Saturday, May 31, 2008

A twist on the taco!

We are big fans of tex-mex, authentic mexican, and everything in-between. Last week we revisited a recipe I made last year, before the blog. The recipe is for Beef Carnitas and is from Cooking Light. We call it barbacoa, but only because carnitas to us screams pork. It's great, perfect for adding your own spice preferences and the end product turns out nice and tender, perfect for a taco.

We add homemade tomato salsa and serve cilantro lime rice on the side. Yum!

Beef Carnitas (adapted from Cooking Light)

(my changes in italics)

1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup less-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
large unpeeled orange wedge
1 T Cumin ( I added these spices)
1 t cayenne pepper

1/2 t chipotle chili powder


Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add beef; sauté 5 minutes or until beef is browned on all sides. Stir in broth, sugar, salt, and pepper; nestle orange section into beef mixture. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender. Remove and discard orange. Continue simmering, uncovered, 8 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring frequently.


4 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 180(40% from fat); FAT 8g (sat 3g,mono 3.4g,poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 22.2g; CHOLESTEROL 71mg; CALCIUM 16mg; SODIUM 320mg; FIBER 0.4g; IRON 2.5mg; CARBOHYDRATE 3.5g

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TWD: Honey Pecan Sticky Buns!

This week for Tuesdays with Dorie, Madam Chow of Madam Chow’s Kitchen chose Honey Pecan Sticky Buns for our recipe of the week. These rich and delicious rolls are made from brioche dough that is made ahead first and then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, rolled and then cut. The resulting roll is rich, buttery and reminiscent of a French pastry.

The dough is quite time consuming but the result is a very tender, buttery loaf that I think tastes quite similarly to a croissant. My husband loved them, probably due to the large amounts of butter in both recipes! The taste is tender and almost melts in your mouth. I actually defied Dorie and split the recips in half. I don't think it made a difference in the overall end product, but getting the dough to release from the stand mixer was a little difficult. So half of my half became sweet rolls and the other a mini loaf of brioche. Just enough to satisfy!

These were quite good and rich, but I didn't think they were amazing. That is probably due to the fact that I don't really care for butter. Gasp! Probably because I grew up on margarine! Gasp! Now as an adult I prefer butter to margarine, but it's not a love relationship! If company were coming I would think about it, that is if I could find a quicker brioche recipe.

Next week with TWD Di’s Kitchen Notebook has chosen…French Chocolate Brownies on pages 92-93.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
Makes 15 buns

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)

For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissovle the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out asbest you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinle over the pecans.

To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glae recipe accordingly).

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns ahve doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.

The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

What You'll Need for the Golden Brioche Dough (this recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it!):

2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

What You'll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)
The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Baking up a storm!

Happy Memorial Day~

Thanks Grandpa for fighting in World War II and to all the other soldiers/veterans who have served our country!

During the past week there has been some action in the kitchen at our house! With Alex working more on the house and more lunches to be packed, cookies have become a favorite for him. Not much of a sweet tooth, the work he has been doing has been changing that. Watch out Cookie Monster. Last week he chose Magic Blondies for his dessert! These were full of chunks: chocolate, coconut, walnuts, and dried cherries. They were delicious out of the oven, but as the days wore on, they became a little dry. If made again, I think I would make them as cookie bars!

Well, I can't just lay all of this on him, we have had quite a few guests out to our house. A couple of weeks ago, some friends from our small group came out to help Alex put our dock and boat lift in. Cookies were our dessert, the Dark Chocolate Cherry cookies...yum! These are a dark chocolate cookies chock full of tart dried cherries and rich bittersweet chunks. They were good, but I thought they could have been better.

This week we had his parents over for dinner and his mother requested cookies. Well here favoite ice cream is Caramel Cashew, so what better cookie to make than the Caramel Cashew Cookie. (photo to come) These were so delicious. Toothsome, chewy and full of flavor. A winner for everyone!

I am a little sick of cookies, but we shall see what this short week holds!

Dark Chocolate Cookies with Sour Cherries
Source: Martha Stewart

1 ¾ cups flour
1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cup sugar
¾ firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 1 cup of Ghirardelli bittersweet chips)
1 ½ cups dried sour cherries, firmly packed (9 ounces) (I used 1 cup of peanut butter chips)

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well-combined. Do not overbeat. Fold in the chocolate and cherries with a wooden spoon.

