Friday, April 29, 2011

Teacher Appreciation

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It's Teacher Appreciation Week next week! Are you ready? Show the teachers in your life some love. We all know there is a special place in heaven for someone who will love, wrangle, protect, guide and manage to teach children--sometimes over 20 of them at a time! I love and appreciate all the teachers that I know. Thank you so, so much for all you do.


Here is a quick and simple idea to put together a little gift for a teacher.

I got an empty, clean paint can from the hardware store and covered it with some trimmed 12 x 12 school-themed scrapbooking paper. I used Mod Podge to adhere the paper to the can, and then put another couple of coats over the paper. You can add ribbons and all sorts of decorative things to the handles-just use your imagination and whatever craft supplies you have. :)

I filled the can with cute notepads, a little book and of course...chocolate!
 

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Peanut Butter Snickers Brownies

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Help!
Seriously...
I need an intervention,
a straight-jacket,
a thump on the head!  Maybe all three.
I have been obsessed with these little brownies all day.


All day, folks!  Whisking, baking, decorating, eating, and photographing.  My poor children...I did make it to the bus stop and managed to help with homework, but my day has been devoted to these freak-tastic BROWNIES!


Even before today, I spent way too much time thinking about them.  I first saw them on one of my favorite baking blogs-Cookies and Cups.  Oh my goodness!  Genius!  I got myself a ginormous bag of Peanut Butter Snickers squares and got to work today.



You don't have to spend the day making these like I did.  I made a double batch, and then another batch later the same afternoon.  I'm sending a dozen to my husband's office and another dozen to my son's elementary school tomorrow for Administrative Professional's Day.  Show them love, folks!  They know things.  Admins know things that you don't even know they know, you know?  They make things happen.  They're always nice to me when I call hubs 72 times a day.  Thank you!!

There's nothing left to say, except make these and go visit Cookies and Cups.  :)

Peanut Butter Snickers Brownies
Source:  slightly adapted from Cookies and Cups
makes 10 brownies

For brownies:
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
10 unwrapped Peanut Butter Snickers squares

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/2 stick butter, room temp.
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 - 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk

Chocolate Frosting:
1/2 stick butter, room temp.
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 - 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk
*Tiny mini-Reese's peanut butter cups for garnish (optional)

Preheat to 350.
Spray muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla and sugar.  Stir in melted butter. Sift in cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt.  In each muffin tin (10) add 1/4 cup brownie batter.  Press 1 unwrapped Snickers square into each cup,  Spread a little more batter over the top of each square, covering it.  Bake for 15-17 minutes until edges are set and center is not jiggly.
Let the brownie cups cool for at least 30 minutes IN the pan. When the brownies are cool, use a butter knife to release the edges and flip pan over onto cooling rack. Carefully flip the brownies over and let them cool completely before frosting.  The brownies will look like they have sunk in the middle making the perfect little dent for frosting.

While the brownies are cooling make your frosting:
For peanut butter frosting, using a medium sized mixing bowl cream together butter and peanut butter with hand mixer.  Slowly add in sifted powdered sugar and then milk.  Beat until smooth.
Add more milk or sugar depending on the consistency you prefer.

For chocolate frosting, using a medium sized mixing bowl beat butter with hand mixer until smooth.  Slowly add in sifted powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  Then add milk and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.
Again, add more milk or sugar depending on the consistency you prefer.

Fit your piping bag with a tip. 
Spread the peanut butter frosting on one side of the bag and the chocolate on the other.  Pipe the frosting on each brownie and garnish with mini peanut butter cups.


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This post is linked to:  Mouthwatering Mondays
Made it on Monday
What's Cooking Wednesday
Totally Tasty Tuesdays
Tasty Tuesdays
Fun With Food Friday
Sweets for a Saturday
Sweet Tooth Friday
Sweet Indulgences Sunday
These Chicks Cooked
Sunday, April 24, 2011

Everyday Chicken Risotto

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Dinner is always a fun undertaking with picky pickster kids.  What is considered tasty is relative to height around here.  Spaghetti, hamburgers and chicken nuggets (gack, I know!)- absolutely delish and daily servings would be just fine if you are under 4 ft. tall.  Not so much for the taller crowd.


