Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Butterscotch Brownies

I don't think I've ever had anything like this brownie, but I'm so glad I tried this recipe on a whim. It was listed in my Betty Crocker Cookbook as "lowfat" (what!? A lowfat brownie!) and as it turns out is really fast and really easy to throw together. Oh, and did I mention delicious. Kevin and I were both impressed with these chewy bars of goodness. I hope you are too!

Butterscotch Brownies

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. milk
1 large egg
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts, if desired (I left this out)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of an 8 inch square pan.

In 1-1/2 quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in brown sugar, vanilla, milk, and egg and remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients (using a wire whisk is helpful here). Spread in pan.

Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool at least 5 minutes in pan on wire rack.

Yields: 16 brownies

Lemon Squares

Kevin has been craving Lemon Bars for quite some time and I have been wanting to try out a recipe. I had never made them before so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but I knew these bars were one of the best desserts. I'm sorry for neglecting you, Lemon Bars. This particular recipe which comes from the Betty Crocker Cookbook was easy to execute and quite tasty. However, I would like to find a recipe that results in a crust/base that is not quite so thick as well as a filling that is a bit more lemon-y (though I'm sure mine would have had greater lemon flavor had I had lemons on hand to zest). Kevin approved of this recipe--the crust (though we agreed it was too thick) is delicious and of course the filling is lovely. :)

Lemon Squares

1 cup flour
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 Tbsp grated lemon peel, if desired (This is almost essential I think!)
2 Tbsp lemon juice (or more if not using lemon peel)

Heat oven to 350. Mix flour, margarine and powdered sugar until well incorporated and crumbly. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased square pan 8x8x2 inches. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat remaining ingredients about 3 minutes on medium speed or until light and fluffy. Pour over hot crust. Bake about 25 minutes longer or just until imprint remains when touched lightly in center.

Cut into 16 (!) squares.

We liked to keep this refrigerated, but I don't believe it needs to be.

Fudge Brownies

Even though I have a couple delicious brownie recipes, I'm always wanting to try a new one just in case it turns out to be even more amazing than the others. This particular recipe comes from the Taste of Home recipe card collection I acquired. They are easy and quick to through together and have a perfectly chewy consistency.

Fudge Brownies

1-1/3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, I left them out)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt and nuts. Set aside. Combine oil, eggs, and vanilla; add to dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Mixture will be thick. Spread in greased 9x13 in pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Yields: 24 brownies

Monday, June 22, 2009

Italian Meatballs

Yes, I realize it's hard to believe (and even a tad bit ludicrous) that tonight was the first time this Italian girl had ever made meatballs. I'm a proud 1/4 Italian. Though you would probably never guess it.

Anyways here's the "recipe" that evolved out of my mixing bowl and my Italian bred tastebuds.

To make 8 walnut sized meatballs:

1/2 lb ground beef
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2-3 tsp. onion, minced
1-2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

(Now you must realize that these measurements are all approximations. I just sprinkled here, minced there and sprinkled some more until I was happy. I recommend you do the same. Luckily garlic has no ill effects on my marriage. Kevin loves garlic just as much (if not more) than I do. Yay.)

Place all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and combine gently with your hands until spices are evenly distributed. (Do not handle more than necessary or the meat will become tough.)

Bake on a greased cookie sheet or baking dish at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or until juices run clear.

Enjoy with fresh pasta and marinara! (Three cheers for rice pasta!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This recipe came on the back of the Quaker Oats container, so I figured it must be pretty good. :) I compared the ingredients with this recipe and after finding that there were significant differences, I decided this was worth a try. They turned out great--especially when I let them rest on the cookie sheet to set up.

1 cup (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups oats (quick or old fashioned)
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat together margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl with a wisk. Add to creamed mixture.
Stir in oats and raisins; mix well.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown (center will not looked cooked)
Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack to cool.

