Sunday, February 20, 2011

Clean-out-the-Pantry Bars

I don't know what to call these things.  The recipe from the cookbook I used as my guide (Hershey's Classic Recipes) calls them Peanut Butter Chip Triangles.  But, I didn't use peanut butter chips in my version.  Actually, I've made these bars several times (they're sort of an I-want-something-sweet-and-I-want-it-quick-and-easy sort of treat) and I've never used peanut butter chips.  That's the beauty of these things.  Throw in any sort combination of goodies and they are fantastic.  I used chocolate chips, mini M&Ms, and chopped peanuts this time.  I think that chocolate chips and coconut would be fantastic.  Or white chocolate chips and chopped, dried cherries.  Or cranberries, if that's what you have.  Maybe throw some chopped walnuts into that last mix.  Mmmmmm.  Or maybe just chocolate chips if that's all that is available.  Butterscotch chips would be good, too.  Maybe a combination of butterscotch, white chocolate, and semi-sweet chips. 

You get the idea.  So long as you always keep a can of sweetend condensed milk around, you are good to go with whatever else happens to be in your pantry. 

Which is why, after much debate, I just decided to call them "Clean-out-the-Pantry Bars".  It's the most descriptive thing I can think of. (Or, as I should say to be grammatically correct: "It's the most descriptive thing of which I can think."  But, in all honesty, that just sounds dumb.)

Clean-out-the-Pantry Bars

1-1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. packed light brown sugar
1/2 C. (1 stick) cold butter (you can substitute margarine...although I never do.  I like butter better.)
10 oz. candy chips of your choice, divided (I substuted with 1/2 C chocolate chips and a half a bag of mini M&Ms)
1 (14 oz) can sweetend condensed milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 C. chopped nuts (I used peanuts)

Preheat oven to 350.  Stir together flour and brown sugar.  Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add 1/2 C. chips.  Press mixture onto bottom of ungreased 9x13x2 in. pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Combine milk, egg, and vanilla.  Stir in remaining chips and nuts. Spread evenly over baked crust. (Note: if you use something like M&Ms, its best to sprinkle them over the pan right before baking, rather than stiring them into the liquid mixture.  This way, the colors from candy shells won't bleed into the batter.)

Bake 25 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Cool completely.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Homemade Waffles

The past week my family has been innundated with sickness.  As it slowly made its way through every member of the family, it left very little time for cooking.  Any and all plans for a Valentine's Day feast (romantic or family-friendly) went straight out the window, because, let's face it - sick just isn't sexy. We are just now getting back into the swing of things and I hope be making some new things to share this weekend.

The day before the illness struck, however, I made waffles for dinner.  Growing up, I never ate waffles.  If the rest of my family were eating them, I would get out the skillet and turn mine into pancakes.  It's true that to this day, I would probably prefer pancakes to waffles...but I'm not so much of a breakfast-food snob anymore.  My husband loves waffles, and I love my husband.  'Nuff said.

The night we had these for dinner, my sister came over to play with my girls.  She was very puzzled as to why on earth I would be taking pictures of waffles.  It is, of course, a very strange thing to do. 

These waffles are hearty, yet still light and airy.  I add enhancements to my flour to bump up the nutrients in things like waffles.  It only makes it better, I promise.  I'll get you some cookies or sugary sweets, and maybe a casserole or two later this weekend, but for waffles.

Homemade Waffles*
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home Cookbook
*Note - this makes a lot of waffles.  I usually freeze about half of them and then reheat in the toaster as needed - FAR better than Eggos.

3 C. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 C. old-fashioned oats (quick oats will substitute just fine, though)
4 eggs, separated
2 C. + 2 T. buttermilk (or, put slightly more than 2 T. of vinegar or lemon juice in a 2 C. measuring 
                                    cup, fill the rest with milk and let sit for about 5 - 10 minutes)
1/2 C. applesauce
1 t. vanilla extract
1 recipe maple syrup (see below)

Combine four, baking powder and salt.  Separately, combine egg yolks, milk, vanilla and applesauce.  Stir wet ingredients into the dry just until moistened.  The batter will be lumpy.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gently fold into batter.  Bake in waffle iron according to manufacturers directions.  I usually spray the iron with cooking spray before baking - just to be safe.

Top waffles with homemade syrup:
1 C. water
1 C. white sugar
1 C. brown sugar
1 t. maple flavoring

In a small saucepan, heat first three ingredients to boiling - stirring often.  Remove from heat and add the maple flavoring.  Stir well. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Easy Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas

If you've spent any time at all in New Mexico, I'm sure you have developed a fondness for the green chili.  New Mexicans use this vegetable for the primary condiment and garnish for just about every dish imaginable.   I don't have scientific polling data to back this...but I'm pretty sure the most commonly ordered pizza topping combo is pepperoni and green chili.  Go to any burger place - even the major nation-wide chains - and you can order a green chili cheeseburger (always a crowd-pleaser).  Another fantastic option would be green chili cheese fries.  Or how about some green chili and pork stew?  Or just getting back to basics with some green chili pinto beans?

Mmmmmm.  All this talk is making me long for my youth (I spent years 6 through 18 living - and of course eating - there).

Maybe I don't really long for my youth (who wants to relive middle school? Not this girl!), but my mouth is watering for green chili goodness.

Let's try these fantastic layered enchiladas.  I originally go the recipe from an old Country Woman magazine years ago.  This was the winning recipe one year (no idea which year...but it was a while ago) at the Hatch Green Chili Festival.  I've revamped it a bit, though, to make it a bit practical for a weeknight supper - meaning I cut out a few time consuming steps and replaced that with some convenience items.