My picksters like rice and chicken though, so this recipe went over pretty well.  Except for the fact that I added mushrooms...not even the finest dice can escape their ever vigilant hidden vegetable scan.  The carrots are okay;  onions and garlic they don't really mind, but the mushrooms...not okay.

Anyway!  Hubs and I really liked this risotto.  It was quick and easy, and it used simple, staple ingredients.  I'll be making it again-minus the mushrooms-and we'll all be happy at dinner time!


This is totally a 30 minute meal if you do a little pre-planning, like cooking the chicken breasts in the slow-cooker (which is what I did).  OR...an even better idea would be to stop by the market and pick up a rotisserie chicken and use that.  I'm not on friendly terms with rotisserie chickens though, but go ahead--if they don't make you shudder. 



Everyday Chicken Risotto
Source:  adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup diced onion
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced or diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 cup chopped mushrooms (if you like)
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken broth (low sodium)*
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken

Directions:
1.  Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook onions, carrots, garlic and mushrooms for about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently until carrots are crisp-tender.  Stir in rice.  Cook, stirring frequently, until rice begins to brown.
2.  Pour in white wine.  Cook and stir until liquid is absorbed.  Add in chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently, until all of the broth is absorbed and the rice is creamy and tender.  (This will take about 15-20 minutes.)  Stir in chicken and heat through.

*I warm my broth in the microwave or on the stove for a few minutes.  The rice seems to absorb it quicker when it's warm before stirring it in.

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This post is linked to: Mouthwatering Mondays
Made it on Monday
What's Cooking Wednesday
Tasty Tuesdays
Fun With Food Friday
Thursday, April 21, 2011

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

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Would you believe I'm picky about my carrot cake?  I am, I know it's hard to believe, but it's true.  I like coconut, nuts and pineapple, but I do not appreciate finding any of them in my carrot cake.  It bothers me.  It distracts from the carroty goodness.  I can't handle all the other stuff when I'm just looking to have a carrot cupcake experience.  Make sense?

These cupcakes are lightly spiced, moist and just plain delicious!  I grate my carrots very finely, so to more easily hide them from little people make the batter homogeneous.  They are really tasty little cupcakes.  I hope you'll give them a try.

Have a very happy Easter! 

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Source:  Shelly Kaldunski in Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 carrots)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  In a large bowl, whisk together the grated carrots, sugar, oil, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla to combine.  Gently fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until completely combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean--20 to 25 minutes.  Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Transfer the cupcakes to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

Frost the cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting...or not, they are still really tasty without frosting.


Cream Cheese Frosting:
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until light and fluffy.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar and beat until well blended and spreadable.



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This post is linked to:  Mouthwatering Monday
Sweets for a Saturday
Dee Dee's Delights-Easter Sunday Buffet
Muffin Monday
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easy Sugar Cookies

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We don't color many Easter eggs around my house.  I don't have anything against this tradition, we just don't do it for a couple reasons.
1.  My kids would rather eat dry, plastic Easter grass than a boiled egg--no question.
2.  There's only so many boiled eggs I can eat. 
3.  My little man isn't keen on "messy things".
    (Yea, G!  Mommy's so proud to pass on her favorite neurosis.)

So, instead of decorated eggs, we'll be enjoying colored sugar cookies.  Seems like a reasonable and fun alternative to me!     


This is a recipe that I copied down from my lovely grandmother.  Her cookies puff up in the oven, and stay puffed as they cool.  Mine don't stay puffed.  I've learned to love and appreciate the deflating.  Although, each time I peek in the oven and see the cookies all puffed and lovely, I get my hopes up.  Yet, they de-puff.  It's all good--they turn out a little crisp and a little chewy--me likes.  I think I know Grandma's puffy secret though, but I just can't bring myself to go there...with magarine...eek.  You know how I feel about unholy butter imposters.

Anyway...I roll the little dough balls in colored sugar-depending on the holiday.  Green and red for Christmas, red and pink for Valentine's day, you get the idea.  Kids go crazy for them--I think it's the colored sugar that they like so much.  :)

Happy Easter, everyone!

