I like to believe that there is a land somewhere between Heaven and Earth where all things are made of peanut butter and then covered in rich dark chocolate, a land where sweet and salty mingle freely and wafts of roasted nutty goodness floats on the breeze.....what!? Oh, ok....maybe that's a little extreme? Needless to say peanut butter stacks up as one of my all time favorite foods, so when a friend of mine (who actually seems to be even more in LOVE with peanut butter than me) decided to host a peanut butter social, where ever dish includes...you guessed it, peanut butter....I was determined to make something special to bring!
I did some searching online and came across what looked to be the perfect recipe for: Salted Nut Squares I printed the recipe and got to work -- but as you know, I am not very good at following directions and have a VERY hard time sticking with the plan....so my recipe quickly morphed into something different! I used the base of the Salted Nut Squares recipe, but decided to jazz things up a bit with a peanut graham cracker crust, some added cinnamon and of course, chocolate :) What resulted, is SUPER simple to make and tastes nothing shy of amazing!! I am so excited to bring these bars to the party tonight and even more excited to see what other peanut butter creations show up!
CHEWY P-NUT SQUARES:
1 Sleeve of Graham Crackers
1 cup Roasted Peanuts
8 Tbs Butter, melted
1/3 cup Sugar
6 Tbs Butter
3 cups Creamy Peanut Butter
14 oz Sweet Condensed Milk
3 cups Miniature Marshmallows
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 cup Roasted Peanuts
1/4 cup Chocolate Chips
Preheat Oven to 375 degrees. Make your crust: Add 1 cup of peanuts to food processor and finely chop. Pour chopped peanuts into a medium sized mixing bowl. Next add graham crackers to food processor and finely chop. Add chopped graham crackers to peanuts in the bowl. Next, add melted butter and sugar. Stir to combine. Press crust tightly into the bottom of a 9"X13" glass or ceramic baking dish. Bake for 7 min until golden. Remove from oven and set aside.
While crust is baking, add peanut butter and butter to a large microwave safe mixing bowl. Place bowl in microwave and heat for 5 minutes on HALF POWER (PL 5). Stir after each minute. After 5 minutes, add marshmallows to the bowl, and stir. Return the bowl to the microwave and heat for an additional 2 minutes on HALF POWER (PL 5) stirring again after each minute. Once time is up, marshmallows should be completely melted -- stir peanut butter mixture to incorporate. Remove from microwave and immediately add sweet condensed milk and cinnamon -- combine completely. *You can also do this on the stove if you have time and/or an aversion to microwaves :)* Once everything is mixed, pour the peanut butter mixture over the graham cracker crust and spread evenly if needed.
While bars are cooling, add 1/2 cup of peanuts to the food processor and chop to desired consistency. Sprinkle over warm bars. Next, allow bars to cool even more, then add 1/4 cup of chocolate chips to the food processor and chop. Sprinkle over the chopped peanuts. *You can chop the peanuts and chocolate chips, or leave them whole -- it's up to you*
Finally, cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. Once cooled, cut into squares and enjoy!