Next time I make this I think I will try replacing the evaporated milk with pureed cauliflower.  I've done that in a couple other recipes and it has only made them better (crazy, I know!).  When I try it, I'll let you know how it goes.  Or, you try it and get back to me.

Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 C. sour cream
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 t. black pepper
dash salt
1 t. cumin
1 t. cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
1/2 C. chopped onion (or 1/4 C. dried minced onion)
2 cans chopped green chilies
3/4 lb. chicken (cooked and shredded or cubed)*
10 tostada shells
2-1/2 C. shredded cheese (cheddar, colby-jack, etc)

In a mixing bowl, mix soup, milk, sour cream, onion, chilies, onion, chicken and spices. 

Place 2 tostada shells in a greased 2 quart baking dish.  Spread with 3/4 C. chicken mixture, layer with 1/2 C. cheese.  Repeat layers four times.

Cover and bake at 400, 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer, or until bubbly.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

I need to branch out.  My kitchen is getting a little boring.  Don't get me is still delicious, but I seem to have a gone a little chocolate-and-peanut-butter crazy.

I made these cookies when we had a big snow storm last week and we had a day off school.  These cookies are fantastic...but you need a snow day to make them.  It's a long process.  Not so much the mixing of the cookies, or any of the particular techniques or processess (it's a dump-and-stir kind of recipe)...but the baking takes a long time.  That's probably what makes them so good, though.

Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 5 dozen

2 C. flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 C. brown sugar
1-1/4 C. white sugar
1 C. butter (softened)
3 eggs
1 C. peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, with a mixer blend the sugars and then add the butter and beat until light and fluffy.  Then add the eggs, peanut butter, and vanilla.  Mix at medium speed until well blended.

Add flour mixture and mix at low speed until just mixed.

If desired, fold in extras.  I added about a half cup each of plain M&Ms, Reeces Pieces, and chocolate chips.

Drop by the tablespoonful on to a parchment covered cookie sheet*.  Bake for 18 - 22 minutes.

For longer shelf-life, store in an air-tight container with a piece of bread.

*I skipped the parchment paper on mine...but I should have included it.  They were a bit greasy.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cheap Wine

When I was in college I drank bad beer.  I was cheap.  So cheap, in fact, that I rarely paid for my own beer.  Instead I relied on my charm and good looks.  Unfortunately, I only possessed enough charm and good looks to get me bad beer.  But, if you drank the first two quickly...then you hardly noticed that the beer was bad. 

I'm not promoting binge drinking.  I want that to be clear.  When I was in college, I was dumb.  I mean...I was smart...but when it came to choice of beverage consumption...there were times when I was dumb. Occasionally, when it came to quantity of beverages consumed...I was dumb.  But it was college.  It was ten years ago.  I've forgiven myself.  Get off my back.

These days all adult beverages are carefully consumed in responsible moderation.  When I drink, I drink good beer.  I drink good wine.  My husband says that he can tell how much he will like a wine by the degree to which it stains my teeth red.  In all honesty, I'm not sure what to make of that comment.

Good wine, however, is often expensive.  And with two young daughters in daycare I live on a bit of a budget.  I've recently stumbled upon a fairly decent wine with a fairly decent price tag. 

This wine usually goes on sale around Valentine's Day.  It's an interesting red wine.  Sweeter than most, not quite as robust.  Still fairly smooth.  It's almost a cross between a white and red.  If you are new to the wine scene and just beginning to dabble in reds...this would be a good one to start with. 

Oh, lets be of the biggest selling points of the wine is the lid.

(My dad would always say growing up: "You can tell how good a wine will be by how many times you have to turn the cap to unscrew it." Ha. ha. ha.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

I have a secret crush.  Please don't tell my husband.  Actually, I'm sure that he suspects.  And, actually, I'm pretty sure he secretly has the same crush.

I'm head-over-heels for chocolate.

And when it's mixed with peanut butter...I lose all restraint.

One of my (like, twenty or so) New Year's Resolutions was to learn to consume sugar in moderation.  When said sugar is mixed with chocolate and peanut butter...well, let's just say that that resolution didn't stand a chance.  It was dead in the water.  That's a saying, right?

These whoopie pies are lip-smacking good.  Eat-two-or-three-of-them good.  They are really mini-whoopie pies, so go ahead and have two. Or three.  You get more frosting that way, but less guilt.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
for the cookies (makes 4 dozen mini-sandwiches):
3 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature *
2 C. sugar
2 large eggs
2 C. buttermilk, room temperature**
2 t. vanilla

* I used salted butter.  It was all I had.  They tasted just fine.
** I didn't have buttermilk, so I put 1 1/2 T. vinegar in a 2 C. measuring cup and filled it the rest of the way with milk.

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Sift together flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder and then set aside.
3) Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl (a stand mixer works great, a hand mixer works, too) until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and beat until combined.
4) Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
5) Using a cookie scoop, put batter onto lined (parchment or Silpat) cookie sheet.  Bake 10 mins (or until toothpick comes out clean).
6) cool completely on a rack

for the filling*:
3/4 C. butter, softened
1 1/2 C. peanut butter
4 1/2 C. powdered sugar
chopped peanuts

1) mix together, add milk to medium icing texture
2) put about 2 T. of icing on half of the cookies, top with other half
3) roll in chopped peanuts to garnish (and add a little bit of salty crunch)

*This filling doubles as a delicious icing for cupcakes, cakes, brownies, or just straight out of the bowl.