Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hershey's Best Brownies

We've had a favorite brownie recipe that we've used for years. However, I'm wondering if the make-up of our ingredients is changing, because the last few times I've made brownies they haven't turned out like I expected them to.
So, when the next recipe in Wayne's cookbook was "Hershey's Best Brownies," I was willing to give it a try and see if it was any better. They are nice and fudgy, which is how I like my brownies, so that's a good thing. However, they're also pretty crumbly, and I'd rather they weren't. I guess we'll need to keep experimenting!

Hershey's Best Brownies

1 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Combine melted butter, sugar and vanilla. Stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the cocoa, then the remaining ingredients. Spread in greased 9x13" pan and bake for about 30 minutes at 350°. Cool, then cut into 36 pieces.
This time Wayne used butter, regular cocoa and no nuts. We'll try it again with margarine, Special Dark Cocoa and nuts. Which do you think we'll like better?

Now that I've compared our recipes, this one is just the recipe we sent to Elder Jeff, but doubled. So, it's pretty basic, but it works. We'll let you know how the next variation turns out.

Friday, September 26, 2014

No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars

Wayne finished making all the recipes in our ancient dessert cookbook, and this summer started the next one - Old-Fashioned Bake Sale Recipes. The first recipe was Oatmeal Toffee Cookies and they were good but nothing special, (just add almond toffee bits to your regular oatmeal cookie recipe and you can try them yourself). The second recipe he tried was No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars. These were basically Buckeye Candy in bar form, and while I think I would prefer them without the chocolate chips in the middle, they were very good, and I can see them selling well at a bake sale.
As he added up the calories in this recipe, he noticed that it was "the highest calorie recipe I've ever done." That's saying alot because he's made a lot of high-calorie recipes! It turns out that there were 7,856 calories in the total recipe. Even cut into 60 pieces (so basically these were bite-size) each serving had 131 calories, or as Steven would remind us, 131 kCals each. Needless to say, we didn't gobble down the whole pan at once. And that meant that Grandpa was able to share these yummy treats with the grandchildren when they visited. They loved them!

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Beat 1 1/4 cups peanut butter and 2/3 cup butter together until creamy. Beat in 1 cup powdered sugar. Stir in an additional cup of powdered sugar, 3 cups graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips. You may need to use your hands. Then press this mixture into a well greased 9x13" pan.

Melt 3/4 cup peanut butter and 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips together and then spread over the mixture in the pan. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or until chocolate is firm. Cut into bars. Makes 5 dozen.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Spinach Chicken Salad

Even though we're a small family at home now, when I buy spinach, I still buy a huge bag. So, sometimes we have to get creative to use it up before it spoils. This recipe turned out quite well, and I'm looking forward to having it again. Here's where I found the inspiration. Doesn't that look fresh and colorful? And it was tasty too.

3-2-1 Spinach Chicken Salad

In a large bowl, combine spinach, chicken, tomatoes, corn, cheese (we used Gruyere, the original recipe called for goat cheese or feta) and sunflower seeds (or pine nuts). Toss and chill until ready to serve.

For the dressing combine:

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toss with the salad and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Beef Rouladen

It took us a year and a half, but we finally finished all 12 variations of Stuffed Ground Round Steaks, and now we're ready to move on to the next recipe in our Dutch Oven Cookbook - Dutch Oven Beef Rouladen. This one only has 3 variations, and while the first one was delicious, I'm not sure about the second one which includes dill pickle! We'll see. 

This is more of a process than a recipe, so here you go.

Start with thin-sliced round steak. In our local grocery store it's sold as milanesa steak. Season with black pepper, garlic salt and seasoning salt.
Dollop with prepared stuffing (from a box is fine), along with some finely chopped onion.
And then top with sliced or shredded cheese. This time we used Monterey Jack.
Roll up, tucking in the sides and secure with two toothpicks.
Heat bacon grease or oil in your Dutch oven and brown the rouladen on all sides. Then lower the heat, cover and cook until done, about 30-40 minutes. (You can also do this in a 250° oven if you'd like.)
Use the drippings to make gravy and serve with a baked potato and your favorite vegetable.
While it was best the first day, the leftovers were pretty good as well!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chipotle Chicken Bowls

One day last month we had planned on taking Steven and Michelle to Chipotle for lunch, but the parking lot was too full and so we chose something else instead. However, we were in the mood for Mexican food, so we made our own for dinner the next night.
There are plenty of internet resources to guide you, but I'll go ahead and add one more. Here's how we adapted the recipes I found to make our own Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowls. First you need to marinate the chicken. In a food processor, combine the following and process until smooth.