Easy Sugar Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp pure lemon extract (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups flour

Directions:
Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy, add egg yolks and mix well.  Add vanilla and lemon extracts.  Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until mixture becomes a soft dough.  Chill in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350.  Roll dough into 1" or 1 1/2" balls and roll in colored sugar.  Place on ungreased baking sheet about 2" apart and bake for about 12 minutes.  (The cookies will puff and then fall as they cool.)
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This post is linked to: This Week's Cravings
What's Cooking Wednesday
Made It On Monday
Mouthwatering Mondays
Sweets for a Saturday
Dee Dee's Delights-Easter Sunday Buffet
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Banana Crunch Muffins

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I love a muffin in the morning.  I know I've said that 72 times already...Blueberry Muffins, Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins, and Morning Glory Muffins.  I can't help it.  Muffins just start the day off right.  I've had this recipe for ages, but I've only used it once or twice.  I don't really know why--they are super easy to make and so tasty.  I spotted some Bear Naked banana nut granola at the grocery store the other day, and I instantly thought of this recipe.  Needless to say, these gems now have a spot in my regular muffin rotation.  :)



The original recipe makes about 14 jumbo muffins.  They're big.
Real big.
Feel free to use standard size muffin pans, but be sure to reduce the baking time.
I'm keeping mine large.  :)


Make some! 

Banana Crunch Muffins
Source:  adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas (1 banana)
1 cup small-diced walnuts (optional)
1 1/4 cup granola 


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 12-14 large muffin cups with paper liners. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and blend. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Scrape the bowl and blend well. Don't overmix.

Fold the diced bananas, walnuts, and 1 cup of the granola into the batter. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each almost to the top. Top each muffin with remaining 1/4 cup granola. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.

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This post is linked to:  What's Cooking Wednesday
Made It On Monday
Mouthwatering Mondays
Sweets for a Saturday
Muffin Monday
Friday, April 15, 2011

Nutmeg Coffee Cake

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This is my favorite, favorite coffee cake.  It is lightly sweet, super moist and flavored with nutmeg.  Love nutmeg!  Do yourself a favor and purchase the whole nuts and grate them--fresh.  You'll be glad you did, and it's kinda fun.  If that isn't in your plan, no worries-- just use the pre-ground stuff and it will turn out great!


I love all of the layers in this cake.  If you serve the cake while it's still warm (YUM!), the crust will be soft, and melt right into the cake layer.  I usually let the cake cool before I cut and serve it, and the crust is crunchy and crumbly.  Also, very YUM!

Let's break this sweet baby down, shall we?

That's all I have to say...now go get yourself some nutmeg and make this cake!

Nutmeg Coffee Cake
Source:  The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen

2 cups flour
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into a small dice
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (about 4 oz.)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Prepare the crust:  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a 9" square pan with parchment paper.  Grease the paper.  In a food processor, add the flour and brown sugar; pulse until mixed.  Add the butter and pulse until mixture looks like sand.  Spoon 1/2 the mixture into the prepared pan, and press evenly over the bottom.

Prepare the batter:  Pour remaining butter/flour mixture into a large bowl.  Add the egg, sour cream, nutmeg and baking soda to the mixture and stir until combined.  Spoon the batter over the crust and spread evenly.  Mix together the chopped walnuts and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pan.

Bake the cake:  Bake until the center is set, about 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Serve while still warm, or cool completely (the crust will be crunchy after cooling).

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This post is linked to:  Fun With Food Friday
Sweets for Saturday
What's Cooking Wednesday
Made It On Monday
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rock n' Roll Cupcakes

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I love some rock n' roll, but I never had dreams of becoming a rock star. It would never happen.
Ever. 
I can't sing.  That's an understatement.  I really, really cannot sing.  It's just scary sounds emitting from my vocal cords.  It's not pretty.  I have no delusions to the contrary.

I'm not sad though.  If I want to rock out, I'll just turn up the radio and eat a cupcake.
Like this one:

I made these little sweeties recently for a birthday party. I used my favorite white cupcake and vanilla buttercream recipes.  I thought they turned out quite cute.  :)
Find the recipes HERE.
Make some.  You'll feel like a rock star.  Really.

