Friday, March 29, 2013

Monster Magic Cookie Bars

For the longest time, I was scared of desserts.  My lean-to when I was asked to bring desserts were boxed Magic Cookie Bars from the baking aisle in Wal Mart.  When I was assigned Kate's Recipe Box for the Recipe Swap that A Taste of Home Cooking hosts, I ran across a lot of great sounding recipes (Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes and Make it Yourself Shamrock Shakes).  But when I saw the Monster Cookie Bars, I realized that I haven't touched Magic Cookie Bars since I got really into cooking.  While these are slightly different than the ones in the box at Wal Mart, I decided these would be what I'd make for the swap.

Monster Magic Cookie Bars
slightly adapted Kate's Recipe Box
9 full graham crackers
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup M&Ms
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease a 9×13″ baking pan.
2) Crush graham crackers into crumbs using a food processor or rolling pin.
3) Mix in melted butter until well-combined. Press crumbs into lined baking dish.
4) Evenly pour the sweetened condensed milk over the graham cracker layer. Sprinkle the oats, M&Ms, peanut butter chips and chocolate chips evenly over the sweetened condensed milk. Gently press in a little.
5) Bake for 30 minutes or until browned and pulling away from the edges of the pan. Let cool completely before cutting.

I love these bars because the graham crackers and the sweetened condensed milk base provide such a blank slate for any of your favorite dessert toppings.  I threw in some peanut butter chips that I had sitting in my pantry and I think it just enhanced the 'monster-ness' of these bars.  While I don't have kids, I think this would be a great rainy/snow day activity with your child.  Have them roll the graham crackers and build their idea of a monster cookie bar.  There is no wrong topping in the monster magic cookie bar world.

Please check out all the other great recipes below!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

S'More Peanut Butter Cookies

This month's What's Baking Challenge is hosted by Beantown Baker. She chose sprinkles as this month's theme.  Stop by her blog in a few days to see her round up of what everyone made this month.

I have to admit that I see sprinkles on about the same level that I see glitter.  They just get EVERYWHERE when you're trying to use them.  While it makes your stuff pretty, it usually isn't worth the hassle of cleaning little beads up for the next few months.

Since sprinkles are something that I loved as a kid...I decided to try to find something to bake that reminded me of being a kid.   While searching, I found these S'More Peanut Butter Cookies.  I LOVED S'Mores when I was a kid.  So why not combine s'mores with sprinkles and have the most fun cookies around.

S'More Peanut Butter Cookies
as seen on Sally's Baking Addiction
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
12 large marshmallows, cut in half
8 oz melting chocolate (such as Baker's)
1) In a large bowl, using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed. Mix in the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla (in that order). Scrape down the sides as needed. Slowly mix in the baking soda and flour. Do not overmix. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
2)  Roll 1.5 Tablespoons of dough into a ball. Place onto ungreased cookie sheet or silicone baking mat. Bake for 7 minutes.
3) Remove from oven and place marshmallow on top, gently pressing it down into the warm cookie. Place back into the oven for 2-3 more minutes so the marshmallow can melt and the cookie can finish baking.
4) Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
5) As the cookies cool, melt chocolate according to package directions. Spoon about  two teaspoons of chocolate on top of each marshmallow and swirl around with the back of the teaspoon. Top with sprinkles.
The only complaint that I have about these cookies is that some of the marshmallows completely disintegrated under the chocolate.  The majority of them looked great, but some of them fell completely apart.  Taste wise these aren't exactly like S'Mores, but they're so delicious.  I actually love the little crunches that the sprinkles provide in the chocolate.  It is a great contrast to the puff of the marshmallow and the soft peanut butter cookie.  During this challenge, I learned that sprinkles aren't as bad as I thought they were...although a lot of them got all over my oven.  I'll have to play more with the rest of the bottle that I have. 
Thanks Jen for a great challenge!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Tart w/ a Graham Cracker Crust

About three months before we moved from Wyoming to New Jersey, I bought tart pans...even though I had put a ban on buying new things right before the move.  They were like two dollars, and I convinced myself that I'd use them all the time.  About a year later, I've never used the tart pans...ever. 

