Friday, March 26, 2010

The Doctor is In

Tomorrow is Joe's annual fantasy baseball draft with his friends, and I always bake some sort of treat for him to bring along. I usually make Joe's favorite Kandy Kake bars, which was the plan for this year as well, but this morning I discovered that I was out of flour. I immediately turned to The Cake Mix Doctor Returns, a great cookbook given to me by my friend Lauren this past Christmas. I thumbed for through the book looking for a bar or cookie recipe that I had all the ingredients for and found this recipe for peanut butter chocolate bars. These were super simple to make and are really good - they taste like thick peanut butter cookies with chocolate frosting. Can't beat that!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

1 package plain yellow cake mix (18.25 ounces)
1 cup smooth peanut butter
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), melted
2 large eggs
1 package semisweet chocolate chips (12 ounces; 2 cups)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Set aside an ungreased 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

Place the cake mix, peanut butter, melted butter and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for one minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The mixture will be thick. Reserve 1 1/2 cups for the topping. Transfer the remaining crust mixture to the pan. Using your fingertips, press the crust evenly over the bottom of the pan so that it reaches all sides. Set aside.

For the filling, place the chocolate chips and condensed milk in a microwave safe bowl and microwave 1 minute. Stir until smooth, then stir in vanilla. Spread mixture evenly over crust in pan. Using your fingertips, crumble the reserved crust and scatter it evenly over the chocolate. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake 30-35 minutes until edges are golden. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.

Turkey Goulash

Charlie and Lily keep me pretty darn busy all day, so I don't have much time to peruse other food blogs like I used to. Thanks to the recent purchase of my beloved BlackBerry Curve, however, I am now able to quickly browse through my Google Reader here and there to search for new recipes. One blog that I always read is Fake Ginger. I love Amanda's recipes, her funny and honest description of things, and her ability to cook or bake something new almost daily while caring for two small children. I found this turkey goulash recipe on Amanda's blog recently and immediately printed it out. It sounded quick, hearty and tasty so I was eager to make it. I had planned to cook this during the babies' afternoon nap today, but I am in the midst of reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and decided that I would rather devote my small amount of free time to that today rather than standing over the stove. So I modified this recipe for the crockpot. I took 10 minutes to throw it together in the morning and had a hot, delicious dinner simmering away while I read. My changes are below - check out Amanda's blog for the original!

Turkey Goulash

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or small shells

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Saute turkey, onion, and garlic until turkey is cooked through and onion is soft. Place turkey mixture in crockpot and add water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, soy sauce, bay leaf, black pepper, and salt. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Add pasta, stir well and replace lid for 10 mintues or until pasta is tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oatmeal Insanity

I've been a fan of Hungry Girl for years. I get her daily emails and seek out her television appearances, but I never bought any of her books. I was certain that I would never make anything from them and they would just collect dust. Slowly, however, I felt the urge to buy the books creeping up. My friend Lauren has a few and has made several delicious recipes from it, so I started to get tempted. What really sent me to Amazon, though, is the fact that I was getting really bored with my breakfast of Special K and my lunch of toast or frozen waffles. I wanted a variety of healthy and easy meals to choose from for breakfast and lunch, so I purchased Hungry Girl 2oo Under 200 (and her newest book, which should be shipping this week) and I'm so glad I did! I've already made a few things and have many more bookmarked. I did have to make a trip to the store to purchase some of her most used ingredients - I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Flatout Wraps, Egg Beaters, etc. - but many of the things used I already had. I chose Complete and Utter Oatmeal Insanity for my first recipe because it called for pumpkin, and I love me some pumpkin. This oatmeal is so, so good! It's sweet and hearty and comforting - plus the serving is huge! I left out the Reddi-wip because I didn't have any, but I don't think you need it. If you're looking for a unique and delicious breakfast treat, this is it!

Complete and Utter Oatmeal Insanity

1 packet plain instant oatmeal
1/4 cup Fiber One cereal (original)
1/4 light vanilla soymilk (I used skim milk)
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons Fat Free Reddi-wip (I omitted)
1 tablespoon sugar-free pancake syrup
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
5 sprays I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray
1 no-calorie sweetner packet
Dash salt

Place all ingredients except Reddi-wip in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Add 1/4 cup water and stir. Micrwoave 45 seconds, then mix well. Microwave for an additional 30-40 seconds. Allow oatmeal to thicken before removing from microwave. Add Redd-wip and stir well.

Irish Potato Candy

After making my Irish soda bread, I had St. Patrick's Day fever and wanted to make something else. I knew I wanted something sweet, so I settled on this Irish Potato Candy. This was yummy. Really, really yummy. And easy to make. I read a lot of the reviews before getting started and followed the suggestions that kept appearing again and again (my changes are reflected in the below recipe). I halved the amount of powdered sugar, using only 2 cups rather than the 4 cups called for and the consistency was perfect. I chilled between steps - before rolling and before coating - and had no problem handling or molding the treats. Finally, I rolled the candies in a mixture of cinnamon and a hot cocoa packet - the coating was delicious and not at all over powering. After eating a few too many myself I sent the remainder to school with Joe where they were a big hit! I definitely plan to make these again - I'm already thinking about how I can use food coloring in the candy to make Easter eggs!