My husband is obsessed with those terrible frozen soft pretzels you find at the grocery store. You know the ones, they're perfectly molded, a lovely yellowish color and if you cook them according to the directions on the box, they come out hard as a rock!? I can count on him to ask me to grab at least 4 boxes every time I head out to replenish our sundries....and like any man-child, I can also count on him to finish those 4 boxes in about 4 days....I don't get it. They're terrible. And what's worse, is now he is getting our 5 year old hooked on the yellow cardboard :)
This has to stop. So, I happened across this awesome recipe for Auntie Anne's Copycat Pretzels over on CookingClassy's Blog! (I'm having trouble getting her Blog to show, so I have written the Recipe Below) I have made this recipe twice since discovering it a few months ago -- it's my husband's new favorite recipe (just to give you a visual, every time I mention 'hey, I'm going to make those homemade pretzels again' he lets out a Homer-esque drool...yes, they're that good!) and those frozen pretzels are all but a faded memory at this point. BUT, and this is a BIG BUT....the original recipe left me frustrated beyond belief!! The first time, I spent hours trying to perfect my pretzel twist, twirl and flip but never even got anything resembling a pretzel to form. The second time, I figured I would go with the pretzel nugget, and spent just as long trudging through gooey pretzel slop trying to chop everything into perfect little nuggets...frustrating..... THIS TIME I thought, what on Earth is keeping me from just taking handfuls of dough, rolling them into balls and then dredging them in the pretzel bath!? Nothing! So, that's what I did -- saved myself TONS of time, and frustration, which is music to this mom's ears!! Here Is the Original Recipe:Auntie Anne's Copycat PretzelsIngredients:1 cup Milk3/4 Tbs Active Dry Yeast3 Tbs Light Brown Sugar2 Tbs Butter, melted2 1/4 Cups Flour, plus an additional 1/2 cup as needed1 tsp SaltPretzel Bath:1/6 Cup Baking Soda1 Cup Warm WaterDirections:Warm milk in a microwave safe bowl for 1 1/2 minutes on high. Pour milk and yeast into the bowl of an electric stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, whisk until combined. Let rest for 5 min.After 5 min, add brown sugar (yeast will bloom), butter, 1/2 Cup Flour and salt to milk mixture and whisk until blended.Switch attachments to the dough hook, add remaining 1 3/4 cups flour and knead on medium low speed until elastic. If needed, add an additional 1/4 cup flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray or line with silpat or parchment paper. Ready the pretzel bath by combining baking soda and warm water in a shallow bowl. Uncover the dough and punch down several times to deflate. Pinch off dough and roll into balls (aim for about a ball the size of a ping-pong ball). Once all of the dough has been rolled into balls, begin dunking each ball into the bath and transferring to the baking sheets. Bake pretzels in oven for 7-8 min. Until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool slightly. When ready to eat, drizzle melted butter over top and sprinkle with coarse salt or cinnamon sugar! If you will be serving several at once, you can also use a large ziploc to toss the pretzels in butter. These also taste terrific without the butter along side a mound of mustard or cheese sauce! I've even had them with honey and cinnamon cream cheese! Experiment with different sides!
The kids can even help with rolling the dough! My boys got a huge kick out of watching the pretzels 'go swimming' before being placed on the cookie sheet :)
Piles of Pretzel Pillows! ...On the cooling rack...
I doubled the recipe to make plenty of pretzels to store in the freezer, that way my husband still gets the experience of taking out a pretzel and plopping it in the microwave :) Hope you enjoy!!
Tiramisu....I am not a big fan of this dessert -- to me it is, well....forgettable? The handful of times I have tried it was a direct result of there being nothing else available on the dessert menu -- and by nothing else, I really mean nothing else with Chocolate :) Each time I dove into this seemingly delicious on the outside dessert, I was always sorely disappointed...it was like eating...a cloud, I suppose.....fluffy and creamy but with absolutely no flavor beyond a scant hint of alcohol....
My husband, on the other hand proclaimed a few months ago that he ABSOLUTELY LOVES tiramisu....what!? Ugh, men -- you LOVE tiramisu??? really??? In the 9 years I have known you, you have never mentioned once a word about tiramisu and for the 3 years we lived in the Italian restaurant capitol of the U.S. (New Jersey) you never once ordered tiramisu, nor reveled in it's marvelousness as you are now....But I digress, that's why I love him, he keeps me guessing :) ...So, since my husband LOOOOVES tiramisu, I thought it would be fun to create a recipe we might both enjoy!? One with the traditional soft and fluffy elements, but made richer with bountiful flavors of spiced rum, cinnamon and vanilla -- now we're talking!
