, toasted and halved (here is how to peel hazelnuts)

7 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1.  Preheat oven to 325.  Line or grease the bottom of an 9X13 inch baking pan.  Set aside.
2.  In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter for the chocolate base, stir in the cocoa powder and then the sugar mix until smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs, a little at a time, whisking vigorously to avoid scrambled eggs, until mixed and then mix in the flour (it will be quite thick).  Spread the chocolate base over the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is firm.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the hazelnut caramel layer.
3.  In a medium sized saucepan and over a medium heat, melt the butter; add the condensed milk, corn syrup and sugar.  Turn the heat to low and stir continuously for 12-15 minutes unto the mixture is dark caramel colour - do not let it burn.  Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts.  Spread evenly over the chocolate base and allow to cool.
4.  Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmer water (also known as a bain marie). When it is melted, stir in the oil and then pour over the caramel layer and smooth out, leaving to cool and set.
5.  Cut in to squares.
6.  Try to not inhale the entire pan.

These will keep for a week in an airtight container.

Pork Carnitas

You know me: I love to eat pig. 
I had 4 lbs. of pork loin in the freezer and decided to try a new to me pork recipe.  I found this one and it sounded really tasty.  And it was really good !  It makes a lot of meat, far more than the stated 6-8 servings.  But I used this for several days as tacos, enchiladas, and in rice bowls; I took the rest and put it in the freezer for later use.  This recipe is a keeper.
Here is the link to the site where I found this recipe.

2 1/2 - 3 lbs. pork loin roast
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. beef bouillon granules or 1 cube crushed
dash salt
dash pepper
1/2 c. orange juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, optional

1.  In a dry skillet, sear all sides of the roast until brown.  Set aside.
2.  In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, bouillon, salt and pepper.  use the mixture to coat all sides of the seared roast.
3.  Place roast in a slow cooker and cover with any of the brown sugar/spice mixture.
4.  Add the orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce, and cilantro to the bottom of the slow cooker.
5.  Cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 5-6 hours.
6.  Remove roast and shred.  Place shredded roast back in slow cooker to absorb cooking juices.
7.  Serve meat in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or enchiladas.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Toffee Snickerdoodles

When my husband tried these he said, 'I didn't think you could improve on a snickerdoodle'; but I guess I have.  The crispy outside/chewy center makes for the perfect bite.  Cinnamon sugar coated, buttery, tangy flavor - awesome.  Add toffee bits and chocolate chips - Perfection!

2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. sugar, divided
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 c. mini chocolate chips
2/3 c. toffee bits (you can use the chocolate toffee bits, I used the plain ones)

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.  Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 c. of the sugar and the cinnamon; set aside.
3.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and remaining sugar on medium speed until smooth.  Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extract; mix until blended.  Add the flour, slowly, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, just until incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits. 
4.  Using a tablespoon: scoop out a heaping tablespoonful (to measure about 2 tablespoons full), roll into a smooth ball, then roll the ball in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Place about 3" apart on prepared baking sheets. 
5.  Bake for about 14 minutes, until edges are golden and center is still pale.  Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
6.  Store in a tightly covered container for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Nearly the Best Ever Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

I did not make this recipe up, I found it on another blog, and out of respect for them, here is the link to the original makers of this delicious recipe

I liked these cookies.  The texture is perfect, nice and fluffy and chewy and yummy; they did, for me, lean a little too far to the very sweet side.  If I were to make these again, I would, for sure, not use unsalted butter.  I enjoy the almost undetectable contrast of salt/sweet that is found in your run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookie. 
The recipe is well worth keeping around though.

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 c. chocolate chips.

1.  Preheat oven to 350.
2.  Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla; blend.
3.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Incorporate them in to the sugar mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
4.  Using a standard sized cookie scoop, divide the dough onto prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes (do not exceed 10 minutes, the tops will still be a very pale color).  Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

Raspberry Lemonade Bars

I did not make this recipe up, I found it on another blog, and out of respect for them, here is the link to the original makers of this recipe.

