Thursday, December 12, 2013

Homemade Caramel for Dipping

One of the treats we enjoy, especially at the holidays, is caramel and chocolate dipped pretzel rods.  This year we tried making our own caramel, and this recipe turned out okay.

Homemade Caramel

1 1/3 cups evaporated milk
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup corn syrup

Combine ingredients in 4-quart sauce pan.  Cook to softball stage - 230 degrees - stirring constantly, about 20-25 minutes.

Note: One batch covered on apple and 24 mini pretzels with enough leftover for 6 bite-size caramels.  30 mini pretzel sticks used 2 squares of almond bark.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spicy Sausage Pasta

Here's another delicious Pinterest find:

Spicy Sausage Pasta

Spicy Sausage Pasta

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb smoked sausage
1.5 cups diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chiles, mild
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz penne pasta
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, each
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions

1. Add olive oil to an oven-safe skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Add sausage and onions and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Add broth, tomatoes, cream, pasta, salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a boil, cover skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with scallions. Broil until cheese is melted, spotty brown, and bubbly. Serves 4.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Firecracker Chicken

We're trying another Pinterest find today and it tastes quite delicious. I did the whole thing on the stove, and didn't use the oven like the original recipe suggested. That worked out fine. There's not much of a sauce, but I think that's how I'd prefer it.  Give it a try and decide yourself. Here are the measurements to serve 3-4 people. You can go to the original recipe if you're feeding a larger group.

This Firecracker Chicken is the perfect mix of spicy and sweet and beats take-out hands down! #recipe #chicken #rice

Firecracker Chicken

1 tablespoon oil
10-12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used Frank's)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
dash salt

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cut your chicken into 1-inch pieces while the oil heats. Place the cornstarch in a gallon-sized ziploc bag, and add the chicken and seal, tossing to coat.

Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl. Dip the coated chicken pieces into the whisked egg, and place them in the hot skillet. Cook the chicken pieces for 1-2 minutes on each side, cooking until just browned.

Mix the hot sauce, brown sugar, water, vinegar and salt in a small bowl and then pour over the chicken in the skillet. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and serve over hot, cooked rice. Garnish with sliced green onions if desired.

recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, November 11, 2013

One Pan Pasta

One-Pan Pasta
I didn't take a picture, so I'm borrowing this one from the website where I got the recipe, but this One Pan Pasta was actually quite delicious. We've had it twice in the past month! The first time I added chicken, but it really didn't need it, so the second time I didn't. And I didn't have fresh basil, so I just added some pesto from the freezer (made when I DID have fresh basil). Sometime we might try it again with shrimp, either on the side or mixed in with the spaghetti.
Their picture is prettier, but ours still tasted delicious. This time we added some mushrooms.
 One Pan Pasta

12 ounces linguine or spaghetti
12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved if large (I used chopped Roma tomatoes)
1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish (as mentioned, I used some pesto)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 1/2 cups water (to give it more flavor, I added some chicken base to the water)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with oil and Parmesan. Serves 4.
This time it accompanied Shrimp and Scallop Scampi.

Chicken Gloria

We had chicken again on Sunday, trying another new recipe, and it was quite good. It was similar to the Chicken Gloria I found on Pinterest, but rather than go to the store to buy Muenster cheese, I decided to use the Swiss cheese in our fridge before it went moldy. The missionaries liked it, and so did we.

Chicken Gloria

Dredge boneless chicken breasts in flour seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and brown in some butter. Place in a casserole dish and top with slices of cheese. (We used Swiss this time; the original recipe called for Muenster; I'm sure other varieties would work as well.) Sauté some sliced mushrooms (use the same pan as the chicken) and arrange on top.
Combine one can (this was plenty for 8 servings) of cream of chicken soup with 1/2 cup chicken broth (the original recipe called for wine, so you could use that instead if you want) and pour over the chicken. Bake in a 350° oven for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is done. Sprinkle with some parsley if desired.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Creamy Balsamic Chicken

Creamy Balsamic Chicken

1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoon butter
4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion slices in one tablespoon of butter for about 15 minutes or until caramelized. Remove from frying pan. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the same pan and brown the chicken in it; remove. Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth, then stir in the cream and balsamic vinegar. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the chicken to a platter. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and onions and pour sauce over chicken to serve. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Creamy Noodles

This turned out to be a great side-dish for Chicken Parmesan, and pretty simple to make as well. It's similar to Fettucine Alfredo, but I liked it better.