1 chipotle pepper in adobe sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
6 cloves garlic
2 teasoons salt
1 red onion
1/4 cup oil

Pour over 6 chicken breasts and marinate for several hours or overnight. Just before serving, broil, grill or sauté and then slice and layer with the remaining ingredients in your individual bowl.

Here's what we used:

Lime-Cilantro Rice
Combine 2 cups basmati rice, 4 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until done, about 25 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 cup chopped cilantro.

Seasoned Black Beans
Combine two cans black beans (one drained, one undrained), 1 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon sugar. Heat through.

Corn Relish
Combine 16 ounces frozen corn (thawed), 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and minced), 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/3 cup chopped cilantro and salt to taste.

Mild Salsa
Combine 5 Roma tomatoes, chopped, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1/4 cup chopped red onion and salt to taste.

Other condiments:
Chopped lettuce
Grated Jack cheese
Sliced black olives
Avocado cubes (or guacamole)
Sour cream
Picante sauce

This was a great dish for customizing for different tastes, and we'll definitely have it on the menu in the future!

Quinoa Bites

Mini Quinoa Bites

3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups broccoli, finely diced
1 cup onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Combine quinoa and chicken broth in a saucepan; bring to a boil, then simmer until cooked through. Add remaining ingredients and spoon mixture into mini muffin pans. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes.

Variation: Use Jack cheese instead of cheddar cheese and a minced jalapeno pepper instead of broccoli. (Not a whole 2 cups worth though!)

Ham and Gruyere Puffs

This was another experiment for Jeff and Alicia's open house. They turned out great. Thanks, Elizabeth, for making them!

Ham and Gruyere Puffs

1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped or ground Black Forest ham (2 ounces)
1 cup finely shredded Gruyere cheese

Combine butter, salt and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the flour and cook until it's combined. Remove from heat and beat in the eggs one at a time. Then stir in the pepper, ham and shredded cheese.

Pipe or dollop onto baking sheet (makes about 36) and bake at 425° for about 25 minutes.

Optional: If you'd like, press a 1/2" cube of Gruyere cheese into each puff after baking and return to the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. It looked pretty, but we actually thought they tasted better without the additional cheese.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

I thought I had the menu for the wedding open house all planned, then the day before Wayne called and said a co-worker (who was coming to our party) really liked Bacon-Wrapped Scallops so he thought we should serve them. At that point I just wanted to buy them ready-made, but I couldn't find any. And it turns out that it's not that much work to do them yourself. All you need are scallops, bacon and toothpicks. They were definitely delicious!!
We bought two sizes of scallops from the grocery store. We knew we didn't want the giant ones, but the tiny ones (75-125 per pound) were too small and all you could taste was bacon. This is a great recipe for medium-sized bay scallops. Just cut the bacon to fit, (for most of them I split the bacon in half length-wise as well as half cross-wise), wrap around the scallop, secure with a toothpick and bake. About 15 minutes at 425° worked well. It does smell up the house, so if you don't want a fishy-bacony aroma during your party, do this ahead of time. You also, however, want to serve them warm, which puts you in a Catch-22 situation. You'll figure it out!

My inspiration came from Pioneer Woman, and the recipe for her Chili-Butter Sauce to drizzle over these was wonderful. Just melt a cube of butter with 2 teaspoons of chili powder and a dash of cayenne pepper and brush it over the scallops after they're cooked. Yummy!

1905 Salad

We've had this salad several times over the past few years, and I figured it was time to share the recipe with the rest of the family. While going through the cookbook, we've had this three times - with ham, turkey and shrimp. Guess which version this one was.
I still don't care for green olives and Swiss cheese, but Wayne loves the combination. And, for the record, we liked it with ham the best, but all three variations were good (that is, if you pick out the olives and cheese!).

 1905 Salad
(from the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa)

For the dressing:
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For the salad:
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into eighths
1/2 cup sliced swiss cheese, cut into julienne strips
1/2 cup sliced baked ham, cut into julienne strips (or turkey or shrimp)
1/4 cup green Spanish olives, pitted
2 teaspoons freshly grated romano cheese

Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Place the salad ingredients, except for the romano cheese, in a large bowl and toss. Add the dressing and toss again. Top with the romano cheese and serve immediately.

Michelle was around for the first "official" variation of the recipe from the cookbook. (The one with ham.) It was a great first course for our Memorial Day weekend barbecued hamburgers!

