Monday, December 28, 2015

Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies

 Pinterest is whipping out the fitness videos, these people just did a fitness Adele spoof, and I admit that we had salmon and zoodles for dinner tonight because... just because the roast/potato/cookie motif was getting a little old.

But let's not pretend there aren't those New Year's parties coming up. Or that you don't have ten billion leftover candy canes. Because I know you do. I remember my mom saving the extra candy canes from year to year--she'd just put them in the boxes with the other Christmas stuff and out they'd come for the next year (wonder why nobody ate them...). I, myself, in my extreme cheapskatery have been known to buy them post Christmas (oh, look, they're $.10 instead of a that whopping $.99; I'll save them for next year). And in my absolute defense, the sell-by dates weren't until the next year either, so if I didn't buy them cheap, the companies who make those things were probably just going to put them in their proverbial Christmas boxes and bring them out the next year too.

But perhaps we can all agree that there are better things to do with leftover candy canes than save them year after year. This one is so much better that you'll never have to save a candy cane again. Though you might have to pin a few extra fitness videos. You can thank me later.

Note: These are ridiculously, crazily over-the-top. In fact, I didn't think they'd be worth it. They are, friends, they are.

Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies
Makes 1 9x13 inch pan of brownies
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Cost: $8.00 (no, they're not really cheap, but don't worry--that's coming with the fitness videos. And to be fair they're way cheaper than any brownie you'll buy at Starbucks, so there you go. They're still just $.33/brownie)
$2.65 for brownies, 1.35 for chocolate chips, 2.00 for white chocolate chips, 2.00 for Andes mints (though to keep price down, use leftover candy from Christmas because you know you probably have some), milk: .10

1 recipe for Kip's brownies
4 oz Andes mints (or other leftover Christmas candy as long as it's chocolate-y or minty)
1 1/2 C chocolate chips
4 candy canes, chopped (or whizzed in a blender, which is so much better)
White Chocolate Ganache:
1 1/2 C white chocolate chips (a higher quality chip will incorporate better with the milk)
3/4 C milk or half and half

Here's what you do:

1. Make the batter for Kip's brownies
2. Pour half of it (a largish half--you can see in the pics above that I didn't pour enough into my bottom layer and the Andes mints were nearer to the bottom; not a problem, but...) into your 9x13 inch pan and spread around
3. Chop or break Andes mints (or other Christmas candy) and sprinkle over batter.
4. Pour remaining batter over candy and spread evenly.
5. Bake according to directions (note: brownies in metal pans bake quicker than brownies in glass; we use glass, so possibly cut some time if using metal)
6. When brownies are done and HOT, pour chocolate chips over top of them. Allow to melt and spread the chocolate.
7. Let chocolate cool (I did this overnight, but you can always refrigerate or freeze if you need it that day).
8. Make white chocolate ganache. Pour over chocolate layer
9. Sprinkle chopped candy canes over top of this. I hate chopping candy canes because they shatter and go everywhere, so I put mine in my magic bullet and gave it a whiz. They chopped beautifully and even got kind of powdery. I didn't think I'd like this, but I loved it--it was delicious and made it so the candy cane didn't overpower the brownie or get stuck in clumps in your molars.

And that's it. Hope you got your fitness videos pinned.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Five Fantastic Chocolate Christmas Cookies

I was going to post an amazing standard sugar cookie recipe for you today. Except I can't because the ones I made were only meh. I am currently on the prowl for an absolutely fantastic knock-your-socks-off sugar cookie recipe, so that hopefully next week I can lovingly present it to you, but this week all I had was a so so same-as-always-dough-tastes-better-than-cookie recipe and we can't be having that. So I'm going back to my safe zone: chocolate. And presenting you with five really fantastic chocolate cookies to make this season. Interestingly, I think that chocolate always gets the short shrift in Christmas cookie land. Maybe fudge just steals their thunder. But fudge won't be stealing any of this thunder because these cookies are amazing.

1. Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies. If you're a devoted cherry fan, these will be your new best friend, but even if you hate maraschino cherries, you can make these with other fillings like Andes mints or walnuts and they're wonderful.

2. Chocolate Sugar Cookies That Keep Their Shape. Now here is a sugar cookie to be proud of. Maybe I can't find a standard sugar cookie that I like, but this chocolate version makes up for that by, like, 10,000%. I like them better than Oreos and that's a fact.

3. Chocolate Cookies with Orange Sugar Zest. Perfection. That is all.

4. Nutella Cookies. These cookies are for the time-crunched, the stressed, the lazy (oh come on, you know who you are--don't be ashamed). It has four ingredients and you mix them. Chewy. Delicious. Easy. Hazzah.

5. Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (Whoopie Pies). I love love love these--they rub Oreo's face in the dirt. You can do the center any color you wish or leave it white and roll it in sprinkles, sugar, or crushed candy canes. You could also flavor the center frosting with mint. 

Bonus. Seven Layer Cookies. Not an entirely chocolate cookie, but in our version the chocolate definitely dominates. Also, dumb easy and crowd-pleasing.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pecan Brie: Dumb Easy Appetizer

Appetizer, party contribution, whatever--this brie is dumb easy, looks like angels made it, and can be eaten with crackers or fruit. It's also delicious, creamy, oozy, etc. It takes only minutes to throw together and then about 20 minutes to cook.

