Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

As I think I've mentioned before, when I became a stay-at-home mom last year I also became a Pampered Chef consultant. I needed a way to make some extra money without having to be outside the house too much, and Pampered Chef fit the bill. It's a super fun job to have - I get out, I meet new people, and I get to try awesome new recipes like this one.

I'm doing a show this weekend with a Valentine's Day theme, so I'm making a dessert and a wine-based drink. The host and I chose this recipe together, but I'd never actually made it so I figured it would be good to give it a whirl before the show. And I am SO glad I did. Wow - these are good!

They are sort of like a kicked-up rice krispie treat. The bottom layer is your standard rice krispie treat, but with pretzels mixed in for crunch and salt. Then it's topped with a peanut butter layer, and finally a coating of chocolate ganace garnished with peanuts and pretzels. The salty/sweet/chewy/crunchy combos are out of this world. I ate way more of these than I care to admit. Plus, they are quick and easy - no baking required. Any Valentine would be more than happy to receive these treats!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Crunch Bars
Recipe from: The Pampered Chef

1/4 cup (50 mL) dry-roasted peanuts
3 cups (750 mL) mini pretzel twists (about 1 2/3 cups/400 mL coarsely crushed), divided
3 cups (750 mL) crisp rice cereal
3/4 cup (175 mL) butter (1½ sticks), divided
1 bag (10.5 oz or 250 g) miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup (125 mL) light corn syrup, divided
1 bag (10 oz or 300 g) peanut butter morsels
1 cup (250 mL) semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Coarsely chop peanuts using Food Chopper; set aside. Place pretzels into large resealable plastic bag; coarsely crush using flat side of Meat Tenderizer. Set aside 1/3 cup (75 mL) of the pretzels. Place remaining pretzels and cereal in Stainless (4-qt./4-L) Mixing Bowl.

Place 6 tbsp (90 mL) of the butter in Classic Batter Bowl. Microwave on HIGH 60-90 seconds or until melted. Add marshmallows; microwave on HIGH 60-90 seconds. Stir until marshmallows are completely melted using Mix ‘N Scraper® (see Cook's Tip). Immediately add marshmallow mixture to mixing bowl; mix thoroughly. Spread crust evenly over Medium Sheet Pan; firmly press into pan using Baker's Roller®.

Combine 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the butter and half of the corn syrup in Small Micro-Cooker®. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 60-90 seconds or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in peanut butter morsels; mix until melted (mixture will be stiff). Spread peanut butter mixture over crust using Small Spreader.

For ganache, place remaining butter and corn syrup in Small Batter Bowl. Microwave on HIGH 60-90 seconds or until melted. Stir in chocolate morsels; mix until smooth. Spread ganache evenly over peanut butter mixture. Sprinkle with peanuts and reserved pretzels. Place in freezer 5-10 minutes or until ganache is set. Cut into 24 squares; cut squares in half.

Yield: 24 servings

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oriental Beef and Noodles

This super easy recipe is courtesy of my good friend Colleen. When it comes to making dinner, there's nothing I love more than tossing a few things into the crockpot and leaving it at that. This recipe requires so little work that you can throw it together in even the tightest time crunch. I made a few minor changes to the recipe. I'd heard talk that the veggies tend to disintegrate in the crockpot, so I held off and added mine around lunchtime to see if that helped. And it did - somewhat. My carrots and water chestnuts held their shape, but I still lost my broccoli! I also could not find plain ramen noodles so I used Chinese rice noodles and they were fine.

This dinner smelled amazing as it cooked and tasted just as good - like an authentic stir fry. Joe and I both really enjoyed it.

Oriental Beef and Noodles

1 (16 ounce) package frozen stir fry vegetables
2 - 2 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
1 (12 ounce) bottle stir-fry sauce, any flavor
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 (3 ounce) packages ramen noodles, broken
1/4 cup green onions, chopped (I omitted)

Coat a 4 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place frozen vegetables in the bottom and top with stew meat. In a medium bowl, stir together stir-fry sauce, water, and red pepper. Pour over stew meat and vegetables in cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours or on high for 4 1/2-5 hours (I recommend low, it will help to break the meat down more).

At the end of cooking time, discard spice packets from ramen noodles. Stir noodles and green onions into meat mixture. Cover and let stand 10 minutes more. Stir before serving. This can be kept on warm for 1-2 hours.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Still here!

And I miss my cooking blog! Sadly, I really haven't been making anything blog worthy recently. Joe requested that I get more back-to-basics with my dinners - in other words, stop trying so many new things and make more of the old recipes we know we like. And I guess he's right - so often I make something that we both love, but in my desire to keep trying new things I never make the favorites again. I have made a few new things here and there, but in the crazy pre-dinner rush to feed Charlie, Lily, Joe and I before the pre-bedtime meltdown, I often forget to take pictures anyway. So there's been a few new, un-blogged meals and a lot of repeats going on here, plus a lot of quick and easy meals that I can throw together at nap time or when Joe gets home from work. And meals like that often turn out great - like this pizza! I took a store-bought pizza crust and topped it with pre-made shredded barbecue chicken (Lloyd's), caramelized onions and cheddar cheese - it was awesome!

But I do have some new recipes planned for this week, so I hope to get them posted and maybe resurrect my little cooking blog. Here's hoping!