Creamy Noodles

4 cups egg noodles
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 1/4 teaspoons Italian salad dressing mix*

Cook the noodles until tender, then drain. Stir in the butter until it melts, then add the remaining ingredients and mix gently. Serve hot.  (It's not quite as creamy as leftovers, yet still tasty.)

* I don't keep Italian salad dressing mix on hand, so I looked up a recipe and just sprinkled in the following ingredients until it looked good:
garlic salt
onion powder
celery salt

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fried Chicken

This month's Costco Connection had a recipe for "fried" chicken that looked pretty good, so we decided to give it a try.  It was pretty good.  And it wasn't too difficult, messy, or time-consuming either.  Maybe we'll try it again sometime!  Then Wayne came across some Yahoo article on the perfect fried chicken, which had an additional step of soaking the chicken pieces in a brine solution overnight before coating and frying them. He wants to try that version some day as well, so we'll keep you posted. Here's my variation of the Costco recipe.

Oven "Fried" Chicken

8 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
2 tablespoons cooking oil

for the marinade:
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
dash cayenne pepper

for the coating:
2 cups fine bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon thyme

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the chicken pieces.  Stir to coat, then cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, or overnight.

Grease a large baking pan with the oil and set aside.  Combine coating mix ingredients in a large bowl (or bag). Using tongs, remove a piece of chicken from the marinade, place it in the crumb mixture to coat, then in the baking pan.  Repeat with each piece.  Bake the chicken at 400° for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked.  Serve warm, or chill overnight to take on a picnic.  (Use a cooler.)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Raspberry Ice Cream

One of the recipes that Michelle brought home from school and wanted to try again was for Raspberry Ice Cream.  We bought the ingredients to make it for Independence Day but never got around to doing it, and used the raspberries and cream in something else. Raspberries were a good deal last week so we bought the ingredients again. I wasn't looking forward to climbing into the attic to get out the ice cream maker, so when I saw a recipe for "no-churn" ice cream in the current issue of Woman's Day, I was intrigued. I compared the two recipes (the WD one wasn't a raspberry version) and created my own. It got the "thumbs-up" from the YSA kids last night, so I think we'll try it again someday and experiment with other flavors. Let us know if you have a favorite combination!
No-Churn Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip the cream until soft peaks form.  Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in "variation" ingredients.* Pour into 9x5" loaf pan (or another similar-sized, freezer-safe bowl/pan) and freeze until firm, at least five hours.

* Alternately, you could marble the "extras" by pouring half the ice cream mixture in the pan, topping with half the other mixture and running a knife/fork through it to marble, then repeat.

Raspberry Version:
1 package (3-4 oz.) raspberry jello
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup ice cubes
1 cup raspberries

Dissolve the jello in the boiling water; stir in the ice cubes until melted. Set aside half the jello for another use.  (Eat it for lunch.)  Stir the mostly set, but not firm, jello into the cream mixture with the raspberries and freeze as directed.

Here are some variations from the magazine to help you come up with your own ideas.

Zesty Coconut Version:
1 tablespoon lime zest (from about 2 limes)
1 cup toasted coconut

Nutty Bananas Version:
1 large banana, diced
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons caramel sauce

Peach Pie Version:
1 cup graham crackers, roughly chopped
1/2 cup peach preserves

Chocolate Peppermint Version:
12 Peppermint Patties, chopped
1/4 cup chocolate sauce

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rennie's Rice Pudding

Technically I guess this comes from the Barefoot Contessa, but in our family it's Rennie's Rice Pudding.

Rice Pudding

3/4 cup white basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 cups half-and-half, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 extra-large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (can mix and match with almond extract as well if desired)
3/4 cup raisins, optional (Note: the original recipe calls for these to be soaked in two tablespoons of rum first, but we don't normally do that, and since we don't even like raisins to begin with, it's not a big deal.)

Combine the rice and salt with 1 1/2 cups water in a medium heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stir once, and simmer, covered, on the lowest heat for 8 to 9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. (If your stove is very hot, pull the pan halfway off the burner.)

Stir in 4 cups of half-and-half and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, until the rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end. Slowly stir in the beaten egg and continue to cook for 1 minute. Off the heat, add the remaining cup of half-and-half, the vanilla, and the raisins with any remaining rum. Stir well. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chilled.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Crab Fried Rice

Crab Fried Rice

3-5 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic
2-3 green onions, minced
1 cup crab meat
6 cups cooked rice
2 eggs
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce

Heat a little oil in wok and sauté garlic for a few minutes.  Stir in green onions and crab meat, then rice and heat through.  Push to edges, add a little oil in center, and scramble eggs, then incorporate into rest of mixture.  Stir in pepper and fish sauce and serve.