Form balls of dough, each about 1/4 cup; place balls on baking sheet and bake until puffed and cracked, 9-11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

* Dough can be frozen up to one month ahead. Thaw completely before baking. __________________

Find Magic Blondie Recipe in Martha Stewart's Cookies-The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share
Cashew-Caramel Cookies

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups roasted, salted cashews
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
1 stick unsalted butter, softened - 8 tablespoons
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
24 cubes soft caramel candy
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, sift flour and salt together. Coarsely chop 1 cup cashews and set aside. Process remaining 1 1/2 cups cashews in a food processor until finely chopped. Gradually pour oil into the feed tube. Process until mixture is creamy, about 2 minutes.

Put cashew mixture, butter, and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; gradually add flour mixture. Mix in reserved chopped cashews.

Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place on parchment covered baking sheets about 2" apart. Bake 6 minutes; gently flatten with a 1 cup measuring cup. I tried using a spatula but it was too big - a metal cup worked much better. If they begin to stick when you are pressing down, make sure to wipe the bottom before moving to the next cookie. Bake until bottoms are just golden, 6 to 7 minutes more. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

Melt caramels with cream in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring. Let cool. Using a spoon, drizzle caramel over cookies; let set. The caramel will not get hard so you can't stack these. Store them in single layers for the best result.

Makes 36 cookies

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Seoul-ful Chicken and Minted Cucumbers

This dish was delicious! I found this recipe in my Cooking Light magazine and I knew that I would try it. It included flavors we love and it looked like it would come together quickly.

About a month ago we bought an investment property, a house to be exact. Alex being a remodeler was excited to get his hands dirty and start renovating. It is so much fun to watch it all come together and to see him so happy. Because of this we have had to make some of our meals more portable. You see, the new house and our house are about 45 minutes apart in traffic and I work five minutes from the new house. With a mini charcoal grill and a microwave, there are only so many hamburgers and leftovers to be made.

That's where this delicious recipe comes in. I was able to marinate the meat overnight, make the cucumbers and the rice the night before, and transport all of this the next day to the fridge at the new house for dinner. The chicken took about 15 minutes on the grill. Pop the rice in the microwave and spoon on the cucumbers, and voila, there's dinner!

This dish was tasty, quick and easy. My changes are in blue!

Seoul-Ful Chicken and Minted Cucumbers (adapted from Cooking Light)


1 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups) used regular
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced shallots omitted, used minced garlic instead
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint omitted
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
added salted peanuts

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds) used skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Cooking spray
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
4 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted


1. To prepare cucumbers, place cucumber slices in a colander; sprinkle with salt, tossing well. Drain 1 hour. Place cucumber slices on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Combine cucumber, shallots, and next 6 ingredients (through chile) in a large bowl; toss gently. Cover and set aside.

2. To prepare chicken, place each chicken thigh between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Combine soy sauce and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to soy sauce mixture in bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place 4 thighs in pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Repeat procedure with remaining 4 thighs. Place 2 thighs and 1/2 cup cucumbers on each of 4 plates; sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon green onions and 1 teaspoon sesame seeds.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 262(31% from fat); FAT 8.9g (sat 1.9g,mono 3g,poly 2.8g); PROTEIN 29.9g; CHOLESTEROL 115mg; CALCIUM 40mg; SODIUM 502mg; FIBER 1.5g; IRON 2.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 14.9g

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TWD: Going back, Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

These are so yummy! I joined TWD after they had chosen these and knew I would have to make them some time soon. I am a biscuit lover, in fact the first Dorie recipe that I tried were her biscuits. I love her word imagery, using your fingers to meld the butter into the dry ingredients. This type of cooking takes me back...makes me excited...I am creating something with my own hands that will taste so delicious. It's right up there with making your own bread by scratch, no mixer involved:)

This week Tara from Smells Like Home chose madeleines. Because I do not have a madeleine pan, I decided that this was the week to make the biscuits. While Alex was away meeting with the guys, I whipped these up in no time. The only substitutions I made were to use walnuts instead of pecans, only because I had them on hand and I added a dash of cinnamon.

Try them with jam or jelly, butter or cream cheese, these are seriously good and just sweet enough.

Next week: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns chosen by Madam Chow of Madam Chow’s Kitchen
Last week: Florida Pie chosen by Dianne of Dianne’s Dishes

This week: Madeleines or an old recipe

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
(Source: Dorie Greenspan “Baking: From My Home to Yours” p.25)

(Makes about 12 biscuits)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 cup cold sour cream
1/4 cold whole milk
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Get out a sharp 2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a bow. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between– and that’s just right.

Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Grab a fork and gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you’ve got a nice soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick gentle kneading– 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour, pat the dough out with your hands or toll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t completely even– a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Use the biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can. Try to cut the biscuits close to one another so you get the most you can out of the first round. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, working with them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet. (The biscuits ca be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting– just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)

Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The perfect spring dinner!

Last week, Alex and I had one of the easiest and yet tastiest meals for dinner. It started out as a brainstorm of fajitas during the day, but they just sounded too dull and ordinary. So once I arrived home from work I asked Alex to throw the chicken on the grill and came up with some tasty salsa to top the fajita tacos.

This meal comes together in no time, perfect for a spur of the moment dinner. Since we have been carpooling lately, dinners need to be relatively quick. So the night before we ate I threw some chicken in the refrigerator with some mesquite marinade. The same Lawry's marinade I used earlier in the week. Usually I would put some things together to make a marinade but when life is busy, nothing beats a bottle to save time. After 24 hours in the marinade the chicken comes out so moist and delicious.

While the chicken was being grilled I tossed some corn on the cob in some water to cook and sauteed some yellow bell peppers and red onions in some EVOO. While they were cooking on the stove, it was time to make the salsa. Tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, and jalapeno...yum!
Perfect Spring Salsa

1/2 avocado, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 red onion diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1/4 C cilantro, minced
salt and pepper
lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, salt/pepper/lime juice to taste. Serve over chicken with lettuce, in a tortilla. yum. or enjoy with chips:)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mesquite Chicken with Roasted Corn Salsa

Last week here in Minnesota, the weather was gorgeous and great for grilling. Anxious to fire up the grill, I set out chicken to thaw in the morning and let my mind wander throughout the day over what to make.

The week before I made Cook's Illustrated's Black Bean Quesadillas, which were delicious and combined black beans with a roasted corn mixture. The flavors were complex and tasted so good that I wanted to try and replicate it as a salsa to accompany the chicken. Because our meal had to be relatively quick I relied upon Lawry's Mesquite Marinade for the chicken. I left that to sit as I prepared the salsa and the Cumin Spiced fries with Chipotle ketchup! Dinner was ready in 30 minutes and tasted so delicious!

Mesquite Chicken and Roasted Corn Salsa

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Lawry's Mesquite Marinade

1/2 C frozen corn
1 tomato minced
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 red bell pepper minced
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper
2 T minced cilantro

1. Place chicken in a large ziplock bag and pour half the bottle of marinade over. Marinate for 20 minutes, then place on a preheated grill and cook for 10 minutes, turning once.
2. While chicken is marinating, set a medium skillet on the stove and add frozen corn. Allow corn to sizzle and pop until it begins to char. Remove corn from skillet.
3. Pour olive oil in skillet and add onion and red pepper. Saute until softened and charred. Add corn back into skillet, season with salt and pepper, and mix in chopped tomato and cilantro. Stir for one minute, allowing flavors to incorporate and then remove from heat and plate alongside of the cooked chicken.
Cumin Spiced Fries with Chipotle Ketchup


3 Large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into slices
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 T cumin
1/2 t ancho chile powder

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place potatoes and following ingredients into a large ziplock bag. Shake to thoroughly coat. Place on large cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes.

Chipotle Ketchup

1/2 C ketchup
1 T minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

1. Mix together and serve with fries.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The best chocolate chip cookies!

This past weekend we put our house on the market and had our first open house. So what else to make, but cookies so the house smells so wonderfully delicious you just want to buy it:) Well there were not any buyers, some lookers, but the cookies did thir job and the house smelled delicious. So much so that Alex got a bellyache from the four he ate!

These are so delicious! When Alex and I were at Disney World I bought a cookie and it was really yummy. When we returned home, I happened upon a copycat recipe of these same cookies on the cookiemadness website. She makes some of the greatest cookies and I love reading about all the different kinds she tries. But these are a winner in my book because they are thick, chewy and chock full of chips. My other favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is the Cooks Illustrated Chewy Chocolate Chip, but these are right up there in the cookie all of fame!

I doubled the recipe and came out with 16.

