Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

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There are only a few recipe sources that I always trust. 1) My mom, 2) Cook’s Illustrated, and finally Ina Garten.

When I was first learning to really cook, I was cooking dinners with friends once a week, and our meals typically featured Ina’s recipes. And they never turned out bad. As the years went on, I started cooking and realized that her recipes have a higher success rate than just the typical recipe you see.

I have enjoyed watching her new shows recently and am planning to check out her new cookbook as soon as I can get it from the library (#poorgradstudent). This treat can hold me over until then with her transformation of the classic PBJ to a dessert. PBJ has been my go to lunch at work for the past few months- would I loose any professional standing at work by eating these bars for lunch instead?

 

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY BARS
Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces peanut butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4-1 cup jelly
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with aluminum foil and grease it.

Cream together butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Beat in egg, vanilla, and peanut butter until just combined.  Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder until just combined.

Press approximately 2/3 of the peanut butter dough in the bottom of the baking dish.  Spread jelly evenly over top.  Dollop the remaining peanut butter dough on top.  Sprinkle peanuts on top.  Bake for 25-32 minutes, until done.  Cool completely and cut into bars.

Fig and Walnut Empanadas

2-17 Fig and Walnut Empanadas

Food cravings- I get them all the time. Sometimes I crave a salad, or some veggies, and that is great- my body thirsts for nutrition when I deprive it too long. And sometimes I just need some chocolate, red meat, or salty potato chips. Fine too, a little snacking and indulgence never hurt anyone. But the worst cravings are when I crave food I ate in another city. I’m looking at you, beaver tails

Well, practically every time I head home to Houston, I stop at this amazing empanada place. In fact, last trip, it was the first stop in town. I was grouchy and “witchy” after a long drive home, but all that grumpiness melted away as we stopped and I took my first bite into my empanada.

But what’s a girl to do when she is grumpy at home with no empanadas to listen the mood? Well, make her own! The emapanda dough I use is quick to whip up, only takes a little chill time the refrigerator, and is very easy to work with. Cheese and fig may seem weird, but think of it as a warm cheese plate wrapped in pastry dough. It just works. Then dollop some of your favorite fillings, bake, and devour.

FIG AND WALNUT EMPANADAS
Inspired by Marini’s Empanada House

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:

1/2 cup water
5 ounces butter
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Empanadas:
3/4 cup fig preserves
1/2 cup chopped walnits
3-5 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:

In a small saucepan combine water and butter. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.

In a bowl combine flour and salt. Slowly pour in butter mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a wet, oily paste forms. Pour dough onto a sheet of cling wrap. Wrap cling wrap around dough, forming into a disk. Chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably 2 hours.

For the Empanadas:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Divide the dough into 20-25 small equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 4-5 inch circle. Place about 2 teaspoons of fig preserves in the center of each piece of dough. Sprinkle walnuts and mozzarella cheese on top. Fold over the dough tightly, forming a half moon shape. Crimp closed with a fork.

Place on lined baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes. Bake for 18-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.

**To reheat, I have found the empanadas still get a crispy shell when you bake as directed above, let cool and store at room temperature, and reheat for 5-7 minutes at 400°F.

Makes 20-25 empanadas.

Butterscotch Meringue Bars

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You know those people who can take a few bites of a dessert and then have to stop because it was too sweet? I am not one of those people. I am the type of person who can eat for dessert for lunch and dinner and be perfectly fine (I speak from experience here). I can handle my dessert but not my liquor.

And I am perfectly fine with that. I feel sad for those people who can’t eat more than a few bites. They would be missing out, especially when it comes to these butterscotch meringue bars. These bars are a buttery blondie base studded with your filling of choice (Snickers was my chosen poison here), and then they are topped with a sweetened meringue. They are then baked, cooled, cut into bars and become little bites of heaven. It’s gooey-ness like you can’t believe. Yum. These are wonderfully sweet but not overly so. Some people may be satisfied with just one bar, but I always want at least three.

BUTTERSCOTCH MERINGUE BARS Slightly Adapted from Cooks Illustrated via The Church Cook

INGREDIENTS

For the Butterscotch Base: 2 cups all purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 teaspoon salt 2 cups butter, softened 1 cup light brown sugar 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 egg yolks 1 tablespoon water 2 cups chopped Snickers* For the Meringue Topping: 2 egg whites 1 cup light brown sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Butterscotch Base: Preheat the oven to 350°F.. Line a 9 inch by 13 inch pan with aluminium foil. Grease with butter. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until creamy. Beat in vanilla extract, egg yolk, and water. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Press butterscotch base into pan. Press chopped snickers on top. For the Meringue Topping: In a large bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Pour in light brown sugar and beat until uniform in color and glossy. Spread on top of butterscotch base. Bake for 32-40 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 2-3 hours before removing from pan. Cut into bars. *The original recipe used chocolate chips. Use any mix in you feel like!