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This recipe is linked to:  Made It On Monday
What's Cooking Wednesday
Muffin Monday
Tasty Tuesdays
Fun With Food Friday
Sweets for Saturday
Cupcake Tuesday
Monday, April 11, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Treats

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Sometimes a classic treat needs to be re-invented with a little naughtiness factored in.  Like Rice Krispies Treats!  Classic, yet a little boring.  Well, add some creamy peanut butter, chocolate and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. and --shazzam!-- boring no more! 

 

I've seen many twisted versions of Rice Krispies Treats pop up on the baking blogs that I follow, and I finally decided to try my own version.  I was very happy with the results-so yummy, but not too sweet that you would feel horribly guilty going back for a second helping.  I may or may not have personal knowledge regarding the second helping and associated guilty feelings--or rather, the lack of guilty feelings.  :)  

You could certainly use milk chocolate, but I prefer semi-sweet here.  I think it adds a nice balance to the sweetness of the PB cups.  Here's the recipe.  Give it a try!

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Treats

8 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 bag (10.5 oz.) mini marshmallows
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
2 cups (about a 15 oz. jar) creamy peanut butter
1 (12 oz.) bag mini peanut butter cups, quartered
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet (or milk) chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts, optional

1.  Grease a 9x13" pan and set aside.
2.  Measure the cereal into a large bowl and set aside.  Melt the marshmallows and butter together in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the vanilla and salt.  Pour the melted marshmallow mixture over the cereal and (quickly) mix well.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and use a buttered piece of wax paper to press evenly into the pan.  Sprinkle the quartered peanut butter cups evenly over the treats.
3.  In the microwave, melt the peanut butter until thin, about 45-60 seconds.  Stir and cool slightly.  Pour the peanut butter evenly over the treats.  Use the back of a spoon to gently spread, if necessary.  
4.  Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave.  Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate across the top of the treats.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if using.  Place the pan in the refrigerator to set before cutting and serving.

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This post is linked to : Made It On Monday
and What's Cooking Wednesday
Tasty Tuesdays
Fun With Food Friday
Sweets for Saturday
This Week's Cravings
Friday, April 8, 2011

Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes

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Something about lemons just screams fresh and clean-tasting--pure summer deliciousness!  These little cupcakes just moved up to the top of my favorites list.  I make a lot of cupcakes, so that is a very long list.  They're that good.

The cake is light and moist, flavored with limoncello, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Then...they are filled with a bit of lemon curd and topped with a lemon cream cheese frosting.  Help!  So, so good! 

 

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur.  It doesn't make the cupcakes so booze-y that you feel guilty handing them to small children.  It's a very tasty, subtle addition.  I think you could easily sub in a little more lemon juice though, if you are opposed to baked goods with alcohol. 


One last note:  I included the directions to prepare the lemon curd.  There is something about tempering eggs that just never works for me.  Perhaps I lack patience.  Yes, perhaps I do.  It just never works for me.  I just bought a good quality (no corn syrup, please and thank you!) lemon curd from the grocery store...and it worked nicely.  Please feel free to make the curd though.  Go for it!
Sweet as Sugar Cookies has a great post about making lemon curd.  Check her out!  You'll find some yummy stuff.  :) 

These really are tasty.  Make some soon!

Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes
Source:  Tartlette
Yield: 1 dozen

For the cupcakes:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons limoncello
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

For the lemon curd:
Zest of 2 lemons
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
*Or just purchase a pre-made, good quality lemon curd.

For the cream cheese limoncello frosting:
1/4 cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon limoncello
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. Prepare the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the limoncello and beat an additional minute. On low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Divide the batter between 12 muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.
2. If you're going for it...Prepare the lemon curd.  (Or, if you are like me...open the jar!)  In a heavy medium saucepan, stir together the lemon zest, juice and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk. Whisk the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper them. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool completely.
3. Prepare the cream cheese limoncello frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the limoncello and beat for an additional minute. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.
4. Assemble the cupcakes. Cut a hole into the center of each cupcake and fill each cavity with the lemon curd. Top the cupcakes with the cream cheese limoncello frosting and garnish with lemons.
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This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday
and Made It On Monday, 
Tasty Tuesdays
Mouthwatering Mondays
Cupcake Tuesday
Savory Sundays
A Baker's Sunday
Sharing Sunday
Monday, April 4, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies

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This is a story of dark chocolate dreams and a brownie that tastes like a cookie.
It has a very sweet ending.  :)



My kids do not eat much...they are scrawny little people.  In a desperate attempt to add a little protein and variety to their diet, I sometimes put a peanut-butter sandwich in their lunchboxes.  This never goes over well, and I truly don't understand how they cannot love peanut butter.  I've discussed my peanut-butter problem once before.  It's good stuff.  Why don't they like it?