I came across Betty Crocker's shortcut, americanized version of tiramisu and decided to take it a few steps further -- here is what I came up with:
SHORTCUT SPICED TIRAMISU
1 (8oz) package Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbs Spiced Rum (I used Captain Morgans)
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 package Ladyfinger cookies (I used aprox. 21 cookies)
1/2 cup Espresso or Double Brewed Coffee
2 tsp Cocoa Powder
Grab a 8X8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
With a hand mixer, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, cinnamon, vanilla in a large bowl on medium speed until creamy. Add rum and beat again to incorporate.
Rinse and dry beaters. In a medium bowl, beat heavy cream on high speed until stiff peaks form.
Fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until incorporated. Set aside.
Layer aprox 12 ladyfinger cookies on the bottom of the baking dish, breaking cookies if needed to make sure the bottom is entirely covered. Spoon 1/4 cup of the coffee over the ladyfingers.
Carefully spread half of the cream cheese mixture over the coffee soaked cookies. Next, evenly sift 1 tsp of cocoa over the cream cheese.
Repeat -- adding another layer of cookies, coffee and cream cheese. Top with remaining sifted cocoa.
Cover dish in plastic wrap and place in fridge to soften. This takes 4-6 hours, but I prefer to leave mine overnight before cutting...it gets tastier the longer it sits!
Sorry for the poor pictures, we are deep in the belly of the rainy season here and my natural light is non-existant! BUT, I did witness something truly amazing this morning, and wanted to share! This was the view from may backyard at around 7:30 this morning...as I was sipping my coffee in complete darkness, all of a sudden my ENTIRE house started to glow a bright orange! I turned to the backyard and saw this...it took my breath away...I did not adjust the color on this photo! And, really it was even more magnificent than the picture shows...I guess I will take days and days and days of rain and darkness to see something like this! :)
Have a great weekend!
The ultimate comfort food, Chicken and Rice Soup, takes on a flavorful citrus twist in this AMAZING recipe I found over on Fork, Fingers, Chopsticks! This recipe is very easy to put together, makes a ton of food and tastes even better the next day! What's not to love about that!? Not to mention it was kid tested by my picky eaters and passed with flying colors...they even ate the carrots...what!?
I found the original recipe a little difficult to read -- I like my recipes written with, dare I say....military precision :) So, the wordiness of the instructions drove me a bit bonkers as I was trying to follow them on my phone's tiny screen...I think I have mentioned before that I won't print an unworthy recipe, it must pass the family taste test before it will win a permanent place in my cookbook. :) This one, will be printed this afternoon!
So, in case you are like me, and would like a trimmed down version of this recipe's instructions, along with some changes I made to simplify the cooking process for myself, here it is:
Lemony Chicken and Rice Soup
Makes 6-8 servings
3 Chicken Breasts (cooked in crock pot with 1 cup water on low for 6 hrs, then shredded)
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion
2 Stalks Celery, sliced
3 Large Carrots, sliced
8 Cups Chicken Stock (not broth)
1 cup Arborio Rice (Risotto Rice)
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Black Pepper
3 Eggs, Whisked
2 Lemons, Juiced (about 1/2 cup)
*Place Chicken in crock pot in the morning and cook with 1 cup of water on low for 4-6 hours. Turn crock pot to warm, shred chicken in pot and set aside until ready to use*
When Ready to Eat:
- Add Olive Oil to a large stock pot and heat over medium high heat. Add Onion, Celery and Carrots to pot and sauté for about 5-6 minutes.
- Add Chicken Stock, Rice, Salt and Pepper to the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, turn off heat and remove 1 cup of cooking liquid. Set aside -- this will be used to temper your eggs.
- In a small bowl whisk together 3 eggs and lemon juice. Temper the eggs. To Temper: Pour a small amount of reserved soup liquid (about 2 Tbs at a time) into eggs while whisking constantly, fully incorporate liquid and eggs before adding more liquid. Continue until whisking and adding liquid in batches.
- Add tempered eggs to the stock pot and stir to incorporate. Add shredded chicken and any liquid from the crock pot to the soup. Stir and Serve! Season with Salt and Pepper to taste -- Enjoy!