I had REALLY high hopes for this recipe.  It sound like it would be right up my alley.  I had all kinds of visions in my head of how to morph this recipe using other combinations with my favorite citrus fruits.  I did enjoy them, but not quite as intensely as I'd thought I would.  The color is beautiful and they are easy to serve.  They, also, are a little too tart for my liking, don't get me wrong.  I really like sour food, but something about these were not super awesome.  I also didn't really love the texture; I am enthusiastic about my enjoyment of lemon bars.  The smoothness of the lemon layer is very pleasing to me.  These bars were a little bit more on the jello-ish side.  I think it's because of the 3 egg whites, but don't quote me on that one.
Anyway, you can be the judge as to whether these are worth keeping around.  I didn't save the printout that I had magneted to my fridge for the weeks leading up to baking day.

9 T. (1 stick + 1 T.) butter

¼ c. sugar

1 c. flour

1 t. vanilla extract

pinch of salt

12 oz (heaping 2 c.) frozen raspberries thawed

¾ c. sugar

c. lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

2 T. lemon zest (3 lemons worth)

3 egg whites

1 egg

c. flour

pinch of salt

powdered sugar for dusting on top
1.  Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper so you can easily lift the bars out once they've cooled. If you don't have an 8x8 that's ok. I did this in a smaller rectangular pan too and they turned out just fine. You may have to adjust the baking times depending on the size.

2.  Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer, then add in vanilla. Add flour until just incorporated. Dump dough in baking pan and press with your hands until it evenly covers the bottom of the dish. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until slightly golden brown. 

3.  Put the berries in a fine mesh sieve and press them through (this removes the seeds) into a large bowl. If you don't mind seeds, you can add them in whole. Or if you don't have a sieve, you can blend them up in a food processor or blender. Add sugar, egg whites, egg, lemon juice + zest, flour, and salt to the bowl and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the crust (don't worry, it's a very loose mixture, it will thicken) and bake for 25 - 30 minutes depending on your oven and the sized baking dish you use.
4.  Let cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator for 4 hours (or until they've cooled completely). You can place them in the freezer if you need them sooner but refrigerator is best. If you let them cool overnight, they're even better!

Grape Salad with Coconut Topping

I did not make this recipe up, I found it on another blog, and out of respect for them, here is the link to the original makers of this delicious recipe.

Super yummy.  It feels like you're eating something healthy because it is grapes.  But what your brain doesn't remind you is that while you're eating those healthy grapes, you are also eating a less-than-healthy-but-well-worth-it-because-of-deliciousness cream cheese/sour cream/sugar 'dressing' and topping made with a high portion of brown sugar.
I'm someone who loves food, even if the haters out there deem it 'unhealthy'.  My mouth is a judgment-free zone.

Large bag of grapes (red, green of both), enough to fill a 9X13 pan

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. sugar
8 oz. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 heaping c. Grape Nuts cereal
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. coconut flakes

1.  Beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla, then fold in sour cream.  Stir grapes in with the creamy mixture then spread out in a 9X13 class pan.  Refrigerate.
2.  RIGHT BEFORE SERVING: Combine topping ingredients well and add over the top of the grapes.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pork and Black Bean Chili

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  I am indeed writing about a recipe where beans (dread) are one of the primary ingredients.  I have made this, eaten this, and liked this (shock of the year, yes).  To be accurate, I was sure to include as few beans as possible in my bowl, but some indeed made it into my mouth and were swallowed without even so much as a shudder. 
This was especially good a few days later in quesadilla's, with guacamole on top, near perfection.

1 lbs. pork tenderloin, cut into 1" chunks
16 oz. jar thick and chunky salsa (of your heat preference)
2 fifteen-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. chicken broth
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
2-3 tsp. chili powder
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 c. sour cream

1.  Combine all ingredients except sour cream in a 4-quart slow cooker.
2.  Cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours, or until pork is tender.
3.  Garnish individual servings with sour cream

Peanut Butter Brownies

I know, you're completely shocked to see ANOTHER chocolate/peanut butter combination recipe. 
I have had this one sitting in the 'to be made' stack for years.  I had the ingredients, hankering, and time to finally make them and I am so satisfied that I did.  The brownie portion was the perfect consistency: dense, fudgy and moist.  The peanut butter portion was just peanut buttery enough, creamy and had the right amount of tanginess from the cream cheese (if you know me, you know that cream cheese is one of my pantry staples, I could eat the stuff always and never be sad I was doing so).  I was nervous to put them in the refrigerator, afraid that they might dry out as some baked goods do, but my fears were unfounded.  They were perfect even four days later when the pan was finally cleaned out.  These, for sure, have now made it to the 'must make again' stack.