Chilled Cantaloupe Soup

The other day we bought a cantaloupe that really didn't have much flavor. Since I cut it up before discovering that, we couldn't very well turn it into a dry ice bomb. So, I went looking for another option and settled on Chilled Cantaloupe Soup. If I had had celery or cucumber or orange juice in the fridge, I might have tried a different recipe, but I didn't, so I used this one. It was pretty good, and reminded us of cruise dining. That's always a good thing.
Chilled Ginger Cantaloupe Soup

1 cantaloupe, seeded and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (or to taste)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon of honey (or to taste)
small pinch of salt
1/4 cup milk, half & half, or cream (optional)

Put cantaloupe, ginger, lemon juice and honey in a blender, and process until completely smooth.  Add half & half (if using) and blend until combined.  Taste and adjust amounts of honey, ginger or lemon juice if desired.  Serve well chilled. Yield: 2 servings

Note: Next time we might try adding cinnamon to it as well.

Wayne's Alfredo Sauce

I'm posting this so maybe I can remember. Wayne likes sour cream in his Alfredo sauce. I don't particularly, which is maybe why it's difficult for me to remember. He likes the tang, though, so I need to remember that. Anyway, here's the recipe we used this week (from Our Best Bites). Next time I need to try adding sour cream to it and see how it works.

Combine 2 cups milk, 3 ounces cream cheese, 3 tablespoons flour and 1 teaspoon salt in the blender and combine well. Sauté 3 garlic cloves, minced, in 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan for just a couple of minutes. Stir in the milk mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for a couple of minutes. Stir in 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Let sit for 10 minutes before stirring.

Shrimp Alfredo


I used 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup sour cream for the 2 cups milk, and kept everything else the same. It turned out great, and Wayne said it could have even more sour cream!

For the salad today, I used this recipe. Place a layer of chopped romaine on two plates. Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sugar, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Toss with diced tomato, halved cherry tomatoes, cubed fresh mozarella and sliced red onion. Pile on lettuce. Top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and serve.

Rich Egg Bread

The other day we felt like having French Toast for breakfast, but the only bread in the house was the sandwich bread from the store, and I don't like the way it cooks into French Toast*. So, we waited a couple of days (delayed gratification is good for you!) and I tried a new recipe. I think it cooked a bit too long (go with the 20 minutes, not the 25), but it looked gorgeous, and it made great French Toast. 
Here's the recipe:

Rich Egg Bread

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup water
3 eggs (divided)
4 - 4 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon gluten
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or shortening

Soften the yeast in the water. Beat the three eggs together, and reserve about 1 tablespoon of the mixture to brush on the loaf later. Combine everything but the reserved egg in the mixer and beat well. Knead until smooth, then let raise for one hour. Divide the dough into three pieces and gently braid directly on a greased baking sheet.
Brush with the reserved egg mixture. Let rise while the oven heats to 400°. Then bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool on rack. Makes one loaf.

*I'm not the only one who thinks this. Check out this link for ideas on making good French Toast.

Edited: Tried this recipe again specifically for French Toast and decided it didn't need to be braided. Baking in a regular loaf pan worked just fine.

Barbecue Sauce for Pork Chops

Barbecue Sauce

8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green (or red) pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
dash Tabasco sauce

Combine everything (I sauteed the onions and peppers a bit first) and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or so to thicken.

Serve over cooked pork chops, or whatever else you want!
Sorry, didn't think to take the picture until after we'd eaten the pork chops! At least there was some extra sauce. 

And here it is on a pork chop. It was still a yummy recipe. This time I added some chopped celery and used honey instead of molasses.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Asian Quesadillas

We just had these for lunch, and they turned out so well, that I wanted to save the "recipe" somewhere. No picture, because we ate them too fast! This was basically a "clean out the refrigerator" type recipe. We had two lonely mini egg rolls and some cooked cabbage in the fridge. Often on Saturdays we'll have quesadillas for lunch, so I was trying to figure out how to make a quesadilla that wouldn't clash with egg rolls and cabbage and decided to google Asian Quesadilla recipes. There were plenty options; apparently "fusion" is a new "in" thing!

Anyway, I took some cooked turkey from the freezer (most of the recipes called for marinating chicken breasts in a teriyaki-type sauce and then grilling the chicken, but I was looking for quick and easy). I sautéed a little onion, red bell pepper, and carrot matchsticks for a few minutes and then added the chicken to that to heat through. There was also some leftover sweet and sour sauce (for the egg rolls) so I stirred in a tablespoon of that to help hold it all together. I layered a tortilla, some cheese (Costco's 4-cheese Mexican blend is what was in the fridge), the chicken mixture, a little more cheese and another tortilla. Heat it through, flip it once, and lunch is served!