*Store leftovers in an air tight container -- note soup will thicken considerably as it cools, which I love! But, if you want a soupier soup for your leftovers, just add water before reheating -- these pictures are of reheated 'second day soup' without any added water*
This is an amazing recipe that I hope you will try!
When my boys were babies...well, younger babies that is, I made all of their baby food from scratch. Not for any other reason than that they ate a TON of food -- I would have had to rob a bank to pay for the amount of store bought jarred baby food I would have had to buy to keep their bellies full! As you might imagine, they are not picky eaters, but what they LOVED the most was when I made butternut squash puree. So, it surprises me when I realize that I have never made my own pumpkin puree!? To think that, after all of the baby food I have made, the fact that the boys' favorite baby food came from the squash/gourd family, and the fact that I LOVE pumpkin anything...it never even crossed my mind to make fresh pumpkin puree!? I guess that's what happens when you get into grocery store auto-drive....just picking things off of the shelf and tossing them into the cart without thinking about whether or not it is healthier, less expensive and even easier to make your own from scratch.
Anyway, thanks to PInterest, my eyes were opened: 'hey, homemade pumpkin puree looks pretty darn easy, inexpensive and good!' I made my first batch last night -- along with some pumpkin bread using my fresh puree -- and I am here to tell you that I will never go back to canned pumpkin! The taste difference is pretty remarkable and I can't wait to try the fresh puree in all of my other pumpkin recipes...pumpkin pie -- oh my!
The process is VERY easy and the rewards are... well, delicious!
Here's how to make your own puree!
-PreHeat Oven to 350 degrees.
-Line a rimmed cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.
-Cut your Pie Pumpkin* in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits
-Place each half of the pumpkin face down (skin side up) on the cookie sheet
-Cover the pumpkin halves with more tin foil
-Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 60-90 min -- pumpkin is done when you can pierce the skin easily with a skewer and the flesh is soft.
-Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let cool until pumpkin can be handled safely.
-Flip the cooked pumpkin halves over and scoop out the flesh from the skin (this should be very easy, like scooping butter) and place in a large bowl.
-Mash the pumpkin flesh with a potato masher or fork.
-Use your pumpkin puree right away or store in glass canning jars and place in the freezer for later use! That's it!
*A pie pumpkin can be found at your local grocery store -- they are smaller sized pumpkins, usually around 8 inches in diameter and have more flesh and a less stringy texture than their larger Jack-o-Latern brothers. Although, you may be able to find these smaller pumpkins at your local patch too, that is where I found the one I used.
In the mean time, all of this talk of baby food and purees had made me miss these two little roly-poly baby faces...
Sniff, Sniff....it's amazing how quickly time flies!
I had to rename this recipe....I mean, after all, how many times can you hear your kids and husband repeat 'this is amazing!' before you start to blush!? I originally found this recipe for Baked Croissant Blueberry French Toast. It looked nothing short of amazing, but when I saw the nutrition info, I nearly choked! And, when I saw that the dish had to rest for 2 hours before baking, I knew that wasn't going to fly with a bunch of hungry mouths waking up in the morning....so I decided to modify it :) Now granted, anything involving croissants is bound to send the fat and calorie tickers soaring, but I knew there had to be a way to make a lesser evil :) The original recipe calls for half and half along with whole milk -- inspired by my Slim Potato Casserole, I decided to sub these two original ingredients with Vanilla Low Fat Yogurt and 2% Milk, saving me and my family A LOT of calories and fat without sacrificing on taste!
Hot out of the oven!
Here is how I adapted this recipe to make it more waistline friendly and less time consuming:
OVERNIGHT BLUSHING BLUEBERRY CROISSANT CASSEROLE
6-8 Plain Croissants Cut Lengthwise
1 1/2 Cups 2% Milk
1 1/2 Cups Vanilla Low Fat Yogurt
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
3 Tbs. Orange Juice
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White Sugar
Spray a 9 X 13 inch ceramic or glass baking dish (do not use metal!) with cooking spray. Line cut croissants in the dish, laying cut side up. Next, in a large bowl, combine remaining casserole ingredients. Pour the liquid over the top of the croissants. Cover the entire dish with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight -- allowing the liquid to be absorbed.