3 eggs
1 c butter or margarine, melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 c. baking cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. milk chocolate chips

2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp. milk

1.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, butter and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine together the dry ingredients.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients about 1/3 at a time until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips. 
2.  Set aside 1 c. for the topping.  Spread the remaining batter into a greased 9X13" baking pan. 
3.  In a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar until smooth.  Add the egg and milk, beating on low just until combined.
4.  Carefully spread over the batter.  Drop reserved batter by tablespoonfuls over filling.  Drag a knife through the batter to swirl (do not mix) for a marbled effect.
5.  Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6.  Cool on a wire rack before cutting.  Refrigerate until serving.

Yield: 3 dozen

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Excellent Vanilla Icing for Sugar Cookies

Some people love frosting.  Me?  I like it just fine, but not with the same firey passion that my children feel for it.  On a cake, I like just a small amount of frosting, I never want it on a brownie, and on sugar cookies, a nice healthy, not-too-much-not-too-little, portion is definitely appreciated.  Be sure to whip the shortening with your mixer before adding the sugar, to avoid lumps.  If the mixture starts to look too thick while adding the sugar, stop halfway and add half of the milk before incorporating the rest of the sugar.
Because of the shortening, the icing sets up nicely after a little while and you can safely stack the cookies for easy transport or storage without mashing the frosting on the bottom cookie.

4 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 c. shortening
5 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
food coloring, optional
1.  In a large mixing bowl whip the shortening until fluffy.  Add the shortening 1 cup at a time until smooth and well incorporated.  Add the milk and extract, mixing until combined.  If desired, add the food coloring.
I doubled the batch and had enough frosting for 67 1 1/2" round sugar cookies, with about 2 cups leftover.

Perfect Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are often overlooked, overshadowed by their fancier cousins who have accessories like chocolate, sprinkles, nuts, peanut butter, cinnamon/sugar.  They are sweet and easy to make but certainly are not a simple, unassuming cookie.  Given the right kind of frosting or cutouts they are true gems.  The ingredients here are straight forward and can be found in any decently stocked pantry.  If you enjoy a crispier cookie, roll them thinner and bake slightly longer than suggested.  I prefer them softer so I roll them to 1/4" thick and bake for exactly 10 minutes at 340 degrees.  I top them with Vanilla Icing for Sugar Cookies and always have a hard time not eating the whole batch.

1 c. butter (not margarine)
1 c. sugar
1 extra large egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350. 
2.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add egg and the extract and mix to incorporate.
3.  In a seperate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the flour mixture at little at a time to the butter and mix until completely combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
4.  Roll the dough to 1/4" thickness between 2 sheets of parchment paper.  Lay the sheet of dough flat on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
5.  Using a 1 1/2" round cookie cutter, or desired shape, cut as many cookies as possible from dough, re-roll the scraps to 1/4" and cut as many as possible, repeat until all dough is used.  Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 8-12 minutes, or until just set.  (Larger cut outs will take slightly longer). 
6.  After baking, remove from oven and let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Frost or decorate as desired.

Yield: 3 dozen 1 1/2" round cookies

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Peant Butter Squares

If you know anything about me, know this: I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  I prefer the peanut butter to chocolate ratio to lean high toward the peanut butter side.  I like the way the saltiness plays off of the chocolate.  It makes me glad to be eating.
My friend Katie made the sad (for her) mistake of leaving a pan of this in my refrigerator for a few days.  I was not ashamed to return the pan slightly less full than when she gave it to me.  I could hardly control myself: each time I opened the refrigerator there were the PB bars pleading with me to eat them.  Why say, 'No', when it feels so good to say, 'Yes'?

2 c. graham cracker crumbs (ground up to a fine powder in a blender or food processor)
4 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter, softened
3 c. peanut butter
2 c. milk chocolate chips

1.  Mix all of the ingredients (except chocolate chips) with an electric mixer.  Smash the PB mixture into the bottom of a 9X13 inch baking pan.  Pat it down so it's mostly level.
2.  Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 40 second intervals, stirring between intervals until the chocolate is completely melted.
3.  Spread melted chocolate over the peanut butter mixture.  Cool for a few hours in the refrigerator until both the chocolate and the peanut butter has become firm.