As for cost, you can often find brie for cheaper at this time of year or in discount grocery stores (like Aldi) where it's not sold all year. Additionally, it's super filling and packs a nice caloric punch, so you're getting plenty of caloric bang for your buck. Which is totally what everyone is going for at this time of year, right? (um, right?)

Pecan Brie
adapted from Hobo Kitchen
prep time: 3 minutes
cook time: 20-25 minutes
Cost: $3.00
brie: 2.00 (Aldi price), pecans:  .70, other stuff: .30

1 round (or wedge) Brie cheese, rind removed from top (or whole thing if you want) (I believe it was 14 oz.)
1 tsp butter, soft (and optional; I think this would still rock without it)
1 Tbsp honey (alternately, I think some raspberry jam would rock this)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 C chopped pecans

First of all, remove the upper rind from your Brie (you just cut it off with a knife). You can remove it from all sides (not just the top) if you like. It's edible, but not something everyone loves.

Secondly, pack that Brie into an oven-safe dish that holds it snugly. It's going to melt and get gooey and if you put it in a big old casserole dish, it will just ooze and bleb all over the place. Not the end of the world because we're talking about cheese here, but your presentation will bleb right along with it. So find a snuggly dish if you can.

Put the Brie in, top with with the butter, add pecans, then drizzle with honey and balsamic vinegar.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until it's hot and gooey.


Ebates Reminder: (yeah, I'm totally going to be obnoxious about this; thanks for asking). I signed up for Ebates 1 1/2 weeks ago and have already made $12. No, that's not a ton of money, but it's money I've earned by doing abso-freaking nothing except Christmas shopping as I normally would online (can I just tell you how much better this is than doing surveys that take an hour and pay you $1.12--hint: it's ten trillion times better). You can earn free easy money too. Do it through my link and we'll earn free money together: FREE MONEY

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ebates--Free Money

So you guys know that occasionally I'm late to the party, right? Ebates is (in the internet's words) "a company that gives you cash back if you click through the links of the stores listed on their site." So if you're signed up with Ebates and you're buying something online (and aren't we all at this time of year), they will give you cash back for the stuff you buy.

(You can sign up through this link. If you do, I get bonus free money for referring a friend. Once signed up, you can do this too. Here's the link.

When I signed up I went to and bought a cooking pot, which I needed because the bottom of mine looks like cancer just waiting to happen. And they gave me 6% back. When I went to Sephora and bought some make up, which I was going to buy anyway, they gave me 4% back. People, it's free money! Or at least it's free money if you stick to purchases that you would have been making anyway.

In addition to this when you sign up and make your first $25 purchase, you get a $10 gift card to a store of your choosing (I picked Walmart--super boring, I know, but practical). They then send that in the mail. So when I made my first purchase, I got my 6% back, plus I'll receive a $10 gift card. That's more free money.

And then if you refer your friends and they sign up (and spend their first $25), you get extra money there too. You always get $5 per friend. And right now, there's a promotion going on where you get $50 if two friends sign up and $100 if three friends sign up. This is why my brother-in-law introduced me to Ebates when my family came for Thanksgiving. And I have to admit that I was more than happy to sign up with his link because free money and I are friends. And I don't mind giving free money to my friends either. Free money for all, that's my motto.

Getting your free money is easy. They will send you a check or you can have the money deposited into your paypal account.

The toughest part (for me) is remembering to go to Ebates first and then shop through their site. However, there's a "button" you can download to your computer that puts a little Ebates thing in the corner of your computer screen when you're shopping online. Then you can click on that and boom, you're signed up with Ebates and any shopping you do gets you credited. I was hesitant to add a button to my computer, but I now love it with my soul. It's kind of awesome. That means you get free money and don't even have to think about anything. Win win. (It will usually ask you if you want the button. If it doesn't go to  I love love love the button. Anytime you shop somewhere it pops up in the screen of your computer telling you how much that store is offering in cash back. Then you click it and you're just there--you don't have to think about anything.)

And finally, there are apps you can get. I'm (admittedly) not Captain Super App, but I know that most of the modern world is. Anyway, with the apps they'll alert you of deals that are coming up (say, if a store is giving a high cash back or if there's a promotion like the Refer Your Friend one going on right now).

But don't overthink it. Just sign up through them. Shop as you normally would (starting at their site first) and then, bam, free money.

Also, use my link to sign up for Ebates. Get me free money, yourself free money, and then get your friends to sign up so they can get free money too! Whee!!!

Here it is:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving: A Menu

Because I'm just now thinking about this... Maybe you are too.