Irish Potato Candy

1/4 cup butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 packet hot cocoa mix

In a medium bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar; beat until smooth. Mix in coconut. Chill mixture in refrigerator 60 minutes or until firm. Shape into potato or ball shapes. Place on cookie sheet and chill 30 minutes. Mix together cinnamon and hot cocoa mix in a shallow dish. Roll candies in cinnamon mixture.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Creamy Orzo with Chicken and Feta

It's been awhile since I've cooked anything new. Since time is so limited these days I've been turning to quick and easy old favorites. But recently several new recipes have caught my eye and I'm determined to try them out. This delicious orzo dish is the first. I found this on Confections of a Foodie Bride's blog and bookmarked it immediately. It had a bunch of my favorite things - orzo, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese - and required very little prep work. Sold! The only change I made was to use feta in place of goat cheese. Joe does the shopping and I was afraid that if I asked him to buy goat cheese he'd balk and refuse to eat this dish, so I went with the more familiar feta. This meal was delicious! I loved the creamy orzo combined with the tangy tomatoes and cheese. This will definitely be added to the "quick and easy old favorites" list!

Creamy Orzo with Chicken and Feta

1 lb orzo
1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
6 oz feta or goat cheese, crumbled
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Juice of half a lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
3/4 cup Parmesan, grated
3/4 cup Panko

Preheat oven to 400. Add orzo, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, lemon juice and feta to a 2.5 - 3 quart baking dish. Bring chicken broth, water, 1 tbsp butter, salt and pepper to a boil on the stove. Pour into baking dish, stirring slightly to mix. Bake for 30 minutes.

Mix Parmesan and Panko. Melt remaining 1 tbsp butter and mix into Parmesan and Panko mixture. Sprinkle mixture on top of orzo dish and and bake for 7-10 minutes more until bubbly. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Irish Soda Bread

I am a fan of bread. I love all breads and bread-like items, and Irish soda bread is no exception. This past weekend my mom's neighbor baked her a loaf of soda bread and my mom shared a slice with me. Yum! That was all it took to send me to the kitchen to make a loaf of my own. A few years ago I worked with a lovely woman from Ireland who gave me her recipe for Irish soda bread which I've made and enjoyed in the past. Of course, today I couldn't find it, so I hit the Internet to find a substitute an All Recipes. I went back and forth between this recipe and the one I ultimately chose for a while, but went with the latter for two reasons. 1 - it seemed more "traditional" to me since it was shaped into a rustic loaf rather than baked in a bread pan and 2 - the first recipe said the resulting bread tasted best if you let it sit for several hours to a day, and really, who can let fresh baked bread sit?!?

I'm happy I chose the recipe I did. It came out beautiful and delicious! The wash of buttermilk and melted butter on top makes a nice, slightly sweet crust. I brushed the loaf once before baking and once in the middle of baking and had a ton of butter/buttermilk left, so you can definitely reduce the amount if you want to avoid waste. I added raisins because to me, Irish soda bread needs raisins! I also made my own buttermilk substitute by adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and letting it sit for 5 minutes. I will definitely bake up this bread again!

Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, sat and margarine. Stir in 1 cup buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an "x" in the top of loaf.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. You may brush the loaf with more buttermilk/butter mixture during baking if desired.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rolos Cake

This cake came about as the result of a snow day. There is just something about snowy days that make me want to bake. I needed something quick and easy, so I turned to a boxed cake mix and canned frosting that I could jazz up. Rather than make a regular old layer cake, I mixed up my chocolate cake mix with some chocolate chips and poured half of the batter into a bundt pan. I then sprinkled on a layer of chopped Rolos and then poured in the rest of the batter. After baking, cooling and removing from the pan I melted some chocolate frosting and drizzled it over the top of the cake. The result? YUM! Chocolate, caramel, gooey fudgy frosting - perfect for hibernating indoors as the snow fall. Hopefully though, the next thing I make will be spring inspired, as I'm hoping we are through with snow for the season! Even though they result in delicious desserts like this one, I've had enough of winter storms.

Rolos Cake

1 box chocolate cake mix + ingredients to make cake
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 rolls Rolos candy, chopped
1/2 can chocolate frosting, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Grease bundt pan and set aside. Prepare cake according to package directions and stir in chocolate chips. Pour half of batter into prepared bundt pan. Sprinkle chopped Rolos over batter, then top with remaining batter. Bake 45 minutes or according to package direction for pan size. Cool completely before removing from pan. Drizzle with melted frosting.