Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Campground Potatoes

Memorial Day weekend requires a camping trip.  There are no other options.  It marks the start of summer, particularly up here in the land of the Midnight Sun.  This year, we headed to my favorite place in the universe--Homer.  It is a small little fishing village with incredible fresh from the bay seafood, very cute shops, and miles and miles of beach.  I got to wear my Xtratufs with my dress and fit right in!  Some of my favorite memories of all time include trips to Homer (except the time I got seasick on a halibut charter and vomited for hours and hours and wished that the sea would sweep me away). 

We saw countless eagles, a baby moose who was just days old exploring his four legs, hiked down to the Russian village at the end of the road, visited the Land's End resort, ate some smoked halibut with jalapeno dip while sitting on a piece of driftwood next to the water (I have smoked halibut thawing currently to re-imagine their recipe), made our obligatory stop at the Salty Dawg to have a salty dawg, and looked forward each night to driving back the the cabin 20 minutes out of town and up on the hillside to sit on the roof and grill dinner and play games.

Our rooftop BBQ view

We brought some frozen turkey burgers leftover from our last gartyque and also created some Campground Potatoes.  For a cabin with no electricity, heat, or even a bathroom (let alone an outhouse...there is just an "out"...but it is the most beautiful "restroom" in the universe) we had one heck of a gourmet meal.  The potatoes were very thinly sliced almost all the way through, then seasoned with spices, and topped with a little butter before being rolled in tinfoil.  We did all of the prep at home so all we needed to do when we got to Homer was through them on the barby.  They were really hot, which was much welcomed on the rather cool rooftop.  They were also seasoned perfectly and had a perfectly crispy outside from the grill.  These potatoes will come with us on every camping adventure in the future.  I am looking forward to experimenting with all kinds of spices and rubs.  So good.  We had a perfect weekend.

Notice the two butter knives under the potato to prevent slicing all the way through.

Yes, that is a guard dog on the roof.  :) 
Campground Potatoes: 
  • russet potatoes (enough for your party)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a little bit of butter for each potato
Spice options:
  • Italian seasoning (on it's own)
  • chili powder, a dash of cayenne, cumin, and paprika
  • truffle salt, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper
  • red pepper flakes, garlic powder, a dash of basil and oregano 
  1. Place your potato between two butter knives.  Slice very thinly down to the knives, but not all the way through the potato. 
  2. Flower the potato just barely being careful not to break it.
  3. Sprinkle with your desired seasonings.
  4. Cover the top with just a little bit of butter.
  5. Roll in tinfoil and store in your cooler until ready to use.
  6. Throw on the grill and turn regularly.  Check for tenderness.  Remove from grill and eat when fully cooked.  (The time for this will certainly vary based on your grill or fire source.)
  7. ENJOY!

    The view of the Homer Spit.  Not my photo--click on my image to go to the source.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mess-less S'mores Bars

There have been a few previous mentions of my dislike for dirty/sticky hands and fingers.  With that in mind, I generally have a difficult time at a campfire because both sand and s'mores are generally involved.  Sand, s'mores, and my fingers certainly do not agree.  But s'mores are so delicious!  And campfires are so fun!  Therefore, a compromise was in order.

Hence, the Mess-less S'mores Bars.  They combine the classic flavor combination of grahams, mallows, and chocolate without all the fuss.  No, you do not have to worry about your marshmallow catching on fire and then wilting into nothingness.  No, you do not have to worry about your chocolate bar not melting.  No, you do not have to worry about sandy graham crackers that have been left on the beach.  Perfect for a cookout, BBQ, campfire, or even an overnight camping trip.  No mess and no work.  Bake, slice, go. 

The only problem with these little bars is that they may not make it to the campfire....they may all get eaten ahead of time.

(I never got a pretty picture of all the cut bars presented nicely because no one at the BBQ was patient enough to wait.  That's how good they were.)

Mess-less S'mores Bars:
Very closely inspired by this recipe.
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • a heaping 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 four ounce bars of semisweet Ghiradelli chocolate (you won't use quite all three bars)
  • 2ish cups marshmallow cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 7 x 11 inch pan with nonstick foil.  Then lightly spray with Pam.  (You can never be too careful.)
  2. In your stand mixer, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. 
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. 
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.
  6. Divide dough in half.  Press half of the dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan with your fingers.  (It will be a little sticky.  Be patient and careful.) 
  7. Place the chocolate bars over dough in a single layer.  You will be able to put one full one down and then break the other two into pieces to fit.
  8. Cover the chocolate with the marshmallow cream.  Again, be patient--this is slightly tedious.
  9. To put the top layer of dough on the marshmallow cream in packed form, you are going to have to be slightly creative.  Place the remaining dough in a plastic bag and flatten with your palms on the counter.  Use scissors to cut down the sides of the bag after the dough is compacted.  Carefully flip the dough over onto the marshmallow cream.  Use your fingers to press and realign.  (It doesn't need to be perfect.  All the marshmallow cream just needs to be covered.)
  10. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. 
  11. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
  12. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Devilish Queso Dip

The last day of school was last Thursday and we had quite the weekend to celebrate.  We went to Rock of Ages and got our 80s music fix then had our first Gartyque of the summer.  Well, I suppose it was more like a Dirtyque since the garden is currently full of dirt.  A good time was certainly had by all.  Good friends, good conversation, great food.

The queso dip I created as an appetizer is aptly named devilish.  It was devilishly delicious, which subsequently had devilish effects on my intestines.  Cheese and my intestines do not agree even a little bit, so when I singlehandedly consumed approximately 9783457283474445234 pounds of the queso the results were....well...devilish.  It was just so good though.  I couldn't stop.  Perfectly creamy, slightly sharp, a touch of jalapeno heat, hints of chilies and onion, and some soulful love brought this queso to a new level of devilish.