1. Too many notes on TURKEY.

2. Not enough notes on STUFFING. (I'm going to admit that I'm still looking for perfection here, but this is a decent basic recipe)

3. The perfect ROLLS

4. Too many good cranberry recipes to choose from (who says that???)
There's cranberry salsa
Pomegranate Sweet relish (which is not relish-y at all, but very sweet)
Cranberry Orange Relish (only sweet)
And a really delicious classic Cranberry sauce

5. Mashed potatoes.

6. Sweet potatoes with farro--a little something different.

7. Roast vegetables:

8. And pie (chocolate)
(Or this one if you want dumb easy; it's the picture up top.)

9. More pie (pumpkin)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

For the last couple weeks I've been out of whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour provides an important function for me and my bread-eating family. It allows me to eat all kinds of wonderful breadsy things without guilt. It allows me to feed all these wonderful breadsy things to my kids without guilt. When we have whole wheat (or even part wheat) bread at dinner and the kids are picky and hardly eat anything else, then I can say to myself, "Well, at least they got some whole grains with their 1/2 teaspoon of soup/salad/casserole/vegetable." But when you don't have whole grains in your bread, then what do you say, "Well, at least they got some gluten candy with their two drops of tomato soup." It's less comforting.

(Here's a picture of them in different light, so don't freak out if they're not as orange as the above picture; they were more orange than regular rolls, but not flaming.)

One night I had promised my kids I would make bread. And a promise is a promise. Still, I had to do something to add nutritional value to their bread candy to make myself feel like a better person and all. I had a bit of pumpkin leftover and added about 1/3 C in. It wasn't a lot--let's face it; it was still gluten candy. But it was gluten candy with a bit of extra vitamin A. Aaaannnndddd even more importantly, it was fantastic. They were delicious and soft with a kiss of autumn (and a kiss of vitamin A, and--yes--I am still trying to make myself feel like I fed my kids better than I did). The color was pretty and I just thought it might be a nice addition to your Fall/Thanksgiving repertoire. They are made exactly like my go-to roll, only instead of using two eggs you use 1 egg and 1/4-1/2 C pumpkin puree (I used canned). That's it. I'll copy that recipe below with changes.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Makes about 20-24 rolls
Prep time: 20 minutes
Rise time: 1 1/2-2 hours
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Cost: $2.00 (that's $.10/roll)
milk: .15, yeast: .20, butter: .25, sugar: .10, egg: .10, flour: 1.00, pumpkin: .20

1 C warm water
1 C milk, warmed (not hot)
2 Tbsp yeast
1/4 C butter
2 tsp salt
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1/4-1/2 C pumpkin puree
7-8 C flour

Add yeast to water and milk. Let it sit there if you've got five minutes. If you'll get distracted by leaving a thing for five minutes, then just throw the butter, salt, sugar, and eggs in before you forget what on earth you were doing in the first place. Mix it all together. Mix in 4 C flour. Add 2 more cups. Begin kneading with hands when it gets too tough to stir. Of course, if you're a member of the 21st century and have a Kitchenaid, you can use that too with the dough hook. I myself haven't quite made it to the 21st century and that's okay with me because (weird mental disorder alert) I kind of like kneading. It relaxes me. I like how the dough smells. I like how it feels. 

So if you, like me, will be doing things manually, here is #1 best tip for rolls. The dough should be pillowy--like a mother's bosom. We don't want any tight teenage breasts, nor do we want a stretched and sagging grandma shelf. If a three-year-old would just love to lay her head on your dough, it's perfect. (Warning: If you have a real life 3-year-old available, do not invite her to lay her head upon your dough to test it out. You'll get hair in your dough. And possibly boogers. Which is what mother's bosoms also get covered in when they have three-year-olds. Not that we mind because three-year-olds are cute.) I've digressed, haven't I? Anyway, so keep adding flour in 1/4 C increments or so and knead it for about 8 minutes until it is nice and pillowy and perhaps the teeniest little bit tacky, but not sticky. Then put it in a bowl and cover it and keep it in a warm place. (Everyone always says put it in an oiled bowl. I have never, not even once in my life done this. I always just throw it back in the bowl I mixed it in. It is always always fine. Who are these people with their oiled bowls and what is the purpose of oiling the bowl?) 

Tip #2: If it's cold in your house, stick the bowl with the dough in the oven. Turn the oven on for 1 minute. Then turn the oven off and leave the dough in the warmed oven. (Do not leave the room to go do something in that one minute. You will never remember your dough. It will cook right there in your bowl with a dish towel over it and perhaps your house will burn down. This is not worth what you were going to do in that one minute.) Alternatively, you could turn the oven on, then off, then put your dough in just to be sure you don't flake. 

Let it rise for one hour or until doubled. Then punch it down and shape it into rolls. Put the rolls on a greased baking sheet. Cover them and let them rise again--this time for about 20 minutes. 

Bake at 375 for about 10-13 minutes. I like my rolls just a bit on the dough-y end. I always break them open to determine if they're just right and not way too doughy still. It's not the perfect technique, but it works. 


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Secret Recipe Club--Apple Cinnamon Bread

(Can't you just imagine some chopped pecans on the top of this as well? I know I can)

I've made a lot of quick breads--banana, pumpkin, chocolate. I love them all, but this month for the Secret Recipe Club I realized that I had a gaping hole in my repertoire--Apple Cinnamon Bread. I realized this as I was scrolling through Renee's Kitchen Adventures. There it was--a recipe for a quick bread with cinnamon and apples, and that little light went off--the little light that says, "You really need this in your life." I mean, it's fall--it's time to give the people what they want. And the people want delicious comforting sweet (but not too sweet) bread that has grated apple and cinnamon and nutmeg. At least that is what the people want if they live in this house.

