Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

When I posted a picture of these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars on social media I simply said "I did a bad, bad thing." That pretty much sums up these squares of ridiculousness. Easy to make, sinfully rich, decadent beyond words.

Peanut butter chocolate bars

Now, you all know I rarely bake. So you may be asking yourself why I made these. I made them because I couldn't stop thinking about them. I was innocently scrolling through my Facebook news feed one evening when I came across a photo of these bars. After clicking through to the recipe I couldn't stop thinking about them. I knew I had to make them when Baby Girl wasn't home. My plan was to freeze them and clean the kitchen thoroughly since they contain peanut butter, which she's allergic to.

Peanut butter chocolate bars

You know what's bad about these bars? They're too easy to make. Melt better, mix in the rest of the ingredients, bake, let cool, done. Like I said, too easy.

Just posting a picture of these got two of my friends to make them that same night. I wonder how many more people will try them after seeing this post? Sorry. You're welcome.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
As seen on Averie Cooks
YIELD: one 8x8 pan, cut into 9 or 12 squares

1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 heaping cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips + 2 tablespoons, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray; set aside.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. This should take about 1 minute on high power. You may need more or less time depending on your microwave. Let cool for 2 minutes.

Add the peanut butter, egg, brown sugar, vanilla to the butter and whisk until smooth. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Don't over mix. Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until done. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Mine took 30 minutes.

Allow the bars to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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Friday, September 05, 2014

Lemon Tilapia Parmesan

My friend Jaida recently posted this recipe for Lemon Chicken Parmesan that looked so good I could almost taste it. We eat a lot of chicken, though, so I've been trying to replace some of our favorite chicken dishes with fish for some variety. I'm really into tilapia - it's so versatile and Baby Girl loves it, too. I figured it would be easy to swap out the chicken for tilapia in this recipe.

Lemon chicken parm

Since tilapia is so thin and quick-cooking, I didn't need to bake it. I just cooked the pasta, tossed it with the sauce and served the fish on top. Super simple and so delicious. I know you may think melted mozzarella and fish is a strange combo, but it was so good. The lemon sauce was so bright and flavorful, too. I may try this with chicken next time, just to see which protein we prefer.

Lemon Tilapia Parmesan
Modified from Sweet Beginnings

Pasta:
8 oz angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Fish:
4 tilapia filets
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the butter, lemon zest, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk the egg and water in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish combine the Panko, Parmesan, dried basil, salt and pepper.

Place the flour in a plastic food storage bag. Add the fish filets, seal the bag, and toss to coat the filets in the flour. Working with one piece at a time, dip a filet into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, pressing to adhere the crumbs. Repeat with all the filets.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lemon juice and garlic. Add the fish filets and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Distribute the mozzarella between the 4 filets and cover the pan briefly so the cheese melts. Remove to filets to a plate.

Add the pasta to the pan and toss to coat, thinning the sauce with some of the pasta cooking water. Serve some pasta in a shallow bowl topped with a piece of fish per person.


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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

August Re-Make Recap

Sigh. I'm not ready for summer to be over. I know we technically have another 3 weeks until the official end of summer, but now that September has arrived we're on the downward slope into fall and winter. This is always a tough time of year for me. Fall will bring a lot of fun things (Baby Girl's 5th birthday, our trip to Disney World, our 11th wedding anniversary, Halloween, Thanksgiving in California) but it also means cold weather is right around the corner. And I'm not a fan of cold weather. Or the loss of natural light. So I'll be enjoying the last few weeks of warm weather and daylight after 5pm while it lasts.

Once again, August was another month of remakes. I've been making a few new things but still having trouble finding the enthusiasm to blog. Plus, I've made so many great things over the life of this blog and I like rediscovering old favorites.

Crunchy baked tacos

Ever since I discovered these crunchy baked tacos I've been obsessed. I love how easy they are to make. I actually served these twice in August.

Refried beans

I'm sure you're all tired of seeing these refried beans on my recaps, but we love them. So easy I don't even need to look at the recipe anymore.


And you all know how much I love tilapia francese. This month's rendition was superb - perfectly cooked fish, flavorful sauce, a nice crispy coating. Mmmm.


I made this grilled corn, avocado and tomato salad all the time a few summers ago, but not much in recent years. It's always a family favorite. The smoky flavor from the grilled corn is my favorite part.

chicken nuggets3

We all love these homemade chicken nuggets with honey mustard dipping sauce. What's not to love about crispy chicken and a tangy dipping sauce? I always make a ton of chicken so we have plenty leftover.


