Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Magic Bars

These are super easy and delicious, perfect for the holiday season! Plus, they are totally customizable. Don't like nuts? Add more chocolate chips instead. You can swap white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips, mint chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or even toffee bits for some of the semi-sweet or butterscotch chips. Just make sure you have a nice tall glass of milk to enjoy with these because they are nice and rich!

Magic Bars
Adapted from Eagle Brand

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
2. Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs in medium bowl. Press evenly along bottom of prepared pan.
3. Heat sweetened condensed milk in small bowl in microwave for 30 seconds - 1 minute, until melted slightly (this will make it easier to spread in the pan). Spread over graham cracker mixture. Top with coconut, chocolate and butterscotch chips, and nuts. Press firmly into pan.
4. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving. (I think they are best after about 10 minutes, so they're still warm and gooey. Pair it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? To die for.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pear Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

If you have some leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving, this is a great (and healthy, which we all know we're needing after the overindulgence of Thanksgiving) recipe to use some of it up. It is light, refreshing, and delicious, and is a wonderful combination of textures and flavors that somehow manage to meld together perfectly. It can be a main course a side or a starter for your next holiday meal. I happened to have some mushrooms in the fridge, so I sliced them up and added them to my salad. Feel free to add them in you like, or leave them out if you would rather. It is sure to be great either way. Enjoy!

Pear Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
adapted from Cooking Light

8 cups romaine lettuce, baby spinach, or mixed greens
2 pears, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries

1/2 cup cranberry sauce
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 1 orange)
2 Tb. olive oil
2 Tb. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground ginger

1. Make vinaigrette by combining all dressing ingredients in a blender until completely combined. Set aside.
2. Layer lettuce, pears, onion, blue cheese, and walnuts on plates. Drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple-Pecan-Brown Butter

I've been totally obsessed with brown butter lately. It turns out that almost anything is better with brown butter. (Which, to be fair, is not at all surprising. Browned, nutty, salty, fresh butter? How could that not be good?) I had some extra pumpkin after making these pumpkin cheesecakes, so I decided to make these too. It is a great way to use up some extra pumpkin and a fun way to spice up breakfast a little bit instead of the same things we always have. The pancakes were good, but the brown-butter syrup...that is heavenly. I'm sure it would be great on waffles, crepes, buttermilk pancakes, french toast, a spoon...

Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple-Pecan-Brown Butter
adapted from Taste of Home Magazine, October/November 2010

Maple-Pecan-Brown Butter
1/2 cup butter, cubed (I used salted)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tb. packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

1. In small saucepan, cook butter until golden brown (about 8 - 10 minutes). Stir occasionally, and don't walk away. Once it starts to brown, it browns very quickly! Remove from heat and add the maple syrup, cinnamon, and pecans.
2. To make pancakes, whisk together eggs, milk, pumpkin, and yogurt. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined (batter will be lumpy; don't over mix). Drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto hot greased griddle. Cook for about 3-4 minutes (until bubble form on top and keep their shape), flip and cook about 2 more minutes. Continue with remaining batter. Serve pancakes with warm maple-pecan-brown butter and fresh whipped cream.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chocolate Sheet Cake

I know that it's Thanksgiving week and I should probably be posting Thanksgiving-themed recipes, but to be completely honest I'm not that on top of things. Instead, I'm posting this recipe for my favorite-ever chocolate cake. My mom and grandma always made this when I was growing up, and every time I eat it I think of home and all of my happy memories from when I was little. I literally cannot leave myself alone with this cake or I will eat it and eat it and eat it one little piece at a time until suddenly the entire thing is gone. It's not much to look at, but it tastes incredible!

Chocolate Sheet Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ cup butter
½ cup shortening
1 cup water
½ cup buttermilk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ cups (approx.) powdered sugar
chopped walnuts and/or mini marshmallows (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray jelly-roll pan with cooking spray.
  2. In bowl of large stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, and salt.
  3. In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt together butter, shortening, water, and cocoa powder. Stir frequently until well combined. Add to dry ingredients, mixing on medium speed until completely combine.
  4. Add buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and soda. Beat on medium speed until completely combined. Batter will be very thin.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched in the center. If using nuts and marshmallows, sprinkle evenly over top of cake. Frost while cake is still warm.
  6. As soon as cake comes out of the oven, immediately prepare the frosting. Boil butter, cocoa, and buttermilk in large saucepan until slightly thick, 2-3 minutes after it begins to boil. Stir constantly. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixer until frosting reaches spreading consistency. Immediately spread over warm cake (or pour, if using nuts and marshmallows as it simply won't spread over the top of those).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies

I have made these twice in the past month, and Corey has declared them his favorite cookies ever. I never thought that anything would replace his deep and undying love for chocolate chip cookies...but if anything was going to, it makes sense it would be these. Chewy chocolate cookies with milk chocolate, semi-sweet, and butterscotch chips? Delish. I even substituted half whole wheat flour for the regular flour in these cookies and he still raved about them (shh...don't tell!)

