Saturday, June 25, 2011

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Decadence

I just pulled a pan of incredibly rich Double Delicious Cookie Bars out of the oven.  They are really for a family graduation party tomorrow, but Nick and I couldn't resist doing a taste test to see how they came out.  All I can say is YUM.  Double delicious is an accurate term for these devilish delights.  I don't know how the rest of my family will feel about them tomorrow, but they get an enthusiastic thumbs up from the two of us.

I got the recipe from the Hershey website, but I did make a few slight changes.  First, I used chocolate chunks in place of the chips because that was all I had.  I don't think this swap altered the flavor of the cookies much, if at all.  Second, I used a bag of all-natural peanut butter chips I picked up at Whole Foods because I like them better.  I find them to have a richer peanut butter flavor and a superior creamy texture compared to some others I've tried in the past.  This is just a preference and you could use whatever brand you prefer. Last, I skipped the chocolate drizzle simply because I ran out of chocolate.  It's a crime I know, but don't worry it's at the top of next week's grocery list.

Celebration (Irish Cream) Brownies

I was going over for a girl's-night-in at my best friend's house Friday night because she was having a crazy week and wanted to hang out and unwind. Most likely, this would also involve wine drinking.  So I was thinking, what makes a crazy week better other than some girl-time and a glass of wine? Chocolate of course.  So I mixed up a batch of Irish Cream Brownies.  In the meantime, she got some really great news and the crappy-week brownies morphed into celebration brownies.  They were quite yummy and I definitely recommend.  The recipe is from Cooking Light Magazine and I almost  followed the recipe exactly.  The only substitution I made was to use 2 eggs in place of the 1/2 cup egg substitute.  You will never find a carton of fake egg in my fridge.  I'll take the real thing, thank you very much.  Cheers!

Leftover Magic - Mini Jam Tarts

All too often, partially used ingredients linger in the fridge or pantry until I force myself to figure out something to do with them.  The latest project I gave myself was to come up with a way to transform the dribs and drabs of leftover jam cluttering our fridge into something delicious.  Since there was not enough left of any one flavor to make any sort of full recipe, I had to do a little searching.  If I were a Jam-on-Toast kind of girl this never would have been an issue, but that type of breakfast just doesn't do it for me.  Mini Jam Tarts, I've discovered, are more my style.  This recipe comes from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics. I didn't bother with the egg wash or any type of decorative cutouts.  I just made simple, round tarts using my silicone mini muffin pans and making them that size yielded two dozen, giving me plenty of opportunity to mix and match jam flavors.  I started with the end of a jar of black raspberry jam, then moved onto the end of a jar of peach jam, and finished off with some strawberry jam.  The possibilities are endless, especially when your grandfather-in-law makes (and shares) so many delicious flavors of homemade jam :)

Weeknight Dinner - Tortellini with Peas & Prosciutto

As much as I love to cook, it rarely happens of a work night.  By the time we get home, Nick and I are usually starving and end up pulling together something easy that will be ready quick and won't make a lot of dirty dishes. This usually means we eat a lot of leftovers, sandwiches, salads (for me), and frozen pizzas or hotdogs (for Nick) for dinner.  One night last week, we got home as usual, but I had a burst of motivation and decided I was going to cook real food on a work night for once.  My recipe of choice was Tortellini with Peas and Prociutto from the new cookbook Food Network Magazine Great Easy Meals: 250 Fun & Fast Recipes.

I doctored up the recipe a bit because I was missing a few ingredients, but the end result was still quite good.  First, I used cheese tortellini instead of meat tortellini.  Second, in place of the tomato paste, pasta cooking water, and heavy cream, I substituted a generous amount of jarred marinara sauce. Third, instead of sprinkling the parmesan cheese on as a garnish, I added some extra and stirred it into the sauce to make it a little richer since I had skipped the heavy cream.  Last, I left out the fresh parsley because I didn't have any.  The end result was a delicious weeknight dinner that we both liked and that was on the table in less than a half hour.  In my book, that is nothing short of a miracle.  Now, if only something could be done about those dirty dishes...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Maple Roasted Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potatoes

Now, this is definitely not a new recipe for me, but it is a easy, yummy one that I wanted to share.  I've been making this recipe for a few years now and it continues to be a regular favorite.  It comes together in a flash.  All you need to do is chop up the veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, and onion), toss them into a baking dish with some maple syrup, salt, & pepper, top with chicken thighs and its ready to go in the oven.  Forty minutes later (with just a quick flip half-way through), and I've cleaned up the small handful of dishes I've used, my feet are up, maybe I'm even sipping some wine, and dinner is on the table.

This is what I call an "all-in-one" recipe - protein, veggies, & starch all together in one dish.  I always use a 13x9 baking dish and increase the amount of veggies, because they are so delicious and I just can't get enough of them.  If you are anything like me and hate dealing with raw chicken, this is the perfect dish for you.  The thighs go from package to pan to oven, no cutting necessary.  That, in my opinion, is culinary magic.

Maple-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potatoes from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook.

Blueberry Goat Cheese Muffins

I really love trying new muffin recipes and different flavor combinations.  I had an open package of goat cheese and some frozen blueberries in my freezer from last summer, so I decided to give this one a try.  This recipe might sound a little weird, but it's really very delicious.  It's sweet with a slight touch of savory; tender on the inside, but with a perfect golden, crusty exterior.  My only recommendation would be to not overdo it on the blueberries.  I always tend to add extra since I love them so much, but in this case that wasn't the best idea.  The excess fruit sank to the bottom and made the muffins difficult to remove from the pan.  They still tasted really good, but if you want muffins that don't fall apart, I wouldn't go over the 1 cup amount.  To add a bit more nutrition without sacrificing flavor, I also substituted white-whole-wheat flour in place of the all-purpose flour.

This is another great recipe from Camilla Saulsbury's 750 Best Muffin Recipes,a cookbook I can't recommend enough.  You can also find the recipe on her blog Enlightened Cooking.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Train Food, Part II - Black Raspberry Bars

So, I’m back from Ocean City. Finally. Trust me, I love going to the beach and I really didn’t want to leave, but the train was not my friend this time around. The whole trip home was a headache, but I did get an extra day off work out of the deal, so things could have been worse. And before we know it, we will be back down at the shore (36 days, not that I’m counting or anything).

For my trip home, my suitcase was a bit lighter since I no longer had the tin of La Verne's Black Raspberry Bars that I brought with me. What, you never packed dessert in your suitcase? Ok, I’m a little strange, I admit. Regardless, the bars were very yummy. I made them with Nick’s Grandpa’s homemade Black Raspberry Jam which made them even better. This is another recipe that would probably be good with other flavors of jam if you don’t have Black Raspberry. I found this recipe in the cookbook One Big Table by Molly O’Neill. (The full recipe can be found on the book’s Amazon product page, just scroll down to find it.) I can't speak for the rest of the book because this is the first recipe I made from it, but this one was a winner for sure.