2 Cups Blueberries
1 Cup Chopped Pecans
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Butter
In the morning, Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove the casserole from the fridge and set aside. Next, sprinkle the casserole with blueberries and chopped pecans. Place the brown sugar and butter in a small microwave safe bowl and heat on low power for about 45 seconds, until butter is melted. Stir butter and sugar mixture to combine, then pour over top of blueberries and pecans.
Place casserole, uncovered in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 min until browned and bubbly (mine took about 23 min).
BLUEBERRY SYRUP INGREDIENTS:
1 Cup Blueberries
1/2 Cup Natural Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
While casserole is baking, heat syrup ingredients in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Continue to cook syrup, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries have popped and the syrup becomes a dark purple color. The original recipe, says to strain the syrup through a sieve, but I decided to leave it unstrained....I liked having the blueberries in it :)
Remove casserole from oven and allow to cool for 8-10 min. Now, I must put in a disclaimer here....I have never liked breakfast casseroles because of their textures....they always comes out mushy and pudding-like, which to me is a major turn off. I was a little worried to see that this casserole was no different (must just be the nature of the beast...) BUT -- and this is a big BUT -- if you are like me and hate breakfast casserole textures, I urge you to still give this one a try!! It is on the mushy side, but allowing it to cool slightly gives is a firmer texture...and once you take your first bite, you will forget about the texture -- I think because this is a sweet rather than savory casserole, the looser texture doesn't bother me!?
This is an incredibly delicious breakfast -- and although the ingredients/directions look long, it really takes no time or effort at all. The results are stunning and I know you will surprise whomever you serve it to...their complements will have you blushing! :)
These are seriously better than candy! I found this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks ago and decided to finally get around to making them this afternoon for the kids....except, that something went wrong...I'm not quite sure what, since the ingredient list is so small and I followed the directions?? I was left starring at a bowl of very dry...peanut butter dust....aside from the obvious moisture issue, this recipe was lacking a certain...pizzaz! So, I improvised -- using this peanut butter dust to create something....well, magical....yes, magical! The 'bones' of the recipe were there, I just added a few things to bind the ingredients and send the flavor soaring!
CHEWY PEANUT BUTTER + MAPLE BITES
Makes Aprox. 25 Ping Pong Ball Sized Bites
1 1/2 cups Old Fashion Oats
1 1/2 cups Powdered Milk
1/2 cup Honey
1 cup Natural Peanut Butter
2 1/2 tsp Natural Maple Syrup
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 cup Water
Measure out the oats and place in a food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped. Add ground oats and all remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a spoon, or your hands, until well incorporated.
Next, form peanut butter mixture into balls -- I made mine roughly ping pong ball sized -- and place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Once all of the balls are formed, place cookie sheet in the freezer for 10 min or until firm. Enjoy!
I cannot stress enough how delightful these treats are!! The next time you are having a sweet craving, try these instead! Very filling, perfectly sweet and salty, a wonderfully chewy texture...overall, a perfect Fall snack! Great for kids' lunches too!
This week is my daughter's 5th Birthday! I can hardly believe it.... In celebration, I decided to combine a couple of ideas I found on Pinterest to create her own special treats to share at school: Trix Pop Treats! Think Rice Crispy treat, meets Trix, meets Cake Pops :)
What I LOVE most about these cute confections, is that they are EASY, portable and virtually mess-free while at the same time being unique, bright, fun and sweet! Here's how to make them:
(makes aprox. 40 golf ball sized pops)
Wilton Lollipop/Cale Pop Stciks (I bought mine at Joann's)
Wilton Clear Treat Bags and Twist Ties (also bought at Joann's)
1 Box of Trix
Make the Trix Treats the same as you would Rice Crispy Treats....I made mine more 'marshmallowy' than normal to ensure that they would form a tight ball and keep the lollipop stick firmly in place. Once you have the trix and marshmallows mixed in your large bowl. Allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes...Spray your hands with cooking spray or butter and begin forming the trix mixture into balls -- like popcorn balls...poke a lollipop stick through the ball, place in the clear treat bag and twist tie closed! It's that simple...