I loved so much about this bread. It's definitely on the healthy-ish side. It has fruit, yogurt, the potential for whole wheat. Also, there's not a truck load of sugar in it, which I appreciated. Though perhaps I should warn you that if you're used to intensely sweet quick breads, this one is only mildly sweet, so be prepared for that or jack up the sugar if that's your thing. I'm not here to judge--only to encourage you to get your autumn on and make this bread.

Apple Cinnamon Quick Bread
adapted from Renee's Kitchen Adventures
Makes 1 loaf
prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Cost: $1.90
flour: .30, sugar: .15, apples: .70, eggs: .20, yogurt: .35, oil: .05, spices: .15

2 C all purpose flour (I think it would be amazing with 1 1/2 C all purpose and 1/2 C whole wheat, but we were out of whole wheat)
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutment
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt (I just used regular salt whatever that is)
2 C grated apples (peels and cores removed--this is about 2 apples)
2 eggs
3/4 C plain Greek yogurt
1/4 C canola oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp turbinado sugar for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a loaf pan with spray. Renee used a 9x5x3 inch pan. I used the size down, which is 7x3xsomethingorother--still a large loaf pan, not a mini, but not as large as Renee's.

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In medium bowl, combine apples, eggs, yogurt, canola oil, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Don't over mix. And you really just need a spoon--no beaters or mixer required.

Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with rubinado sugar if you want (this was a hit with my kids. Bake for one hour (mine was done and perfect at EXACTLY one hour, but you should test it with a toothpick--or fork for the unrefined--to be sure there's no uncooked batter lurking in the middle). Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Then remove to cool completely.

This is even better and more apple-y the next day, but that didn't stop my kids from porking out on it soon after it came out of the oven on the first day.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Pork Chop Potato Bake

Who's ready for some dumb easy comfort food (with the worst pictures I've taken in a long time--ugh--I'm blaming early darkness). The problem with comfort food, as we discussed in my last post, is that it sometimes takes forever to make and you feel like it's Thanksgiving when it's not Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving's great and all, but not on any old Monday.

I never ever made scalloped potatoes. I love them, but I seriously haven't made them in years. I just don't have the time for side dishes that take longer to prepare than anything else. This little beauty of a recipe brought them back into my life. It's still not a 15-minute throw together (well, it kind of is, but you're going to tack on a long cook time), but it's beauty is that you make the meat and potatoes together. You've only got 15-20 minutes hands on time, and then a low, slow bake. In fact, I'd wager this would work in the crock pot wonderfully.

Pork Chop Potato Bake
adapted from And a Sprinkle of Love
serves 4
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour (to 2 1/2 hours depending on the oven temp you go with)
Cost: $6.85
pork chops: 5.00, potatoes: 1.00, onion: .10, milk: .15, butter: .20, broth: .40

4 pork chops
1 onion (I subbed in onion powder since I knew my husband would hate the onion--about 1/2Tbsp)
6 medium potatoes
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 C chicken broth
1 C milk or half and half
cheese, optional
salt and pepper

First heat a bit of oil in a pan. Then salt and pepper your pork chops and brown them on each side.

While they're browning, slice your onion, then peel your potatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch slices.

When the chops are browned, but not cooked through, remove them from heat. Add the onions to the drippings. If there are no drippings add a bit more oil. Cook the onions and finish cutting your potatoes.

Remove the onions from the pan and put them with the pork chops.

Add the butter to the pan. Then whisk in the four. When it's nice and pasty, add the chicken broth and the milk and whisk, cooking until it's thickened. Add the onions back in and stir.

Here's the magical part: Lay your potatoes in a well-greased 9x13 inch pan. They can overlap and be wonky--that's fine. Just get them all in there in a mildly evenish manner. Than pour the sauce over the top. At this point you can add some grated cheese if you like, but you don't have to. Now put your pork chops on top.

Cover with foil and bake for 65-75 minutes at 350 degrees. OR for 2 1/2 hours at 300 degrees. I went for the low and slow option and this came out so flavorful and melt-in-your-mouthy, it was amazing.

Just sit there or play or read or sleep or whatever. And then at dinner time you eat.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Baked Meatball Parmigiana

 We're comfort-fooding it up all over the place around here. While still keeping it simple. Because I think we all love comfort food if, you know, your grandma makes it. But then when you have to hang out for four hours while the roast cooks and dice 800 potatoes and shred two pounds of cheese and simmer down the sauce until it's a nice balsamic glaze and then get everything onto the table at just the right moment so nothing gets cold--well then fried eggs start to sound a lot better. And while there's nothing wrong with fried eggs, how about some hearty comfort food that's a little easier to pull together.