Note: The description for this recipe stated particularly that this was not to include peas and carrots and mushrooms, so I left them out.  However, I like extra vegies in my fried rice, so I'll probably add them next time.  It didn't state what type of oil to use.  I started with a bit of sesame oil, then added a little olive oil.  We also used imitation crab, since that was the ingredient I was trying to use when I searched for a recipe.  This was a yummy version, and we'll be trying it again some day.  Maybe next time I'll remember to take a picture!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

French Baguettes

We tried this Pinterest recipe last night, and Wayne said to be sure to pass it along to all our daughters because he knows his sons will love it.  So, here you go!
Easy French Baguettes

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon (or package) yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
3-4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Dissolve the yeast and sugar into the warm water.  Stir in the flour and salt and knead briefly. Divide into four pieces and roll into thick ropes.  Twist two together and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the other two pieces of dough.  Let rise for 30 minutes, if desired. Place in oven preheated to 425°.

Pour 3-4 cups of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven and immediately close the door. (Apparently, this is the "secret" ingredient!) Bake for 15-18 minutes.
See the ice cubes at the bottom of the oven?
The original recipe called for 2 cups of water, but I knew with only 4 cups of Florida flour that would not be a bread dough, so rather than add more flour, I started with less water.  When I tossed in the ice cubes, half of them fell down the hinge area and I couldn't close the door, so I need some practice with that.  I wonder if it would work with the ice cubes placed in a cake pan? Anyway, this bread was delicious, and we won't mind experimenting with it some more. The original recipe said to serve it with olive oil for dipping; we used butter and jam last night, but the olive oil would be scrumptious and we're looking forward to trying that soon. Even though the original recipe had "crusty" in the title, one of the things we loved about our version was that it wasn't hard and crusty at all; it was soft! So, we hope you have fun trying this out some time.

11/29/2016 - Tried half recipe (so one loaf) with basically 3/4 cup wheat flour, 3/4 cup white flour, and 1/2 cup oat flour. Put the ice cubes in a cake pan.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Great Chocolate Chip Muffin Experiment

Did we tell you that Michelle is the ward choir director for the summer?  Anyway, she's doing an awesome job, and she wanted to reward the faithful choir members with some muffins last Sunday.  Her first choice would have been blueberry muffins, but we forgot to add blueberries to the shopping list.  Oops!  So, she decided to go with chocolate chip muffins.  Our usual chocolate chip muffin recipe also has bananas in it - Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins - but Michelle doesn't like banana muffins, so I went searching for a new recipe.  I narrowed it down to two - one here and one here.  Since we needed two dozen, I decided to make both and compare.  Even though I was pretty sure both of them had too many chocolate chips for our taste, I followed the recipe!  
The first recipe made drier muffins, but I liked the idea of sprinkling them with sparkling sugar, so if I make them again, the following is the adaptation that I'll use.
The "sprinkling" sugar I had on hand.

Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter or margarine, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup buttermilk (or soured milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (or up to 1 cup regular sized)
sugar sprinkles

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.  Combine liquid ingredients in large measuring cup.  Stir into dry ingredients, then add chocolate chips.  Spoon into 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 375° for 17-20 minutes.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Smothered Chicken

This isn't really a recipe, but it was delicious, so if you want to try it yourself -
First, saute some mushrooms.
Remove them from the pan and add some spinach, along with some cream cheese or sour cream or white sauce (it's been so long, I'm not sure what we used!).
Place some seasoned chicken breasts in a baking dish,
Top with the mushrooms, spinach and cheese,
Then bake until they're done.
And enjoy a delicious Sunday dinner!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Classic White Bread

Here's the recipe Michelle used to make bread last week.  It was awesome!  Maybe it's just because it's been a while since I've made white bread (usually we're using our wheat flour), but maybe she's just an excellent baker!  We're definitely having this again, and I only hope that it turns out as well when I make it.
Classic White Bread

6-7 cups bread flour
(note: we used regular white flour and added 2 tablespoons gluten)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
4 1/2 teaspoons regular (or quick) active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups very warm tap water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted, if desired

In your KitchenAid bowl (remember this is from her cooking class - we just used our Magic Mill mixer), stir 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, shortening and yeast until well mixed.  Add warm water.  Beat on medium speed one minute, scraping bowl frequently.  (Our mixer only has one speed now - high.  It worked.)  Stir in enough remaining flour, one cup at a time, to make a soft dough that is easy to handle.