So...I saw this little gem at the grocery store recently.

Hello, Lover!  Peanut butter blended with dark chocolate!  Are you kidding me?
Love.
Much.

Even adding Mr. Dark Chocolate Dreams to their little sandwiches did not do the trick.   Peanut butter is still a no go with the little scrawnsters.  I know, I couldn't believe it either.  It's very sad.  So, I found another use for this deliciousness in a jar--Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies.

Make some!  You can use regular peanut butter or Nutella.  I could only detect the faintest hint of peanut flavor.  These bars were really just like eating a chocolate chip cookie and a brownie at the same time- and that's a happy thing.  :)


Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies
Source:  adapted from Evil Shenanigans

Brownie Layer:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons dark chocolate peanut butter, Nutella or creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cookie Layer:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Heat the oven to 350F.   Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper;  spray the paper with non-stick spray.

2.  In a small bowl, combine the butter, chopped chocolate, and dark chocolate peanut butter.  Melt in the microwave until smooth.  Set aside to cool.

3.  In a medium bowl combine the second 3 tablespoons of butter, sugar, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until smooth.

4.  Add the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk to combine.  Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and salt.  Add to the chocolate mixture.  Whisk until no large lumps of flour remain then spread it evenly in the prepared pan.  Set aside.

5.  In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and sugar until creamy and smooth.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until blended.  Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix until most of the flour is incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

6.  Scoop the cookie dough into the brownie batter and spread slightly.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges are just set and the center does not wobble when the pan is shaken.  Cool completely.  Remove bars from pan and cut into small squares.



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This recipe is linked to: What's Cooking Wednesday 
and Sweets for a Saturday 
and Made it On Monday
Sunday, April 3, 2011

Roasted Pepper Pasta Salad

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I eat a ton of boring lunches.  It's the sad truth.  During the week, it's just me and a picky 4 year-old.  I figure why knock myself out making a gourmet lunch for someone who's reaction is going to be less than complimentary.  I'm making a change though, because truthfully, if I have to eat another turkey sandwich...
I.
Will.
Choke!  I will!

So, I started this past week--making my lunches more interesting, with Roasted Pepper Pasta Salad.  My girl did not eat this yummy pasta salad with me, but she did not avert her eyes and make gagging noises when I suggested adding a bit to her plate.  She'll come around--I'll keep telling myself that.  In the meantime, there's more for mama!


 

I enjoyed this salad the day I made it, and it was even better the next day.  It came together really quickly and I think you could change it up quite easily.  Roasting your own peppers is so, so easy and way cheaper than buying the pre-made version.  I'm roasting my own from now on.



Here's the recipe.  Enjoy!

Roasted Pepper Pasta Salad
Source:  adapted from Great Easy Meals from Food Network Magazine

12 oz. tube-shaped pasta
2 bell peppers (red and/or yellow), halved, stemmed and seeded
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
1 bunch fresh basil, torn or cut in a chiffonade
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bit size pieces

1.  Preheat the broiler.  Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Add pasta and cook as directed on label.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  Shake off excess water.
2.  Meanwhile, place the bell peppers cut side down on a foil lined broiler pan, add the garlic and broil until charred, 7-8 minutes.  Transfer the peppers to a plastic zip-lock bag, close and set aside for about 8 minutes.
3.  Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pine nuts or almonds and toast, shaking the pan frequently, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.
4.  Squeeze the garlic from its skin onto a cutting board.  Add 1/2 tsp salt; mince and mash into a paste with a large knife.  In a large bowl, add the garlic paste and drizzle with olive oil.  Add lemon zest and then squeeze in all of the lemon juice.  Whisk until combined.  Peel the roasted peppers and slice into thin strips;  add to the bowl with lemon/garlic mixture.  Add the mozzarella, basil, nuts, pasta and chicken to the bowl and toss.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 
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This recipe is linked to:  What's Cooking Wednesday
and Made It On Monday
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