Baked meatballs are a new and glorious thing for me in general. In the past, I've always stood by the oven, rolling meatballs around in a skillet while the fat spit everywhere and the balls got too brown on the outside while still being a bit too pink on the inside. No more. Now that baked meatballs and I have been introduced, there's no turning back. They're so much easier and neater, juicier, and more evenly cooked.

This dish builds on the beauty of baked meatballs and adds to it. All you've got to do is roll meat in to balls. It takes about 10 minutes and then you're "work" is done. You do need 45 minutes to an hour for these to cook, so plan for that. Otherwise, a pot of pasta later, you're done.

Baked Meatball Parmigiana
adapted from Hugs and Cookies
Serves 4
prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45-60 minutes
Cost: $6.50 (even with a box of pasta, this comes up to less than $2.00/serving)
beef: 3.00, bread: .05, Parm cheese: .75, eggs: .20, tomato sauce: 1.50, mozzarella: 1.00

1 lb ground beef
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 C bread crumbs (I just used one slice and put it in my little blender)
3/4 C Parmesan cheese (I used the shredded, but in this recipe the powdery stuff might work too)
2 eggs
salt to taste
36 oz. your choice tomato sauce
1-2 C mozzarella
some pasta to serve it on if you're too proud to just spoon it out of the dish and eat it

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine ground beef, garlic, bread crumbs, Parmesan, eggs, and salt. I squish it together with my hands like a boss (naturally). Then roll it into meatballs. Larger meatballs will have a slightly longer cook time than smaller ones. We made 14 or 15.

Put a tiny bit of olive oil on the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Then add your meatballs.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Then add sauce, stir around the meatballs to coat and cook for another 15 minutes or so. (Note: Around this point, you want to start boiling your pasta water, so your pasta will be ready in time.)

Then throw on the cheese and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Cut one open to check for meatballs doneness and, uh, while you're at it you better taste it to make sure it's okay and stuff.

Serve over pasta or with bread.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Easy Peasy Halloween Bars

Ah Halloween. I have a bit of a love hate thing going on with it. When I was a kid, I loved it--everything about it--the candy, which I would group according to how much I liked it and then eat in a tidy rationed way so that one year it lasted me all the way until Easter (I learned that year that chocolate has a shelf life). I loved the costumes--the chance to make myself into someone else--someone interesting or dangerous or historic. I went all out with my costumes and would also be in character throughout Halloween (yeah, one of those kids--that was me).

As a grown up, however, I've struggled at times to not hate it. There's the candy orgy for starters. Certain of my children have proved to be slightly less moderate/hoardy than me with their candy. Certain of my children may or may not have eaten so much at Halloween parties that they actually puked afterwards. And then there are the costumes. Now, instead of girls making themselves into anyone interesting they can dream up, the theme seems to be making them into a) a princess of some variety or b) someone fit for child sex trafficking. That's kind of not my thing. If you're 20 and want to be sexy Dumbo or whatever, then I guess you can (though I still think you're selling yourself short). But there's no reason that my ten-year-old should have the choice of really short skirt with plunging neck line, or get out the sewing machine cause you're making your own. The sexiest costume I ever imagined was this space fighter in purple--I wanted purple leggings and a purple shirt and hair (so, apparently the closest I got to a "sexy" costume was a little like dressing up like Barney). I never got this costume because where on earth was my mom going to find purple leggings--we lived in a little town and there was no internet. There went not-so-sexy space girl/Barney impersonator.

My solution for all of these Halloween problems has been to slightly ignore Halloween. I let my kids pick a costume they like--it has to be cheap or they have to buy it, or--heck--they can just go pull one out of the dress up bag if they want. And then we attend whatever events friends of ours dream up, but I don't really fuss over Halloween or put any effort into it at all. Maybe that's sad. Maybe it's just a healthy step into adulthood. Either way, you can now be lazy (but still awesome) with me. These bars take all of 10 minutes to prepare and then you can be out the door with them if need be. They're tasty and Halloweeny and could also be used as vehicles to use up leftover candies from Halloween or leftover cereal from normal life. I really think they're infinitely adaptable. But did I mention still awesome.

Easy Peasy Halloween Bars
adapted from Suzie the Foodie
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cost: $3.60
corn syrup: .35, sugar: .25, peanut butter: 1.10, cereal: 1.00, chocolate chips: .90

1 C corn light corn syrup
1 C sugar
1 1/3 C peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 C cereal (I used rice crispies, but any bland cereal would work--Cheerios, Special K, cornflakes, whatever)
1 C chocolate chips
assorted candies, optional

Heat corn syrup and sugar over medium heat. Let sugar dissolve and bring to boiling. Boil gently (so turn that heat down if it starts to get really bubbly) for two minutes (you might want to time it; cook it too long and it will get weird).

Stir in peanut butter. Add vanilla. Then stir in the cereal.

At this point you can also stir in some chunks of leftover Halloween candies. Just chop up some leftovers and mix them in. I think almost any chocolate would be good.

If you don't want to sacrifice your chocolate Halloween candy, that's fine. Just make it plain.

While it's still warm, put the chocolate chips on and let them melt. Then spread them around. If they don't melt put them in an oven on the middle rack, and set the oven to broil. Leave them in for only a minute or two and then take them out (seriously--don't forget they're there or everything will burn). Then your chocolate should be melty enough to spread.