So, when the Dessert swap, hosted by Sarah at A Taste of Home Cooking, produced a dessert that required a tart pan, I smugly said that I knew I'd need the tart pan eventually and that is why I bought it.  :)

Chocolate Raspberry Tart with a Graham Cracker Crust
from Life and Kitchen
Baking spray for the dish
1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
3-1/2 cups fresh raspberries
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
Small pinch salt

1) Heat the oven to 325°F. Spray the sides and bottom of a 9-1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.
2) Put the graham crackers and melted butter into a food processor and pulse until crumbly.
3) Pour the cracker mixture into the tart pan and press the mixture into the sides and bottom of the pan with the bottom of a measuring cup or a jar.
4) Set the pan on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm, then bake the tart crust about 15 minutes, checking and rotating if needed to make the sure the crust doesn’t get too dark. Set on a rack to cool.
5) Meanwhile, push 1 cup of the berries through a fine sieve, mashing with a spoon, into a bowl so the puree drips through; set it aside and discard the seeds.
6) Heat the cream over medium heat until scalding, but not quite boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate; whisk to blend until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the raspberry purée and the salt.
7) Pour the mixture into the cooled tart shell. Refrigerate until the ganache is fairly firm, about 1 hour.
8) Arrange the remaining raspberries on top of the ganache; they should completely cover the surface. These berries won’t sink into the chocolate filling. The ganache is chilled slightly before the raspberries go on.
9) Chill until the ganache is completely firm, about 30 minutes, and serve.

The hardest part of this dessert is waiting for everything to chill so you can dig in.  One of my favorite combinations is chocolate and raspberries, so I loved these.  Plus the addition of fresh raspberries on top strengthens the raspberry flavors.  I feel like this dessert is calling me to get a bigger tart pan...but I'm pretty sure the two small ones will suffice.  A girl can never have too many kitchen gadgets, right? ;)

Check out all the other desserts that were made for the swap!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chicken Tostadas with Avocado Salsa

I love tostadas.  It is everything that you love about tacos, on a crunchy base shell.  I think I love tostadas because I love Mexican pizzas at Taco Bell and can't replicate those close enough to make myself happy, so the next best thing is tostadas.

I saw this on Sarah's blog when she first posted them and thought they sounded to die for.  I pinned them and had good intentions to make them, but never did.  I received her for a recipe swap back in early February and made these for the swap, but ended up posting about the amazing Egg Sandwiches with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto instead.

Chicken Tostadas with Avocado Salsa
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking
1 cup tomato, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
4 fajita-size tortillas
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. can of corn, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup queso fresco, cheddar or Mexican cheese blend
2 cups shredded chicken mixture from Chicken Suiza Pockets, or 2 cups shredded chicken

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Combine tomato, avocado, onion and cilantro together in a small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, cumin, pepper and salt. Pour over the avocado mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3) Add a splash of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the skillet until puffy and lightly browned. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
4) Divide black beans, corn, chicken and cheese among tortillas. Transfer tortillas to a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, or until chicken is warmed through.
5) Divide the avocado salsa among the tortillas and serve immediately.

These are like I thought, absolutely to die for.  I couldn't get enough of the avocado salsa, and kept sneaking little tastes while I was cooking.  I thought the flavors all worked together well to create a great dish.  My only comment about this is that we chose bigger sized tortillas and these came out massive.  I made it half-way through mine and even though it was the best dish I've had in a long time, I couldn't finish it.  So I'd recommend doing taco sized tortillas and maybe just eating additional tostadas if need be instead of creating a mammoth of a tostada like I did.  Either way you serve them, they are definitely delicious.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tomato Tortellini Soup

In Wyoming, the wind was crazy.  I don't think that there was really ever a wind-free day.  My husband told me when we moved to New Jersey that it was never windy...but I think he just forgot what it was like since he lived in Wyoming for awhile.  For a couple days, not too long ago, the wind here rivaled the Wyoming wind.  During these few days, I went through a soup phase.  Soup warms every part of your body and during really cold temperatures with really high winds, it is even more delicious.

Tomato Tortellini Soup
adapted from Mrs. Scwartz's Kitchen using PreventionRD's tomato soup
Tomato Soup
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
pinch of Kosher salt
4 cloves minced garlic
28 oz can crushed tomatoes (no added salt)
1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped

1) Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and salt and sweat for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for 2 more minutes.
2) Add the tomato, broth, and oregano and bring to a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
3) Blend soup in a blender or by using an immersion blender (you can also omit this step for a slightly chunky soup).

Additions to the soup
1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini
2 cups vegetable/chicken broth
2 cups fat free half and half
1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1) To the tomato soup, add the half and half, chicken broth, sundried tomatoes, and spices.  Bring to a simmer. 
2) Once simmering, drop tortellini into the soup.  Cook according to package directions (about 8 to 10 minutes).
3) Scoop into bowls and serve topped with parmesan cheese.


This is a mixture of two recipes. I cannot eat canned tomato soup like the original recipe calls for, so I made the tomato soup from scratch using another recipe that my husband and I love and then followed the original recipe from there.  The soup from scratch doesn't take too long, but if you're in a hurry, the canned soup will work fine.