Put on kneading hook and knead about five minutes, or until dough is smooth and springy.  Grease large dinner plate (we used a 10" pie plate to make sure it was oven safe) with shortening.  Place dough on the greased dinner plate, turning to grease all sides.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in proofing oven** 15 minutes, or until dough has doubled in size.

Grease bottoms and sides of three 8x4" or two 9x5" loaf pans.  Gently deflate dough and divide into thirds.  Flatten each dough portion with hands or rolling pin into an 18x9" rectangle on greased surface.  (PAM is fine.)  Roll dough up tightly, beginning at 9" side.  Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal.  Fold ends under loaf and place seam side down in pan.  Brush loaves lightly with butter.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place for 20 minutes, or until dough has doubled in size.  (If you have two ovens, you can use one as a proofing oven and the other for baking.)

Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes, or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove loaves from pans to wire rack.  Brush with butter and cool.

**Preheat your oven to 275°.  Turn oven off, place a small baking dish filled with boiling water in the bottom, and place dough on center rack to rise.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Mousse Filling

We picked up some raspberries at Costco the other day, with the object of making a yummy dessert with them.  I searched high and low to find what I was imagining, with no success, so that meant I had to create my own recipe.  I was looking for something chocolate-y and creamy and light.  I'm not so sure this would be considered "light" but it was definitely delicious.  And the mousse was delicious all on its own, which might be the best way to serve it in the future!

Raspberry Mousse
Soften 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin in 2 tablespoons cold water.  Heat in microwave for about one minute to dissolve.  Stir in 1/2 cup raspberry jam.  Whip 1 cup of cream with 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 1/4 cup fresh raspberries if desired. Stir two mixtures together and chill.

Chocolate Cake

1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup boiling water

Combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large bowl combine egg, milk, oil and vanilla.  Stir in the dry ingredients, and then stir in the boiling water.  Pour into a greased 9" round cake pan and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.  Cool
Note:  Can easily double this for a two-layer cake.

To assemble, split the cooled cake in half horizontally.  (If you want to make two layers, that's fine, but the cake part will be thicker and that's not what I wanted.)  Place one on a cake plate and top with the raspberry mousse, and then the other cake.  "Frost" with Hot Fudge Sauce and garnish with fresh raspberries.  Chill.  Serves 12.

Note: Next time I'll try making a ganache for the frosting, which is what most of my "inspiration" recipes used, but I didn't plan far enough ahead and I used all the cream in the mousse.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bars

I'm not sure I'll ever make these, but I'm clearing off the counter and want some way to save this recipe that Fay brought home a while ago.  She brought the leftovers home, too, and they're scrumptious brownies.  I just don't normally make things from cake mixes, nor do I care to melt caramels.  However, I can always change my mind!!

Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bars

1 box German chocolate cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
2/3 evaporated milk
1/2 pound caramels
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Mix 1 box German chocolate cake mix with melted butter
and 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Spread 2/3 of the batter
in a large brownie pan and bake 5 minutes in a 350
degree oven. Meanwhile melt caramels with 1/3 cup
evaporated milk in a skillet over low heat. Remove
the partially baked cake mixture and pour the caramel
mixture evenly over it. Sprinkle pecans over the caramel
mixture. Then sprinkle chocolate chips over the pecans.
Place the rest of the batter over the chocolate chips by
half teaspoonfuls evenly over the whole pan. Return to
the oven for 20 minutes. Cool thoroughly and cut into
small bars. These freeze and mail well.

(Sorry there's no picture!)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti was on the menu today, and since I had a pound of thawed ground beef in the fridge, I decided we'd have meatballs instead of wheat/meat in the sauce.  However, it's the end of the month and we're running low on eggs, so I wanted to make the meatballs without using any eggs.  Google came to the rescue!  And Princess was an awesome helper too!!
Egg-less Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Mix well and form into 1" balls.  Place on cookie sheet.  Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through.