Yields: 4 dozen

Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies

I came upon this recipe in Kevin's mom's recipe box. It was the summer of 2006 when Kevin was working on the campus of the State University of New York on Long Island. Missing him as I was, I spent an afternoon at the Eccles' home coming up with a care package for him--including a big container of these freshly baked cookies! I absolutely loved this recipe and it was my "go-to" chocolate chip cookie for quite a while. Since we got married I haven't pulled this recipe out of my files mostly because Kevin's absolute favorite are these.

The major difference between that recipe and this one (and most others) is the combination of shortening and margarine versus the strict use of butter. Some swear by the first, other's wouldn't dream of using anything but real butter. Personally, I love either. I like the idea of being a purist, but with raving reviews about the "perfect" recipe which is half and half, I'm not sure I can pick a side. Kevin would be perfectly content, I believe, if I never tried another chocolate chip cookie recipe. I, on the other hand, will not rest until I have tried every "famed" recipe out there. Or....maybe just as many as I can. :)

2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2-2 cups Ghirardelli chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Mix flour, baking soda and salt. Cream softened butter with sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Blend dry mixture into the creamed mixture. Add chips and nuts.

Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 375 for 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are just golden brown. Allow cookies to set up for 1-2 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

Yields: 3 1/2 dozen

Monday, June 8, 2009

Balsamic Tomatoes, Beans and Rice

I found this recipe on kraftfoods.com last week one night when I was completely at a loss for what to fix for dinner. This looked quick and easy and not to mention nutritious. I am SO glad I gave it a chance. It was delicious and even better for left overs.

1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained

1 can (19 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (I substituted black beans)

1/4 cup KRAFT Light Red Wine Vinaigrette Dressing

OR combine balsamic vinegar with extra virgin olive oil (approx 2:1 ratio)

2 tsp. each dried thyme leaves and minced garlic

1 cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

2 Tbsp. KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese

3 cups cooked brown rice

COOK tomatoes, beans, dressing, thyme and garlic on medium heat 5 min. or until heated through. (Allowing the mixture to marinate on low for 10-15 minutes more enhances the flavors.)

SPOON over rice. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

This recipe and I have a history. Sometime last summer, I pulled it out of my Taste of Home collection as I was intrigued by it's original title "Poor Man's Cookies." I found out by reading the author's notes that the reason for this name is due to the lack of eggs, milk, and nuts. Today this was the precise reason I chose this recipe--I was completely out of eggs and in need of using Stan, the KitchenAid Mixer. The first time I made this recipe, however, was a complete disaster. Though they tasted good (when does butter and sugar not taste good, right?), but the batter was completely runny and not at all in the state needed to "roll into walnut-sized balls." Hmm. I went ahead and baked them because I have a thing about doing it the recipe's way at least one time before tweaking it. Fail. This time I was prepared. The batter was a bit thicker to begin with but still not stiff enough to roll. I ended up increasing the flour amount from 1 cup to 1 3/4 cups until I achieved a desired consistency. They turned out beautifully. And oh, so quick and easy!

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4-2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup hot water (microwave for 30 seconds)
1/2 cup margarine, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, combine oats, both sugars, flour and salt. Combine soda and water; stir into oats mixture along with the margarine and vanilla. Roll into walnut sized balls. Place on greased cooking sheets. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven; allow to stand 2 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool.

Yields: 3-3 1/2 dozen

Grandma Mary's Potato Salad

Though not a raving fan of potato salad (especially not of the store made variety), I have always loved my Grandma Mary's version. At many holidays my family requested this side dish and just last summer, I called up Grams and asked for her "secret." Apparently she cooks alot like I do as her measurements were only approximations, and I was ok with that. I tried out the recipe for the first time last week in preparation for our camping trip and I was really hoping I could come up with just the right ratios of potatoes, dressings, and spices so that my mayo-disliking husband might enjoy this dish along with me. I succeeded! Though my variety didn't look at all like Grandma's (mostly because I left the skins intact), it was hearty and not over dressed (or soggy or mushy). I hope you enjoy it and feel free to put your own spin on things to suit your tastes!