The texture of this peanut butter is very close to that of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

Katie's Caramel Corn

This caramel corn is really tastey.  The caramel stays soft and chewy instead of becoming hard and jaw-breaking.  Katie gave me this recipe at our recipe night when we brought our guilty pleasures.  She has good taste in what to crave.

2 c. brown sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Natural popcorn kernels

If you have a popcorn maker -- this works best.  Pop at lease 4 LARGE bowls full of natural (unbuttered, unsalted popcorn).  Remove unpopped kernels.

If you don't have a popcorn popper, you can use "Homestyle" popcorn, with no butter and lightly salted, pop 6-8 bags of popcorn.

Heat all ingredients (except sweetened condensed milk) on stove, to soft-ball stage (using candy thermometer).  Add sweetened condensed milk.  Reheat to soft-ball stage.  Divide caramel evenly between 4 large bowls, and enlist all available adults to help stir quickly. 
Caution: Warn "Stirrers" about extremely hot caramel.  Stir from the bottom of the bowl, the carmel moves quickly.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Banana Cake

While we were visiting our good friends, Sarah and Tyler, over Thanksgiving, she made this cake.  I am not normally a huge banana lover, but it was as if I couldn't get this stuff in to my mouth fast enough.  I must have eaten at least 2 very large pieces each day that it was sitting in front of me.  It is moist and banana-y and who doesn't love stuff with cream cheese frosting?
Make it.  I challenge you to not like it.

1 1/2 c. bananas, mashed
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter
2 1/8 c. sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 275.  Grease and flour a 9X13 inch baking pan.
2.  In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In a large bowl, cream 3/4 c. butter and 2 1/8 c. sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp. vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Stir in banana mixture.
3.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 80-90 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  (It makes a large batch, so it might be helpful to place the baking dish on a sheet pan to catch any overflow).
4.  Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes.  This will make the cake very moist. 
5.  For frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in 1 tsp. vanilla.  Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.  Spread on cooled cake.  Sprinkle with chopped walnuts, if desired.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lemon Blueberry Bread

I freely admit it.  If lemons were people they would be my best friends.  I love them.  Living in Citrus land we have an abundance of the little gems.  I love their color, their smell, their flavor, the way they brighten everything they come in contact with, the power they hold over fish, the use in both sweet and savory dishes.  I don't know if I would be willing to live in a world where the lemon was non-existent. 
I had some fresh blueberries who were just about to go bad and some lemons who were calling out to me to be made into something delicious.  I came across this recipe and knew it was what these two ingredients were meant to become. 
This is a perfect quick bread recipe, soft and awesome in the middle and crusty on the edges.  You might think you don't want the end pieces because they are almost on the too brown side, but that is the piece you should fight for; it has soaked in all of the lemon/sugar glaze goodness and become the perfect bite. 
I made this recipe for the first time about 2 weeks ago and have since made (and eaten, almost single handedly) an additional 5 loaves (one I gave away).  It does not last long around our house.  The only one who doesn't love it is my 5-year old, but that's fine with me because that means one less person I have to share with. 
Tips:  I've made it separately with both fresh and frozen blueberries, both turn out great, the frozen blueberry loaf takes just a little bit longer to cook.  I've also tried baking 2 loaves at the same time and this also, takes a bit longer; I think I would rotate the pans if I did this again (swap which side of the oven they are on, left to right/right to left).  The lemons I use come from my mother-in-laws garden and are significantly more juicy than those I would get at the grocery store.  When I make the lemon/sugar glaze I use all the juice from one lemon, it is more than 2 Tbsp. but works perfectly still, (the lemons seem to give on average 1/3 c. juice).


1/3 c. butter, melted
1 c. sugar
1 lemon, juiced
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost if using frozen)

2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 c. sugar
The zest from 1 lemon

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 9X5" (or three 3X5" mini loaf pans) loaf pan, set aside.
2.  Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl cream together the butter and sugar; add the eggs and beat well.  Mix in the juice from 1 lemon and 2 Tbsp. lemon zest.  Add the flour half of the dry ingredients, then the milk, followed by the remaining dry ingredients, just until combined (mixing too long with make your bread tough and dry).  Gently fold in the berries. 
3.  Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for 60-70 (35-45 for mini loaves) minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
4.  While bread is baking mix together the 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1/4 c. sugar and the remaining lemon zest.  When bread comes out of the oven and is still hot, pour the lemon/sugar mixture over the bread.  Cool completely and try to not eat the whole loaf in one sitting.