You could display these in so many neat and creative ways for a birthday party -- or pack them up in a simple cake pan and tote them off to school! :) These were very fun to make and again...very easy! woo hoo! Happy 5th Birthday to my beautiful and vivacious daughter!!
As summer wanes, I'm still diligently working on this quilt -- but it has been my most challenging yet. I don't expect it to be finished for another few weeks...In the mean time, I have another great recipe to share. I have made this twice in the last three days -- it's a simple, refreshing side dish that works perfectly for those final BBQs and potlucks we are all trying to cram into our last few weekends of summer!
Greek Summer Salad
Makes A LOT (enough for a large potluck!)
2 Hot House or English Cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2 pints Grape Tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large Red Pepper, chopped
1 large Green Pepper, chopped
1/2 cup Green Onions, sliced
1/2 cup Pitted Kalamata Olives, sliced
1 1/2 - 2 cups Crumbled Feta Cheese
3 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbs Lemon Juice
3 Tbs Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large glass, plastic or ceramic bowl -- toss to incorporate. Serve immediately, or cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
I really like this recipe for potlucks -- it's a nice contrast to the usual heavy side dishes that tend to show up at these kinds of events. But it also serves as a simple side to your next lunch or dinner. Hope you enjoy!
I am pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of times my daughter has finished an entire homemade dinner (...one not made from a box, can or processed meats...) and I can probably count on one or two fingers the number of times she has made an enthusiastic cheer after tasting my homemade dinners....tonight, was one of those nights!!
Expecting the usual whining, moaning and groaning about how her food was not good or tasted funny or had a weird feel, smell, look, sound (...yes, she once claimed that my parmesan couscous was making a popping noise at her)....I put tonight's dinner in front of her and waited; running over my usual come backs and ultimatums in my head. She took her first bite...not a word....then a second....and out came these sweet words 'Wow mom! This is the best meal ever! I'm going to eat it all up!' It stopped me mid bite and nearly brought tears to my eyes! What!? I wanted to live that moment on repeat, forever....hang on to those words until she turned 18....I never thought such a carless expression of food gratitude could strike such a cord, but it did. -- And, without hesitation, coercion or bribery she ate every. last. bite. Honestly, the greatest gift...for this worn out, is summer almost over!?, mom.In fact the mood at our dinner was so different tonight, that I actually savored my food AND my family! My daughter was so overcome by excitement that she jumped out of her chair, skipped over to grab the IPod, plugged it into our radio, (something my husband and I do when he runs late at work and we eat together after the kids are long done) turned on her playlist of 'Old MacDonald's Farm, Happy Birthday to You and London Bridge Is Falling Down!' My husband and I kept giving each other 'what just happened??' glances of disbelief while at the same time grinning from ear to ear at the new mood at our table.... it was a great dinner -- one I will remember for a long time :)
So although I had no intentions of pleasing my toddler crowd with this meal, it turns out it is both adult and kid approved! Maybe it will work miracles at your table as well :)
Grilled BBQ Chicken: just grill and brush w/ your favorite sweet BBQ sauce (like honey BBQ)
Pineapple LIme Rice:
Homemade King's Hawaiian Bread: yes!! a homemade version!! it was to die for!
* quick notes*
I cut the Hawaiian bread recipe in half and used 2 eggs and 3/4 cups of sugar. I used a 20oz can of crushed pineapple and was able to get just enough juice for a half recipe of bread.
I used the crushed Pineapple for the rice (and had leftover) -- but because there was no juice left for the rice, I just used that much extra water and added about 1 Tbs of sugar....oh and I omitted anything green, that would have been an immediate turn off for my daughter :)
Would love to hear if this makes waves at your next dinner!? :)