Serves 4-6

6-7 medium potatoes
5 eggs
~1 Cup Miracle Whip or mayonaise, thinned with milk
1 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 Cup chopped onions
celery, optional

Peel potatoes if desired. (I left the skins on mine. Why not? It's extra health benefits!) Cube potatoes and boil them until tender. (Do not over cook or the potatoes will turn mushy in the dressing.) Hard boil the eggs (=cover eggs with water and bring to a rolling boil. Simmer for 12-15 minutes then run cold water over them. Peel off shells once they are cooled and chop.)

In a small bowl combine the (thinned) mayo with the mustard. In a large bowl combine potatoes, eggs, onions, salt, pepper, paprika, and celery. Add the dressing and fold the mixture together with a gentle hand so as to not break the potatoes down.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I made this pie today just because I felt like my husband deserved a treat of one of his favorite desserts! I did make a version of this recipe last October for his birthday and it turned out wonderfully--even though I failed to drain the defrosted rhubarb and strawberries--yikes liquid-ness! I had never before worked with rhubarb and was kind of at a loss for what to do or how to do it or if I was doing it right. But let me tell you there is no need to fret! Rhubarb is somewhat like an extraordinarily tart celery look alike. You can strip the strings off of each "branch" (or whatever the technical term would be) if you like. Simply cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces and either use immediately or freeze for later use (in which case, drain off the excess defrosting liquid!)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 cups 1/2 inch pieces rhubarb
3 cups sliced strawberries
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon butter, if desired

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Make pastry (halving this recipe for Never-Fail Pie Crust).

In large bowl, mix sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in rhubarb and strawberries. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Cut butter into small pieces and sprinkle over rhubarb. Cover with top pastry that has slits cut in it (or is latticed); seal and flute. Cover edge with 2 to 3 inch strips of foil to prevent excess browning. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.

Bake about 55 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. Cool on wire rack at least 2 hours.

Pot Roast

Kevin had one request for dinner this week--pot roast. I think after 2 weeks of being without me or my homecooked meals, he was really needing some comfort food. Now, I have to admit this is one of the quickest and easiest meals to put together and it comes out so delicious! There are probably thousands of ways to prepare a roast, but this is my mom's way so this is how I do it!

To serve 3-4 people:

2 lb. pork shoulder (or any other cut of meat you prefer)
4 small Idaho potatoes, chopped
1/2 lb (half of the bag) of baby carrots
1/2 small onion, sliced

After sprayed the 4 qt. crock pot with cooking spray, pour in the chopped potatoes and carrots. Place the roast on top of the veggies. Arrange onion rings on top of veggies and meat. Sprinkle half a package of Onion Soup Mix over the roast and veggies. Add salt and pepper as desired. Fill with water to the level of the potatoes and carrots. Cook on high 4-5 hours or until meat and veggies are tender.

Peanut Butter Cake

To celebrate Kevin's return from his Wisconsin RNA Society Conference as well as the youth group's getting back together after what seemed like forever apart, I tried a new cake recipe from my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook. This recipe is originally meant to be a Yellow Cake but by substituting 1/2 cup peanut butter in for the 1/2 cup butter or margarine, voila! Peanut Butter Cake! (Feel free to use the butter or margarine if you love a classic yellow cake...or as Betty Crocker calls it a "Starlight Yellow Cake." Fancy, eh?)

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of one 9x13 inch pan, two 9 inch round pans or three 8 inch round pans with shortening; lightly flour.

In large bowl, beat all ingredients with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).

Bake 9x13 inch pan 35 to 40 minutes,
9 inch rounds 25-30 minutes,
8 inch rounds 30-35 minutes,
or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. (I kept having to check mine as it wasn't getting cooked...granted I have a tricky oven...but I think I ended up letting it cook 2 or 3 minutes too long resulting in a slightly dry cake. So keep an eye on things!) Cool 9x13 on wire rack. Cool rounds 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire rack. Cool completely--about one hour.

Frost with chocolate frosting of choice. (I admit to using Meijer brand Chocolate Fudge frosting and putting it in the mixer to fluff it up--this allows the frosting to spread further and easier.)