Peanut Pretzel Chocolate Clusters

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For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Brittany’s blog We Heart Vegan. I was excited to try out some new vegan stuff and began looking through lots of interesting recipes. But then life caught up with me. I came home tired or had to do work, so I turned to something simple yet comforting. Salty and sweet Peanut Pretzel Chocolate Clusters? Please and thank you.

This recipe too was a great way to use up my hoarded peanuts and pretzels from Southwest flights (I often feel too nervous/sick to my stomach to eat on planes but damn it I paid for my ticket and I am getting my free snack and assorted soft drink).  I also apologize for a hasty picture.  After I made these, the aroma of chocolate made me temporarily forget that I was meant to take a picture, leaving me to remember only after I had begun eating most of these clusters in one sitting.

PEANUT PRETZEL CHOCOLATE CLUSTERS
Adapted from We Heart Vegan

INGREDIENTS

2 cups milk chocolate chips
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter
Vanilla extract
Crushed pretzels
Salted peanuts

DIRECTIONS

In a double broiler, combine chocolate, salt, butter, and vanilla extract. Cook, stirring, until melted. Stir in your desired amount of pretzels and peanuts (feel free to add anything else too your heart desires). Spread onto a prepared baking sheet or wax paper into a single layer. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Break into pieces. Store in refrigerator.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Cocoa Brownies

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Well I come to you today to let you know that these brownies are a great way to soak up slightly warm beer from a plastic cup.

I celebrated the Fourth of July by playing beer pong with friends only to remind myself that I am a light-weight. But it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, it’s how you play the game.  And when you are playing the game while slightly tipsy, everyone wins anyway.

I have always been on the look out for a brownie recipe that is better than the brownie box mix.  One major obstacle was that most homemade brownie recipes require baking chocolate, usually of high quality.  Both my wallet and my desire to not have to get up from my couch and walk often prevented me from making these recipes.   So I tried many brownie recipes that were cocoa-based, but they often did not turn of chocolately or fudgey enough. So when I came across this brownie recipe that only used cocoa powder, I gave it another go.

Well, here it is.  A cocoa-based brownie recipes that tastes wonderfully chocolatey and fudgey.  Perfect for beer pong, obviously.

COCOA BROWNIES
Barely Adapted from Recipe Girl

INGREDIENTS

11 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
8 3/4 ounces granulated sugar (1 1/4 cups)
3 ounces cocoa powder (1 scant cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 3/4 ounces all purpose flour (1/3 cup & 1 tablespoon)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Place butter in a large bowl and melt over a double broiler. Stir in sugar, cocoa powder, and salt while still over the double broiler. Stir until completely mixed. Remove from double broiler and let cool slightly. Stir in vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time until fully combined. Add all of the flour. Stir to combine for 25-30 strokes. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 18-23 minutes, until a toothpick comes out slightly dirty. Let cool completely and cut into bars.

Raspberry Blueberry Crumble

If I had enough foresight, this picture would show a red, white, and blue dessert and be a perfect recipe to share on the Fourth of July.

But alas, my patriotic spirit was overcome by my desire to quickly take a picture and dig in to this scrumptious dessert.  Io I forgot to add the white ice cream to my red raspberries and blue blueberries,  But, when you do it at home, it will be a perfect dessert to celebrate the upcoming July holiday.  It’s so simple by so delicious: fresh berries, a little bit of flour and lemon to thicken and bring out the juices all topped with brown sugar, oatmeal, and butter.

RASPBERRY BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE
From My Mom

INGREDIENTS

2 cups raspberries
1 cup blueberries*
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
Pinch of salt
4 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4 inch size pieces
Ice cream, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, stir together raspberries, blueberries, flour, and lemon juice. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine light brown sugar, oats, salt, and butter. Process until crumbly and combined. In a large pie dish, spread the berries in an even layer on the bottom. Sprinkle crumble topping on top. Bake for 30 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and crumble topping is golden brown.

*Use any combination of berries that your heart desires.
Let cool slightly. Serve warm with ice cream.

