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