If you wish add Halloween candy to the top. We used candy corn and it was great. But almost anything chocolate-y or nutty will work.

Cut and eat warm or cooled.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Secret Recipe Club--Mulligatawny Soup

This month for Secret Recipe Club, I had Sarah from Sarah's Kitchen for my blog. Originally from Kent, Sarah has been in the states for 13 years. I thought that was pretty intriguing, and because of that I really wanted to try a British recipe (although I am also dying to try the shrimp she just recently posted and this slow cooker recipe). The one I settled on was this soup. I mean how do you pass up a soup named Mulligatawny. It is a British soup after an Indian recipe--or at least that was the favorite definition I found on the internet. It also explains why this soup that I knew as a British soup had curry as a main player. The translation of mulligatawny (again, per the handy Internet) means pepper-water. It was better than that.

I also liked it because it came together in an easy 30 minutes and has a bunch of healthy players in its line up. It's great to make if you've got leftovers like chicken, rice, and some veggies. Seriously, you could take a chicken/rice dinner and totally turn its leftovers on their heads with this dish. Warm, comforting, and rich, it's a lovely autumn soup if you get bored of the standard winter squash variations (not that they're not awesome, of course).

Mulligatawny Soup
adapted from Sarah's Kitchen
Makes 6 servings
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $4.15
butter: .25, onion: .10, carrot: .10, celery: .20, tomato paste: .20, curry: .25, apple: .40, coconut milk: 1.50, chicken stock: .30, chicken: .75 rice: .10

Note: If you haven't got coconut milk, you can sub cream or half and half, but you'll want to add it near the end of cooking and warm, not boil it.

1/4 C butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped or grated
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 Tbsp flour
2-3 Tbsp grated ginger (or half that much powder)
1 grated green apple
3 C chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
1/2 C cooked rice (I happened to have this so I used, but you could skip if you don't want to make a small amount of rice)
1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

If your chicken is raw, cook it. You can do this by boiling then shredding or by stir frying it in a bit of butter and salt.

While it's cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add onion, carrot, and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes.

Add tomato paste, curry powder and flour. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add ginger and apple and stir a couple more minutes. Add cooked chicken.

Add stock and coconut milk. simmer until thickened. Add rice if using and heat through.

Season to taste.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Squash-Haters Butternut Soup

There are plenty of reasons to love butternut squash. It's orange and healthy and good. Unless, of course, you dislike squash. In which case it doesn't much matter to you if it's orange and healthy because you don't want to eat it. But maybe with this new soup you will. It involves butternut squash of course, but the squashiness does not overwhelm at all. It's silky and smooth and the browned butter gives it a rich caramelized (but not sweet) sort of flavor. I love regular butternut soup and I was skeptical that this somewhat similar soup would really be that different. But then it kind of was.

Despite the title of this blog I guess I can't promise that true squash haters will love this soup, but I think it's definitely got a shot among the squash dislikers. And even the haters might find that--while it's not their favorite soup ever--it's still worth the orange and healthy and goodness. A gateway squash soup if you will. Try it. You might like it.

Squash-Haters Butternut Soup
adapted from Wannabite
serves 6-10
Prep and cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes (or 30 minutes if use microwave method below or if you have leftover butternut squash from a previous meal)
Cost: $4.65
squash: 3.00, half and half .65, butter: .40, stock: .40, sour cream: .20

Note: I halved this.

Note: If you don't want to roast your squash in the oven or are pinched for time, cut them in half, take out the seeds, and then put them face down on a plate with a bit of water. Cover the plate with plastic wrap and microwave for 10-20 minutes or until the flesh of the squash is easily pierced with a knife.

2 large roasted butternut squashes
1 pint half and half
3/4 stick butter (browned)
2 Tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 1/2 C chicken stock
Creme fraiche to garnish (or sour cream if creme fraise is not yet something in your cooking database)
rosemary for garnish

Cut the squash in half. Take out the seeds. Lightly coat it with oil, salt and pepper. Roast the squash (open side down) on a large baking sheet for about an hour.

Near the end of your roasting time, add the butter to a small saucepan. Melt and heat until it begins to brown. You can do this quickly over medium high heat if you stir it with a whisk as it begins to bubble and brown (don't let the light-colored frothy bubbles on top fool you--underneath it could be browning--so smell it and whisk it--it should smell nutty and when whisked the bottom oily part should be browning). Or you can do it on low heat and let it heat and brown gradually. This always takes too long for my short attention span, but you don't have to pay it too much heed. When it's browned pour it into a glass dish (if you leave it in the pan it will continue to cook and burn).

When it's easily pierced with a knife, scoop out the flesh (it should come out easily). Put this in a blender, add the half and half and the chicken stock.

Blend well. Put this in a pot on medium heat.

Add browned butter, oil (which I actually forgot when I made this and didn't miss, but maybe it would be even silkier), and salt and pepper to taste. Heat until the desired warmness.

Garnish with creme fraiche or sour cream (and, yes, you really should--it's just delicious).