Microwave Cake: Secret Recipe Club

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Sorry I have been a little MIA recently: real life stuff, go figure.  But I am back, and I am back to meet a need we all have: need for a quick cake fix.

Specifically, a quick cake fix with lots of frosting on top.

I often find myself with an intense yearning for something sweet and we need it in and around our mouths ASAP.  As I was browsing around Melissa’s food blog Melissa’s Cuisine for this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I found my solution to this eternal conundrum: a cake you can make in the microwave in less than 5 minutes.

So I ran out to the store, bought cake mix (yum), and made myself a microwave cake.  Now sure, it’s not the same as a cake made from scratch and baked in the oven, but I tell you, my sweet tooth was quite satisfied.

MICROWAVE CAKE
Barely adapted from Melissa’s Cuisine

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons angel food cake mix
6 tablespoons yellow cake mix
4 tablespoons water
Dash of vanilla extract
Sprinkles and frosting, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Mix together both cake mixes, water, and vanilla extra. Pour into two mugs. Microwave for 1 minute to 1 minute and 20 seconds (depends on the strength of your microwave). Garnish with sprinkles and frosting.

Makes 2 servings.
Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

How to Deep Fry Candy: Cadbury Crème Scotch Egg

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Easter is a very important time of the year for me for one main reason: lots and lots of candy.

So I think that it’s time to learn how to deep fry candy.  Are you ready?

Now I normally eat healthy, mostly vegetarian even, with lots of fruits and vegetables.  But some days I just need sugar- and not just sugar but deep fried sugar.  And then there are days when I just want to eat frosting with a spoon.  But today is a day for deep fried dessert- let’s save the frosting for tomorrow.

Let me walk you through the steps to get some warm, sweet, fried treats.  It’ll be like a state fair in your own home.  No need to weave through endless crowds and screaming children- we can enjoy our deep friend treats in silence at home (or while watching

This time I decided to go all out. Four words: Deep. Fried. Cadbury. Egg.

Cadbury eggs just may be one of my most favorite types of candy out there, and I still have a few leftover from Easter.  I was inspired by Cakespy’s dessert version of the English bar food Scotch Egg.  I love a good pun on a plate.

If you don’t like Cadbury eggs (I feel sad for you), you can do this with any candy bar or cookie.  Follow the same basic techniques here.  The recipe below is a more complicated and fancy batter (if you can call deep friend chocolate fancy).  First, you coat the candy in a gooey chocolate batter, and then you roll it in a salty crunchy Ritz cracker topping for that ultimate sweet and salt combo. Deep fry it, and boom: instant gratification.

The best tip for deep frying  is to have everything ready when you start dipping and frying.  Work slowly and carefully and follow directions.  Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of your oil: nothing is worse than a stomach-ache 30 minutes after enjoying a deep-fried treat because your oil was not hot enough.

If you want a simpler, more classic version of deep fried food, you can also just use any pancake batter (even the batter from a box) in place of a homemade batter.   Just follow the same general steps in this recipe: heat oil, dip in batter, deep fry, drain, devour.

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CADBURY CREME SCOTCH EGG
Barely Adapted from Cakespy

INGREDIENTS

4 Cadbury crème eggs, frozen
1 1/4 cup flour, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup crushed Ritz
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons oil
Vegetable oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS

Unwrap and freeze Cadbury eggs for at least 2 hours, if not overnight.*

Prepare your batter and dipping process. In a bowl, place a 1/2 cup of flour. In another bowl, lightly beat one egg. In a third bowl, place crushed Ritz. Set aside.

Fill a large pot with oil so that it is about 4-6 inches deep. Heat oil to 375°F. (This will take about 12-17 minutes). When oil is almost to temperature, begin making batter.

In a large bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, salt, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Whisk in milk, vinegar, and oil. This should be a thick and somewhat sticky batter (thicker than a pancake mixture).

Working with one Cadbury egg at a time (leaving the others in the freezer). Place into prepared batter. Completely coat with spoon. You want the egg completely covered but be careful not to make this batter coating too thick (you will have leftover batter after frying all your eggs).

Using floured hands transfer to bowl with flour. Coat with flour. Dip in beaten egg. Dip into crushed Ritz crackers and coat. Fry for 1-1 1/2 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining Cadbury eggs (you can keep them warm by placing them on a baking sheet in an oven at 250°F.).

Makes 4 Scotch Cadbury Creme Eggs.