I made some with white chocolate chips instead of the butterscotch chips, and while they were still really good (and slightly more photogenic), the butterscotch chips are definitely better. I suppose you could try peanut butter chips too, but why ruin a perfectly good cookie with those? (We are not big peanut butter lovers here!) I made my cookies small so that I didn't feel quite as guilty eating five of them before 11:00 a.m...but you can feel free to make them larger if you so desire, just up the cooking time accordingly.

Chewy Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies
adapted from Mrs. Harding Cooks

Makes 2 1/2 dozen small cookies (I used a 1 Tb. cookie scoop)

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tb. brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips (or white chocolate chips or peanut butter chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray.
2. In medium bowl cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until completely combined, scraping down side of bowl to ensure everything is mixed well.
3. Add cocoa powder and mix until combined. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix until totally combined (do not over mix). Stir in baking chips.
4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes (mine were perfect at 9 minutes). Be sure that you don't over bake, you want them to be firm around the edges but still nice and a little gooey in the middle. I think these are best warm right of the oven (maybe because I can't possibly wait for five minutes until they cool down) but Corey likes them cool with a tall glass of milk. Either way, they are amazing!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jalapeno Jelly

Remember those amazing cheddar garlic biscuits I made last week? Well, this jelly is what I smothered them in and it was out-of-this-world-delicious. I love that sweet/spicy/salty combination, so this is right up my alley. I also had this jelly with crackers and cream cheese, and it was delicious that way too. I got this recipe at a church event (but I also found it online here)...we made this together for one of the activities. I promptly brought mine home and had to try some before it had even cooled completely...and I'm pretty sure I've eaten some if it every day since. It is addicting and delicious!

Jalapeno Jelly

1 cup red or green bell pepper, diced (we used a combination)
1/3 cup fresh jalapenos, quartered (seeded if you want it less spicy, I prefer it with seeds for a little more heat)
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
 5 cups sugar
1 pouch (3 oz.) liquid fruit pectin

1. Combine peppers and vinegar in blender. Pulse until peppers are finely chopped.
2. Combine vinegar/pepper mixture with sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, skim foam off of the top. Cool for 2 minutes, then stir in pectin.
3. Pour into sterilized jars and fasten lids. Process with pressure cooker/water bath to seal if desired or refrigerate and store up to 2 weeks. Makes 6 half-pint jars or 3 pint jars.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

I'm not afraid of cooking. I have been cooking for as long as I can remember. My favorite toys when I was little were my little kitchen and the plastic food and dishes that came with it. I loved pretending I was making things in my kitchen and then "eating" them. I had a play-dough toy that I used to make Burger King Whoppers and fries. I had a McDonald's toy that I used to make their little apple pies (out of bread that you flatten down, applesauce, and cinnamon sugar...it makes me sick just thinking about it, but I thought it was amazing when I was seven). I started making cookies with my mom when I was too short to reach the counter by myself. I started making muffins and pie crust when I was ten.

So it was a shock to me yesterday when I realized that I had never made homemade biscuits. I'm not a huge biscuit fan, but my husband absolutely loves them. Why haven't I ever tried making them? They couldn't possibly be that difficult and I figured the from-scratch ones had to be leaps and bounds better than the ones from a can or a mix. So I decided to find me a good recipe and set to work while the baby took her nap.
I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, My Kitchen Cafe. Mel seems to know how to cook anything and everything, and her recipes never disappoint me. This was no exception. It was easy to throw these biscuits together, they have a great flavor, and the texture is phenomenal: light, fluffy and flaky all at the same time. These were the perfect comfort food to go with chicken and potatoes while we watched the snowflakes swirling around our yard. I had mine with homemade jalapeno jelly (YUM) and Corey enjoyed his plain, warm out of the oven. I definitely won't be waiting another 25 years to try my hand at biscuits again. I'm thinking I'll be making these often this winter...I'm already craving them again!

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits
adapted from My Kitchen Cafe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
3 tablespoons butter, cold
1 1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup buttermilk

2 Tb. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
dash salt

1. Preheat oven to 425. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the shortening and 3 Tb. butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers, until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Mix in cheese (I just used my fingers). Stir in buttermilk until just moistened. Do not overmix.
3. Drop dough onto prepared pan, using about 1/4 cup dough per biscuit. (I used a 1/4 cup cookie scoop and it worked beautifully, you could also use a tablespoon and heap it extra large or a 1/4 cup measuring cup.)
4. Bake 12 - 14 minutes or until golden brown. Mix 2 Tb. melted butter, the dried parsley, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and dash salt in a small bowl. Brush over warm biscuits and serve immediately.
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