Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Bars

This is my favorite blondie brownie recipe. I like to use half semi sweet half peanut butter chips, but any kind of chip or nut would be good in these. I would recommend letting them cool, cutting them, and then storing in an airtight container. They are definitely the best the same day you make them, but will last 2 or 3 days in a container.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Bars
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

*Makes a 9X13-inch pan of bars

2 1/8 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 (3 1/2 ounces) cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips (use your preference of semisweet, bittersweet, milk, white, peanut butter…the options are endless!)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with foil, letting the excess hang over the edges of the pan by about 1 inch so you can grab those edges and pull the brownies from the pan after they have baked. Spray the foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk the melted butter and sugars in a large bowl until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula.

Bake until the top of the bars is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan, 24-28 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the foil overhang and transfer them to a cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Mini Lasagnas

This recipe was so good and so easy! It took me about 20 minutes to put them together and another 20 to bake. You can make them in a muffin tin, or a petite loaf pan like I did here. I used Trader Joe's Organic Marinara sauce and they turned out great, I will definitely be adding this recipe to my dinner menus.

Mini Lasagnas

1 jar marinara sauce
1 lb. ground beef
12 wonton wrappers (for muffin tin, or 8 egg roll wrappes for petite loaf pan)
8 oz. shredded mozzarella
4 oz. parmesan cheese
4 oz. ricotta cheese
basil or flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 375.
Brown ground beef in skillet, drain and return to pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour in marinara sauce and heat on low while cutting the wonton wrappers.
If using the muffin tin, cut wonton wrappers with the top of a drinking glass or biscuit cutter, just so it's about the right size to fit in the muffin cup. There will be two layers of the wonton wrapper so you will need to cut 24 circles, or 16 rectangles if using the petite loaf pan.
Spray pan with cooking spray. Beginning from bottom, layer one wonton wrapper, mozzarella, ricotta (I just grabbed the ricotta with my fingertips and pressed into pan), parmesan, meat sauce, wonton wrapper, mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, meat sauce, a little more mozzarella and parmesan. Bake 18-20 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Peanut Butter Cheese Ball

I loved this because it was fun and different, not to mention oh so yummy. I made mine the night before and froze it. I took it out 20 minutes before serving and it was perfect. This is great slathered on apples and graham crackers. I bought those butter waffle cookies at Trader Joes.

Peanut Butter Cheese Ball
from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (not all-natural)
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
Graham cracker sticks, teddy grahams, and/or apple slices for dipping

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar in large mixer bowl until blended.

Spoon onto a large piece of plastic wrap; bring up all four corners and twist tightly forming into a ball shape.

Freeze for 1 hour 30 minutes or until firm enough to keep its shape. Place peanut butter and chocolate chips in flat dish. Remove plastic wrap from ball and roll ball into morsels to completely cover, pressing morsels into the ball if necessary.

Place ball on serving dish; cover and freeze for 2 hours or until almost firm. (Can be made ahead. If frozen overnight, thaw at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.) Serve with graham cracker sticks, teddy grahams, or apple slices for dipping or spreading.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Stir Fry

I love this sweet and sour chicken, it has just the right amount of sweetness. I also really like this recipe because I hardly had to buy anything for it, most everything I had in my pantry so it was a really low cost meal.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Stir Fry
adapted from Our Best Bites

1 cup rice
2 1/2 c. water
1 chicken bouillon cube

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 8 ounce can pineapple chunks, drained and juices reserved
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

3-4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs diced into 1 inch pieces
(you could also use pork tenderloin, or sliced boneless pork chops)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
about 1 cup snow peas
1/2 medium bell pepper, stemmed , seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 large onion, or 1 small onion cut into 1/2 inch squares

Rinse rice in colander. Place rice, water, and crumbled chicken bouillon cube in medium saucepan. Cover with lid and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook 20 minutes or until rice is soft and cooked through.

While rice is cooking...

Combine cornstarch and water in a medium sized bowl and stir to dissolve. Add the reserved pineapple juice*, ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar to the bowl and stir to combine.

*If you’re using a stainless steel pan, save pineapple juice for de-glazing it

heat 2-3 teaspoons of the oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, salt, pepper, garlic, and ginger. Stir-fry until the chicken is cooked and no longer pink, 3-4 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and cover to keep warm.

Add the remaining 1-2 teaspoons oil to the pan and add the broccoli and bell pepper. Stir-fry over medium-high heat until the vegetables are crisp-tender and the broccoli is bright green, 3-5 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and add the pineapple chunks and sauce mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook until everything is heated through and the sauce has thickened, 1-2 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve over the hot cooked rice. If desired, top with sesame seeds and chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.

Serves 4 or 5

Homemade Sloppy Joes

I've recently found the blog Our Best Bites and I've been having so much trying out their recipes! This is one that is so good, I've already made it 3 times. I serve the meat mixture on homemade rolls, but any good, soft roll will do. I've used ground hamburger and ground turkey and they both taste great! I also like to add in at the end before serving about half a cup of sliced black olives (slice them yourself, the ones that come sliced already have a really funny taste) and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

Homemade Sloppy Joes
adapted from Our Best Bites

1 lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey
Seasoning salt to taste
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 green pepper, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3/4 c. ketchup
1 tsp. mustard
3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3-1/2 c. water to reach desired consistency
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 hamburger buns or homemade rolls

Stovetop Instructions:
Brown ground beef with onion, green pepper, and garlic. Season to taste with seasoning salt. Add in mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Combine tomato paste and water and add to hamburger mixture. Add more water if desired. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve on hamburger buns.

Crockpot Instructions:
Brown ground beef with onion, green pepper, and garlic. Season to taste with seasoning salt. Transfer to slow cooker. Add in remaining ingredients and combine well. Cook on low for 3-4 hours and serve on hamburger buns.

Freezer Instructions:
Brown ground beef with onion, green pepper, and garlic. Season to taste with seasoning salt. Transfer to a freezer-safe container. Add in remaining ingredients and combine well. Freeze. When ready to cook, transfer to a slow cooker and cook on low to 3-5 hours. Serve on hamburger buns.