Monday, September 28, 2015

Andes Mint Cake

I'm going to be honest: I don't even think you should make this. It's ridiculous. It's over-the-top. It's way too rich, way too filling. It's a triple layer cake with two entire frosting recipes (one mint, one chocolate) in/on it, then ganache, then candy. Are you hearing me? Of course you're not. I probably lost you somewhere between Andes and ganache. If you're a thirteen-year-old boy, I definitely lost you. I probably never had you. My own son was sure not having any kind of overly-indulgent warnings, and it was his birthday. And, at my house, birthdays win, so here you go.

This cake was honestly super gorgeous and easy-ish (for such an over-the-top cake anyway). It was also delicious--every bit. But you must believe me when I say that it was intensely filling. You guys know that I'm kind of a cake girl. I have no qualms about putting away a nice slice of cake, especially on a birthday. I struggled to make it through half a piece of this. It was just so rich. If there's a diabetic in your life you're hoping to kill, then this is the recipe for you (Public Service Announcement: Do not kill diabetics or any other humans. Do not feed this cake to diabetics; thank you.). So here's my advice: make this only if teenagers are involved. Just saying. They'll help you out.

Here's what you do: 
(Idea from Your Cup of Cake)

1. Make a recipe of the Best Ever Chocolate Cake.

2. Make a recipe of mint frosting (I dyed it green.)

3. Make a recipe of Kip's fudge frosting.

4. Make a recipe of ganache. (3/4 C chocolate chips, 1/2 C cream; warm and mix together; I did this in the microwave)

(Have your arteries clogged yet? Are you dead? Can you hear me? I'll call an ambulance.)

5. Take two boxes of Andes mints and unwrap them.

Assemble the cake with the mint frosting in between.

Add the chocolate frosting.

 3. Make a ring of Andes mints around the bottom.

 Pour the ganache on top. Smear and nudge it till it till it spills gorgeously over the edge. (Ambulance is on its way; stay with me.)

Break more Andes mints and put them on the top.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Five-Minute Artisan Corn Grain Bread

Dear Friends,
Don't ever lend me a book and say something like, "Oh, sure, take your time. I don't need it back anytime soon." If you do this, I will take your word (and then some) for it. I will take my time, even if that means, say, 10 years, and I will trust that you don't need it back anytime soon. This isn't to say you can't lend a book to me and expect it back. If you say simply, "Here's my book. I need it back in a week." Then I will most certainly have it back to you in a week. Or if you lend me a book and then text me and say, "Hey, are you done with my book." I will get my little self done with your book and get it back to you. But if you say, "Oh, sure, whenever" then I'm sorry, there are simply no promises.

Recently, by which I mean--oh five or six months ago--a friend lent me such a book. A lovely lovely book called My Bread by Jim Lahey about how to make beautiful artisan breads the easy way. Unfortunately for me and for you (and certainly for my sweet friend who lent it to me), I didn't crack that book open for months. And then one day I cleaned my shelf and there it was. Oh dear. Book borrower's guilt. So I got it down. It still took me a while to open it. It's just that I had my own little lazy method for artisan bread as well as pizza dough, and I was happy with them. I assumed that this book used the same basic method (which it does) and I thought to myself, "How much more is there to know?" Oh dear. It's not that there's so very very much more to know as there is so very very much more to imagine. He takes one method (flour, water, salt, yeast, time, heat) and turns it into the most amazing breads you could dream of by making simple alterations. Coconut chocolate artisan bread, yes please. Peanut butter bread--not a sweet bread, but a loaf made with peanuty water instead of just regular water and then peanuts cooked right into the crust. Or add some jelly and fold it in. It's a delicate touch, a bit of innuendo. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Every page I turned was a new and beautiful (yet still almost stupidly simple) idea.

And the wonderful thing about a book like this--a book that uses a basic sort of method and opens the imagination--is that it opened up my mind. And today when I made my browned butter butternut soup (yes I will get you the recipe), I kind of thought it'd be good with bread and I kind of thought it'd be good with cornbread. And then I realized it'd be really just perfect with artisan bread that had a crunch of chunky-ish cornmeal in it. And it was. Not sweet, but textured and interesting. Oh--and beautiful. 

The method:
1. Combine grain/flour, yeast, salt, and water.
2. Let it sit/rise for 12-18 hours (yeah--that's the part that's kind of not five minutes)
3. Turn it onto a tea towel dusted with flour, wrap it up, and let it rise another 1-1 1/2 hours.
4. Plop it into a hot Dutch oven and put it in a hot oven. (475 degrees)
5. Bake until it's brown.
6. Let it cool so that the moisture isn't lost and the bread is awesome. The end.

Five-Minute Artisan Corn Grain Bread
inspired by My Bread
Prep time: 5 minutes
Rise time: 12-18 hours
Cook time: 1 hour
Cost: $.60
flour: .30, cornmeal: .25, yeast: .05

2 3/4 C flour (I used all-purpose, but Lahey recommends bread flour)
1/4 medium  ground cornmeal (regular old cornmeal will probably work, but I was going for a rustic, chunky look and feel)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/3 C water

Combine all ingredients until incorporated. No kneading or anything else is required.