This cheesy zucchini rice is our summer go-to side dish. I can't get enough when zucchini is in season.

crispy potatoes

I'm continually amazed by these roasted potatoes. They come out perfect every single time.


For me, summer means tomatoes and basil. That's where caprese pasta comes in. I grow basil every summer so throwing this pasta together is super simple.


We eat this restaurant knockoff Texas Roadhouse salad at least once a week. So far we haven't tired of it. I think it's so funny that Baby Girl thinks that all salads include these ingredients.


Antipasti pasta salad is almost a meal in itself, but I usually serve it as a side dish. This recipe makes a ton but we rarely have much leftover. It's addictive.

flatbreadpizza

I've been alternating burgers and flatbread pizzas on Fridays this summer. Always a favorite, especially with a variety of toppings.

Untitled

We all loved this corn casserole the first time I made it, so I made it again for one of our Sunday dinners with my parents. Between the five of us we ate almost the whole thing.

Shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce

I love the base sauce in this pasta with shrimp in lemon cream sauce so I'm always looking for ways to make it without buying shrimp. I've done chicken before and this month I tried tilapia. I cooked the tilapia separately and served it on top of the pasta. The sauce is simple but oh so good.

Antipasto salad

I've been making this antipasto salad as a chopped dinner salad lately and it's a family favorite.

Pork chops pineapple rice

I had some pork chops in the freezer and decided to remake pork chops with pineapple fried rice. The first time I made this recipe it was good, but not great. This time it was incredible. So flavorful. Beyond words, really. I wished I'd had a second stomach so I could have another serving.


I can't believe it's been years since I made these corn fritters. I've been obsessed with corn recently and these fritters are the epitome of summer. And easy, to boot.


I had a craving for creamy mac and cheese so I revisited Paula Deen's recipe. It's creamy and cheesy and delicious.



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Friday, August 29, 2014

Blueberry Lemon Bread

Baby Girl's camp went blueberry picking last month and she brought home a huge container of blueberries. I had already planned to make this Blueberry Lemon Bread that Melissa has been raving about for years.

Blueberry lemon bread

I'm not sure what happened but my bread was very, very moist. When I turned it out onto the cooling rack it cracked and almost fell apart. It was inverted on the rack for only a few seconds, but it was enough time for the wire to leave deep grooves in the top. But, all that aside, this was still a delicious dessert and a great way to use up the blueberries.

Blueberry Lemon Bread
As seen on Alosha's Kitchen

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup + 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon zest (zest of one medium lemon)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter and sugar a 9- or 10-inch loaf pan; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest. Slowly mix in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Lightly coat blueberries with a small amount of flour. Gently fold in blueberries into the batter. Spoon batter into loaf pan.

Bake for about one hour, or until golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

When the bread has about 5 minutes cooking time left, bring remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and lemon juice to boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Once removed from the oven, pierce the top of the hot loaf several time with a cooking chopstick (or knife) without touching the bottom of the loaf in pan. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the loaf.

Cool for 30 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then turn bread out of pan and cool completely on rack.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chicken Parmesan Salad

A few weeks ago I received an issue of Cook's Country magazine. I used to be a subscriber, but in an effort to save money I cancelled my subscription awhile back. I'm not sure if this was a teaser issue to try to entice me back, but it doesn't have a date on it so I'm assuming that's what it is. SP went through it and picked out a few recipes for me to make, including this one for Chicken Parmesan Salad.

Chicken parm salad

I made a few modifications - I switched up the breading method since I've found that panko adheres better when you coat the chicken in flour first, and I swapped out arugula for Romaine hearts since I always have a package on hand. If only I could buy arugula that didn't spoil immediately...

Chicken parm salad

This was a great salad. We were all big fans. I mean, what's not to like about crispy chicken and the summer trinity of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil? Because of Baby Girl's nut allergy I didn't make traditional pesto, simply processed basil leaves with a little oil, salt and pepper and then grated in some Pecorino cheese. I have to be honest - I haven't made pesto with nuts in years and I don't notice a difference.

Chicken Parmesan Salad
As seen in Cook's Country magazine

1 large egg
1 cup flour
1 cup panko
salt and pepper
4 chicken cutlets
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup pesto
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
5 ounces baby arugula, mixed greens or finely shredded Romaine hearts
4 ounces bocconcini, halved

Beat the egg in a shallow dish with a splash of water. Add the flour to a second shallow dish. Combine panko, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a third shallow dish. Season each chicken cutlet with salt and pepper. Working with one cutlet at a time, coat the cutlet in flour, then dip into the egg, and finally coat in the panko, pressing to adhere.

Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook 2 cutlets at a time until golden brown and crispy, about two minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and chicken. Tent the chicken loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.

Whisk the pesto and lemon zest and juice together in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, arugula and bocconcini and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the salad on a serving platter. Slice the chicken into strips and arrange on the salad. Serve.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Buttermilk Scones

Whenever I buy buttermilk for a recipe there's always a lot leftover. Usually I can find ways to use it up but this time SP called dibs on it so he could make Buttermilk Scones.

Buttermilk scones

I woke up on Sunday morning to the smell of these baking. Mmmm. While the second batch was cooking I fried up some bacon and then we all sat down to enjoy the delicious, hot scones and crispy, salty bacon. These were incredible fresh from the oven, so light and flaky. Unfortunately, by the time we got them to my parent's house that evening they were a bit mushy and tough. If you aren't going to eat these right away, definitely freeze them so they don't lose their texture.

Buttermilk scones

I've already asked SP to make a savory version with bacon, cheddar and scallions, modeled after an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where Guy Fieri had savory scones with a bacon gravy. I can almost taste them.

Buttermilk Scones
As seen on All the Cooks

3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted for brushing
1/4 cup sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a fork. Add the cold butter pieces and, using your fingertips (or a pastry blender or two knives), work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course cornmeal. It's okay if you have some larger pieces of butter, it makes the scones flaky.

Add the buttermilk and lemon zest and mix with a fork until the ingredients are just moistened. The dough will be soft. If the dough looks dry, add another tablespoon of buttermilk.

Gather the dough into a ball, pressing it gently so it holds together, and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead it very briefly (about a dozen turns) then cut in half.

Roll one of the dough halves into a 1/2-inch thick circle about 7 inches across. Brush the dough with half of the melted butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Cut the dough into 6 triangles and place the triangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Bake the scones for 10 to 12 minutes, until both the tops and bottoms are golden. Transfer the scones to a rack to cool slightly.

NOTE: These are best served warm or at room temperature. But they do not last long. If you aren't going to eat them immediately, wrap each scone in plastic wrap and put in a freezer bad. They'll stay fresh for one month. To serve, defrost the scones in the plastic wrap, then unwrap and reheat on a baking sheet for 5 minute in a 350-degree oven.
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Friday, August 22, 2014

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

You know a recipe is good when it pushes you out of your blogging slump. These Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs did just that. I couldn't wait to share them with you guys and I managed to schedule a few more posts while I was at it.

Mozzarella stuffed meatballs

I saw these meatballs on my friend Jaida's blog and she raved about them, so I figured I'd give them a shot. I've been in a cooking rut lately, remaking a lot of old favorites rather than trying new stuff. We've been on a fresh mozzarella kick lately and I knew you couldn't go wrong stuffing it into a meatball. This was an incredibly easy meal to make, perfect for a weeknight. It took less than 10 minutes to make the meatballs and, bonus, I had frozen sauce in the freezer. It took longer to chop the ingredients for the salad I served on the side.

Mozzarella stuffed meatballs

What I didn't expect was for these to be the most flavorful meatballs I've ever made. We were all blown away. Baby Girl said, "these aren't just good, Mommy. They're amazing, awesome and wonderful." It's been awhile since I've photographed dinner outside, so Baby Girl jumped at the chance to have her plate next to mine for a picture.

Mozzarella stuffed meatballs

Despite the fact that I thought I'd sealed the meatballs well, most of mine broke open while they cooked. Fortunately, the cheese didn't really melt or leak out. Just make sure you really, really seal them well. I had 14 mozzarella balls, but you may want to stick with the 10-12 in the recipe below so there's more meat to fully encase the cheese.

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
As seen on Sweet Beginnings

1 egg
1/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 lb lean ground beef
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
10-12 mini balls fresh mozzarella (bocconcini), or fresh mozzarella cut in small pieces
3 cups pasta sauce

Whisk the egg in a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs, ground beef, chili powder, paprika, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, and garlic and mix with your hands until combined.

Divide the meat into 10-12 balls (a couple of tablespoons each). Flatten each section of meat, then wrap it around one mozzarella ball. Squish the edges together to be sure it's sealed. Repeat this process until you've used up all the meat.

Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat (no need to add oil, there's plenty of fat in the meat). Add the meatballs and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until well-browned.

Add the pasta sauce (enough to coat the bottom and come up about halfway up the meatballs) to the skillet. Simmer for about five minutes, turning the meatballs occasionally to coat them in the sauce.

Serve the meatballs over pasta or rice, as a sandwich, or by themselves.
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