I loved the tortellini in the soup since it made it a little heartier and filling.  The tomato soup was delicious, the flavor developed really well on the stove and was even better the next day for lunch.  The leftovers didn't make it very long in our house.  This was great with garlic bread. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Carrot Cake Ice Cream

This is my second Secret Recipe Club blog swap. In the club, you are assigned someone's blog and you can make whatever you want. Click on the link and peruse the site to learn more about the recipes that have been posted and for rules about the club.

This month I was assigned Cheap Ethnic Eatz, which is written by Evelyne in Canada.  Evelyne has such a diverse collection of recipes, which I found incredible.  I have never been a super adventurous eater (it took me several years to warm up to the idea of sushi).  However, she has a great list of ice cream on her recipe index.  She has everything from White Asparagus Ice Cream to Strawberry Jam Balsamic Ice Cream.  One of the non-ice cream dishes that I'd love to make from Evelyne's blog is her Truffled Tomato Tarte Tatin.  Please head over to her blog to tour an amazing selection of food. 

I was obsessed with Evelyne's ice cream list.  Let's be honest,  I love most desserts. However, I am a self professing ice cream addict. I could eat a bowl every night and be in bliss. Cookies and cream? Yes! Give me a tub of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia Ice cream and I've died and gone to heaven. Milkshakes are even accepted too. Can you see a theme here?

I have always LOVED Carrot cake though, and the second that I laid eyes on the link in Evelyne's blog that said she had Carrot Cake Ice Cream, I knew that is what I had to make. 

Carrot Cake Ice Cream
barely modified from Cheap Ethnic Eatz
1 cup Carrot Juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar (less if you're using a Carrot flavored smoothie)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup can pineapple, drained and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon orange zest  (I found orange peel in the spice section and used it)
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Ice Cream Machine
1)  Put carrot smoothie and cream in ice cream machine and start the machine
2) Add the remaining ingredients
3) Follow ice cream machine instructions.
Hand made
1) Mix all the ingredients
2) Pour into a shallow container and freeze until solid around the outside and mushy in the middle
3) Stir with a fork and freeze until firm

This ice cream had more in it than any other ice cream that I've tried to make.  I think my ice cream maker clogged up at some points with all the additions, so I kept trying to stir it when I saw it happening.   This ice cream doesn't taste exactly like carrot cake ice cream, but it does have flavors that hint that direction.  I served it with cream cheese pound cake and it was a great combination.  One of my favorite carrot cakes that I've ever had, had a hint of orange in it, so I decided to add the orange peel/zest to the mix.  I can't wait to go out there and find other ice cream options that I have never considered before. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chili Blanco

It is time for another recipe swap, hosted by Sarah at A Taste of Home Cooking.  The theme this time was Blogger's Choice and I received Dawn's blog: Simple Gourmet Cooking.

While looking through Dawn's blog, I discovered an old favorite: Mexican Stuffed Shells, so I made that one night.  Then, I was looking around her blog and came across this chili.  I have been looking for a good chile recipe that isn't a red-base chili, so I thought I'd try this one as my swap recipe. 

Chili Blanco
slightly adapted from Simple Gourmet Cooking
1 pound ground chicken or ground turkey
1 pound lean ground pork
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Knorrs Concentrated Chicken Broth tubs
1 can Green Chile Enchilada Sauce
2 15-oz cans Great Northern Beans, undrained
1 15-oz can golden hominy,  undrained
1 4-oz cans diced green chile peppers, undrained
4 large fresh jalapeno chile peppers, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1) In a 4-quart Dutch oven cook chicken, pork, onions and garlic over medium heat until pork is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat.
2) Stir in concentrated broth, enchilada sauce, beans, hominy, green chile peppers, jalapeno peppers, lime juice, cumin, and white pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 40 min, stirring occasionally. Stir in cilantro.

When going through my cupboard for ingredients, I realized that I only had one can of green chiles, but I had an extra can of green chile enchilada sauce.  So, I added that in addition to everything.  Apparently the commissary on base doesn't like stocking different types of peppers, so they only had jalapeno peppers instead of poblano, so I just grabbed more of those instead. 

While it isn't as white as Dawn's, due to the enchilada sauce, I decided to keep the name.  I thought this chili was fantastic.  Jacob said that it was different enough and good enough to enter into a chili competition, which in my mind is a huge stamp of approval from him.  I served this with an herbed cheddar bread that has the texture of cornbread.  It was great for some of the dreary weather we've faced the past couple of weeks.  Definitely put this on your menu if you're looking for a non-red chili.

Please check out the other great dishes from the Blogger's Swap below.