Let sit for 12-18 hours. Yes, you have to think ahead of time. Yes, I--of all people--am aware of the difficulty in that.

When the dough is ready, it won't look like regular kneaded dough. It will be wet looking with a bunch of air bubbles in it. It won't have a nice round shape, but will take the shape of your bowl. Don't worry--it's still going to come out round. Now, get out a tea towel. Dust the tea towel with some more corn meal. Plop your dough onto the tea towel and dust it with more corn meal. (Sounds like a pain, but was surprisingly easy). Wrap it up in the towel and let rise another hour or 1 1/2 hours. When you stick your finger in, the indentation should stay.

(See that lovely finger poke)

During the last 1/2 hour of rise time, heat your oven to 475. Put a Dutch oven (with lid) in the oven and let them heat up together.

When your oven's hot, plop your dough into the Dutch oven (I use a bit of parchment paper at the bottom just to make life easy), cover with lid. Bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot (now remember that this pot is crazy, wicked hot--please be careful). Let it cook 15-30 more minutes until the top is a deep golden or darker brown (this won't mean the inside is burned at all--don't worry).

Let it cool. Lahey insists on this and I was going to, but then--oh--dinner was running late and I needed to feed everyone. So I cut into it while it was still warm. But Lahey says if you let it cool, the moisture will remain in and that as the steam escapes your bread will sing to you (make a sort of whistling sound--yeah--awesome) and then it will be perfectly moist and wonderful and chewy and amazing. I want to hear my bread sing and so next time, I intend to let it cool. But now I can tell you that even if you don't, your bread will be pretty darn awesome.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Secret Recipe Club--Pumpkin Spice Scones


This month for Secret Recipe Club I had A Spoonful of Thyme for my blog. I'd pinned several salads to try and then I saw these scones and I thought, "Who needs salad? I mean, these have a vegetable in them too, right?" Totes.

And then--I know you drizzle things on your salads, right--well, I figured I better drizzle something on my pumpkin scones as well. A Spoonful of Thyme used a beautiful and delicious-sounding cream cheese drizzle. But then I opened my cupboard and saw that my husband had opened the speculoos cookie spread. And then I realized that maybe a speculoos cookie spread glaze with pumpkin scones might, just might, be the next cure for cancer. So I didn't want to, you know, miss out on that. So then this happened.

It didn't cure cancer (well, not that I know of). But I can't say I regretted the experiment.

My kids didn't either. They wolfed these down and beg beg begged me to make more today. Thanks, Spoonful of Thyme for the perfect fall breakfast/dessert (depending on your standards for such things).

Pumpkin Spice Scones with Speculoos Glaze
adapted from A Spoonful of Thyme
makes 8 large scones
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cost: $1.85 or about $.22/scone
flour: .15, whole wheat flour: .10, sugar: .10, butter: .40, pumpkin: .35, egg: .10, half and half: .05, spices: .20, powdered sugar: .10, cookie spread: .30 (um, I don't quite remember how much this cost, so I'm sort of making this up)

A few notes:
-Spoonful of Thyme used all all-purpose flour, but I added 1/2 C whole wheat and found it perfectly delightful.
-The risk with scones is having them dry out. To avoid this: 1) DO NOT OVERMIX them. I took mine out when still kind of a crumbly blop and then pressed and formed it into a ball and that was all it needed. 2) DO NOT OVERBAKE them. I went with 10 minutes and it was perfect. This didn't make them golden, so I wouldn't recommend going for golden brown. When they're puffy and look done, take them out. Stick a fork in it if you're worried it's doughy in the middle.

For the scones:

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
7 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
6 Tbsp cold butter
1/2 C canned pumpkin
3 Tbsp half and half
1 large egg

For the glaze: 

1/3 C powdered sugar
2 Tbsp speculoos cookie spread (this is generally a seasonal item--likes like peanut butter; tastes like cookies in a spoon)
2 Tbsp milk

For the scones:

Combine all dry ingredients. I did this in a food processor. Then add the butter in chunks and process until the big pieces are gone.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, pumpkin, and half and half.

Then add this to the food processor. Do NOT overprocess it.

Process it until it's crumbly and mostly combined-ish. then dump it out and fold it a few times (as in 4 kneads, not 75 kneads) to be sure it's uniform in flour-y-ness. Then form it into a ball. That's it. Do NOT keep messing with it. Gently roll it into a circle on a WELL-FLOURED surface (I hope you're enjoying the caps. I feel strongly about certain aspects of this recipe). Don't skimp on the flour or it will get stuck and you'll have to scrape it up and maybe re-need it and life as you know it will be ruined. Well, probably not, but your scones may be slightly tougher than you prefer.

 Okay--so roll it out into a circle that's about 1/2 inch think. Then cut it into 8 pieces.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Again--don't overbake this. It will be a little too dry and a little too crumbly.

Let cool.

For cookie spread glaze:

Combine all ingredients and whisk.

When your scones are cool, drizzle with the speculoos cookie spread (or Spoonful of Thyme's cream cheese frosting).



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