I think next time I might add some garlic, and maybe additional seasonings, but the texture was great and they were delicious.  It's always nice to have something new land in the "success" column!
We used our regular Spaghetti Sauce recipe found here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Snickers Caramel Cheesecake Cookies

Michelle was intrigued by this recipe she found on Pinterest, so she decided to give it a try.  We don't have a muffin top pan, and considered just using a regular baking pan, but then decided to go the "mega-muffin pan" route.  They turned out just fine.  Be sure to let them cool first before trying to remove them!
Snickers Caramel Cheesecake Cookies

2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons melted butter
2 8-oz packages softened cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
3 tablespoons caramel sauce
2 cups chopped Snickers Bars  (Note: 16 fun-size bars)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Place graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter into a mixing bowl to combine. Spoon a couple spoonfuls of crumbs into each muffin top pan and press down and up the sides. Bake for 5-6 minutes or just until browned. Remove from oven.  (Note: She only used about half of this mixture.)

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add in eggs and vanilla until well combined, scraping sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in caramel sauce until well combined. Pour about 1/4 cup of cheesecake mixture over each baked crust then top evenly with chopped Snickers. Bake for 23-26 minutes or until cheesecake edges are just starting to brown and centers are nearly set. Remove and let cool completely. While still warm, loosen all edges with a plastic knife to make for easier removal from pan. Refrigerate once cooled then top with caramel sauce and whipped cream to serve.

12 individual cheesecakes

More notes: These were delicious, although I thought the whipped cream on top was a bit much.  Michelle didn't!  The texture was a bit spongy and we're going to try these again using our "regular" cheesecake filling, and maybe even a vanilla wafer cookie for the crust, making it an adaptation of our tried and true "All to Myself Cheesecakes."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Munchies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Munchies

1 1/2 cups flour (2 cups in Florida)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter, divided
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream together the white sugar, brown sugar, butter, and 1/4 cup peanut butter.  Beat in egg, milk and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture.  Shape dough into 30 balls and set aside.  (If too sticky, chill dough for an hour.)

Mix together powdered sugar and remaining 1/2 cup peanut butter.  (You can use the same mixing bowl if desired.)  Add a bit of water if too dry.  Shape into 30 small balls.

To form cookies, flatten one chocolate ball.  Place a peanut butter ball on top.  Shape the chocolate dough around the peanut butter center, completely covering the filling.  Reshape into a ball and place 2 inches apart on a parchment or silicone lined cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Dip bottom of a drinking glass in sugar and lightly flatten each cookie.  Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are set and slight cracks form on top.  Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Glazed Pork Chops

Michelle, we're trying your pork chop recipe today.  It smells delicious, and they look wonderful.  Thanks!

Glazed Pork Chops

6 pork chops (boneless or bone-in) (We had boneless ones)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon sage
2 Tablespoons water

1.  Place pork chops in 9x13 pan.  (There was a lot more glaze than I was anticipating, probably why it was so good, so I would suggest putting some of it at the bottom of the pan before putting the pork in so that the whole pork chop is covered with the glaze.)
2.  Mix remaining ingredients, adding more water if necessary to make a glaze that is thin enough to pour (I think we added a little bit more, but it was not super thin or runny).  Pour over pork chops.

NOTE: Cooking time will vary based on the thickness of the meat, the pan you are using, and how closely you place the pieces together in the pan.  Use a meat thermometer to test internal temperature (160°) (We actually did use a meat thermometer and checked the temperature, who knows if that made a difference)

3.  Bake at 350°, uncovered.  If thick pork chops (greater than 1-inch thick), bake for 45-50 minutes, or until meat tests done.  Check at 20 minutes to see if the meat is properly cooked.  Check every 5 minutes thereafter.  If thin pork chops (less than 1-inch thick), bake for 20-30 minutes, checking with thermometer for doneness.
4.  A visual check helps, too.  If, after you cut the pork chops into smaller pieces for serving, you feel they are a bit too pink, put back in oven for a few more minutes.

Note: We tried these by cooking on the stove - brown the chops in a bit of oil then pour the sauce over and cook until done - and that worked well also.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Great St. Patrick's Day Experiment

A few weeks ago the subject of the tradition of corned beef for dinner on St. Patrick's Day came up in our conversation.  Although I remember having it every year as a child, I also remember the reaction of my own family being such that many, many years ago I decided never to serve corned beef again. Wayne said it must have been the kids' reaction, because he didn't mind having it once a year.  So, this year I decided that we would give it another try.  I figured maybe one reason we didn't like it was because I wasn't preparing it properly, so I decided to do some internet research to see what I could learn.  I learned a lot!

First off, it's called "corned" beef not because there's actual corn in the recipe (that always confused me) but because the preservation process of the meat included salt, or kernels of salt, which were also called "corns" of salt.