Here is the recipe thanks to Anna at Cookie Madness:

Super Small Batch Extra Large Chunk Cookies

4 tablespoons very hot melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons beaten egg (break egg, mix it with fork, measure)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (reduce slightly if using salted butter
3/4 cup flour, spooned and swept
1 teaspoon water (optional)
2-3 tablespoons white chips
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 ½ sandwich cookies, broken into chunks (can use nuts instead)
Broken up milk chocolate bar, milk chocolate chips, M&M’s, candies of choice

In a bowl, stir together hot butter, powdered sugar and brown sugar until smooth. If still very hot, let cool for about a minute, then stir in egg. Beat with a spoon until egg is fully mixed then stir in vanilla, baking soda and salt. Add flour and stir just until mixed. If dough seems too dry (falling apart), add the water. Stir in white chips, chocolate chips and broken cookies. Shape dough into a fat log of about 5 inches log. Chill for 1 hour. Carefully cut log into 4 equal pieces (each should weigh 3 ½ oz). If chunks of cookies and chips fall out, just stick them back onto the cut pieces.

Place cut pieces, spaced about 4 inches away from each other, 4 to a sheet, on an ungreased (I use insulated) cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Remove from oven and arrange a few more semi-sweet chunks plus some milk chocolate chunks on top – the candy will melt and adhere to the cookie. Cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Let the cookies sit around for a while to set. Once set, you can wrap them up in plastic wrap and give them away.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tasty Dinner, Chicken Thighs Braised in White Wine

A couple of weeks ago I made this recipe as a quick dinner and as a way to use up some chicken thighs we had in the freezer. We love recipes that incorporate lemon and chicken. Yum! This recipe was great for a weeknight and when paired with parmesan orzo and some green beans it's perfect. I cut the recipe in half and there was just enough for us to eat that night and have leftovers for Alex to have the next day.

One thing I enjoyed about the dish was that there was plenty of sauce to drizzle over the top and soak into the parmesan orzo. Because we were out of white wine, I used chicken broth with a little white wine vinegar. I am looking forward to the day we have white wine on had so I can try this again!

Chicken Thighs Braised in White Wine

Source: Everyday Food, Serves 4

8 bone-in skinless chicken thighs (about 2 3/4 pounds) (I used boneless)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 lemon, cut into 8 thin slices, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into pieces
Cooked rice, for serving (optional)

1. In a 12-inch skillet with a tight-fitting lid, arrange thighs, bone side up; season with salt and pepper. Add garlic, wine, and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook, 30 minutes. (the meat cooked a little quicker, due to no bone)

2. Turn chicken over. Place a lemon slice on each piece; cover and continue simmering until tender, about 15 minutes. Leaving garlic and liquid in skillet, transfer chicken and lemon slices to a platter. Cover tightly with foil to keep warm.

3. Bring liquid in skillet to a boil; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Add butter, parsley, and lemon juice; stir until butter has softened and sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken with sauce and, if desired, rice.

Creamy Parmesan Orzo

(adapted from Cooking Light)


1 tablespoon butter

1 cup orzo
1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (I used dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted (I omit)


Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add orzo, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and orzo is done (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in cheese, basil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

TWD: Peanut Butter Torte!

This week at our house has been super busy. A couple of weeks ago we bought a new house as an investment property that will go back on the market in August. My husband is a remodeler, so it is right up his alley. But between our commitments and obligations, finding time to bake or cook for that matter, has been few and far between. But when I can, I embrace it!

This weekend our church had it's women's conference and I was in charge of feeding the 400! It went so well and it was so neat to serve with such amazing women. Well that being said not much time was left for the torte. But last night after finalizing the order on cabinets around 9pm I hit the grocery for the heavy cream and the torte making began!

My husband who had been working all day and night for the past week was looking at me like I was crazy, but like I said give me an opportunity to cook or bake when things are crazy and I will take it. For me, it's like going to the spa. There is something calming in the whir of the KitchenAid.

It came together so beautifully, no problems, and I quartered the recipe, which still produced plenty of filling! The crust was a little crumbly when I tried plating the first piece this morning but all in all it was again a great, relatively easy recipe with seemingly fabulous results. I did have one little taste and for me it's a little too rich and I love peanut butter. So I don't know if I would make it again. I actually prefer my peanut butter torte with the ice cream better:

My picture does not give this very rich dessert the honor it deserves, so go over to the Tuesdays with Dorie website to see all of the other gorgeous tortes!

Peanut Butter Torte
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

1 ¼ cups finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ cups mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I used salted butter)
Small pinch of salt (I omitted this)
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ cups salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural; I use Skippy) (I used creamy/smooth)
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch Springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Toss ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan (they should go up about 2 inches on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Scrape the mousse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

To Finish The Torte:
Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan.

Bring the remaining ½ cup cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.

Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining ½ cup peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.

When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the Springform pan; it’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer, and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel damped with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: 6-8 Servings