Next I learned that you don't have to buy it at the grocery store, you can make your own corned beef. That was so intriguing that I decided to go that route.  Here's the recipe I found:

4 pounds beef brisket
2 1/2 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
8-10 whole cloves
8-10 allspice berries
2 bay leaves, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
5 garlic cloves, crushed.

Combine everything but the beef and the garlic in a large pot and heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Cool to 45° then add the garlic.  Place the beef in a large container (a plastic bag could work) and pour the brine over it.  Soak for several days in the refrigerator.  Rinse the beef and simmer for several hours.

Next I learned that corned beef is not a true Irish tradition.  In Ireland they use pork.  However, in America beef was less expensive than pork, so that's what the poor immigrants could afford, and the tradition was born.  The cabbage and potatoes are added to help dilute the saltiness of the dish.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that of the lengthy list of ingredients, the only spices I didn't have were mustard seeds and allspice berries.  Wayne must have made a recipe years and years ago calling for coriander and fennel, because that's definitely not something I use every day.  My grocery store had mustard seeds but not allspice berries, so I omitted that ingredient.
When I went to Costco to buy the brisket, I was surprised to discover that it cost more per pound than the packaged corned beef.  Maybe it was just a St. Patrick's Day special.  I also didn't see a four pound brisket, the largest was three pounds.  So, I decided to add to the experiment.  I bought one of each and determined to have a taste test.  If we liked the Costco version better, I would know next year to just get that.  If we didn't, we'd know that it was worth the extra expense.  Do you want to know what the results were?  Keep reading.

Tuesday when I got home from the store I made the brine.
Poured it over the beef brisket and stuck it in the fridge.
Sunday morning I removed it from the fridge.  It was no longer pink.  However, that's what I was expecting, because I also learned in my research that corned beef stays pink because of the saltpeter (or potassium nitrate) that is added to the brine.  I didn't want to bother with that, so I didn't.  Besides, I figured it would be a good way to tell the difference between the two once they were on the dinner table.
In my research I also read about a "rinse, cook, repeat" process to help cut the saltiness of the dish, and I decided to give that part a try as well.  So, I removed the beef from the brine, added it to the skillet, covered it with water, and simmered it for about an hour.
Then it was time to leave for church, so I removed it from the skillet, put it in the crock pot, covered it with fresh water, turned it on low, and left for several hours.  
This is what it looked like when I got home from church.  I tasted the broth and it was quite delicious, so I saved it to turn into soup later in the week.
The next step was to chop up some onions, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage.
Then, about 45 minutes before we wanted to eat, I transferred the beef back to the skillet, added fresh water, and the vegetables, and cooked it until the vegetables were tender.  And that was that.  Kind of a long process, isn't it?  If I'm home all day, in the future I may skip the crock-pot step, and just keep it all in one pan, pouring off the old broth and adding new.
But what about the other corned beef?  I cooked it using the same process.
First, remove from the package, set aside the seasoning packet, and simmer it for an hour on the stove.
Second, move it to the crock pot, cover with fresh water, and add the seasoning packet.
Third, put it back in the pot on the stove with fresh water and simmer for another hour or so.
And forget to take a picture of that pot.  There wasn't room to add vegetables, and I was pretty sure we prefer roasted over boiled, but I decided to verify that and do another taste test at dinner.  To roast vegetables, I find it easiest to cut them into chunks, place into a ziploc bag, drizzle with olive oil, then shake and pour into the baking pan.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in a 425° oven for 25-30 minutes.
Don't those look gorgeous?
 And here's the corned beef platter all ready to serve.
Here's the verdict:
We do prefer roasted vegetables over boiled vegetables.  However, for a once a year St. Patrick's Day tradition, I'll stick with the boiled ones. After all, there's already a pot of boiling water going, so that saves dirtying a dish or two.

We liked the homemade version of the corned beef better.  The other one was fine, but there was a slight "chemical/preserved" taste that the fresh one didn't have.  However, since I recall the "pickled" taste being quite prominent in the previous corned beef I've had, I really think the process of "rinse and repeat" definitely helped dilute that.  (I didn't actually "rinse" the beef, just moved it to fresh water.)

We rounded out the meal with Irish Soda Bread and Mint Zebra Cake. We'll have the bread again, but next year will come up with a different dessert.  There you go!  Now you don't have to go to all the work of comparing different recipes, unless of course you want to.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!