It is perfect for tailgating, BBQing, or as an accompaniment to Mexican fare.  You will love it.  Your intestines may not.  That's why it is devilish.

Devilish Queso Dip:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (you can use 1/3 reduced fat, but it may turn out grainy)
  • 6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
  • 10 ounces white cheddar 
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno diced
  • 1/2 Serrano pepper, diced 
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • chili powder to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • paprika to taste
  1. Shred the jack and cheddar cheeses.
  2. In a large saucepan, saute the onions, jalapeno, and Serrano until soft.
  3. Add the wine and the milk and stir.
  4. Add the cream cheese and stir until incorporated.
  5. Stir in the shredded cheese and mix continuously until fully combined.
  6. Add the spices to taste.
  7. Serve hot.  (We poured it into a fondue pot so that we could keep it hot outside.)
  8. Pray for your intestines.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Chicken Sausage

I need a weekend to recover from the weekend.  With four days of the school year left, I am already running on empty, despite all of the "summer" is here BBQs.  (It was a whopping 42 degrees out on Saturday.)  At this time next Monday, I guarantee I will be sleeping.  And no, I will not feel guilty about it one bit. 

All of these BBQs lead to a lot of food that I don't normally eat--namely potato chips.  And the potato chips destroy my intestines.  In a big way.  I will spare you the details of my testy intestines (that was an attempt at a joke).  Because of my intestinal distress, I wanted a bland and easily digestible dinner.  The tomato, peppers, and chicken sausage pasta that resulted certainly was delicious, but it was far from bland.  The perfect amount of spice, a hint of sage, nearly caramelized onions and peppers, and topped with delicious chicken sausage made for quite a Sunday treat. 

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Chicken Sausage:
  • 1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti 
  • 1/2 of a large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper (not green), diced
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce (not tomato paste)
  • 1 package of chicken sausage, sliced into bite-sized pieces (we used the kind in the picture above, which was delicious...and purchased at Costco)
  • 1 tablespoon ground sage (adjust to taste)
  • 2ish-3ish tablespoons of Italian seasoning (adjust for your preference)
  • 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes (adjust for spice preferences)
  • freshly grated paremsan cheese to sprinkle on top.
  1. In a large non-stick skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high.
  2. Add the onions and stir with a rubber spatula to coat.  Cook the onions on their own for a minute or two before adding the peppers.  
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the peppers and onions until soft.
  4. Add the two cans of diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce.
  5. Add the seasonings and adjust to taste.  
  6. Simmer on medium to let the liquid reduce while the pasta is cooking.  Be careful not to burn the sauce.
  7. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  When the pasta has about 5 minutes left, add the sliced chicken sausage to the sauce. 
  8. Strain the pasta, serve in large bowls, and cover with sauce.  Top with cheese and enjoy!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Peanut Butter Krispy Brownies

I did it again.  I managed to outdo myself in the baked goods department.  These little gems combine the best of many worlds--brownies, peanut butter, rice krispies.  Prepare yourself for a party in your mouth.  Although they combine many common ingredients, they certainly are unique.  And pretty.  They are perfect to give as a gift or to take to a bbq, which is precisely our plan.

These are so good.  You have to make them.  Now.  So good.  Seriously.

Peanut Butter Krispy Brownies:
Inspired by this recipe.

To make the brownie layer:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups white sugar  (you can use a little less if you want)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder  (my favorite combination is 1/3 cup special dark unsweetened cocoa and 1/3 cup regular unsweetened cocoa powder)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour (Pam for Baking works best) a 9 x 13 pan.
  2. Melt the butter and let cool slightly.  
  3. Combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl.   
  4. Then beat in the eggs.  
  5. Slowly beat in the cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder.
  6. Spread into pan and cook for 25-30 minutes.
To make everything else:
  •  3/4 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped Reese's mini peanut butter cups
  • 1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cup Rice Krispies cereal
  1. After the brownies have cooked, remove from the oven and top with peanuts and Reese's peanut butter cups.
  2. Cook for another 5 minutes. 
  3. In the meantime, melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a medium saucepan. 
  4. Stir in the cereal. 
  5. Remove brownies from oven and evenly pour chocolate mixture over top.
  6. Although difficult, refrigerate until solid before serving.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Peanut Butter Torte

I am sorry.  I really am.  I didn't mean to do this to you.  But I did.  I made this peanut butter torte.  Once you have a bite, there is no going back.  Again, I apologize.

It is the final days of the school year up here, which means it is Intensive time.  Students get to pick a course of study to focus on "intensively" for three weeks.  We have students conducting science projects in the Galapagos, kids making digital short films, some on outdoor adventures, a group examining the Civil War, some tie-dying everything, a group delving into the works of Beatrix Potter, high school juniors creating their scholarship and college entrance portfolios, and so much more.  We also have a Photography Intensive, which is what brought me to this peanut butter torte.  As mentioned in an earlier post, my goal for the summer is to take pictures of my food that adequately highlight the wonderful flavors inside.  As you all know, currently my pictures are awful.  Anyhow, for the photography intensive, we had a "Food Too Pretty to Eat" photo session, which was great practice for me.  I wanted to make something that was decadent, had lots of texture, and a good story to tell.  Jackpot--the peanut butter torte.

Although the picture doesn't do it justice (I am learning!), this may be the most delectable treat I have ever made.  Seriously, it is three-star Michelin worthy.  It would win awards for sure.  The cookie crust, the hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, the crunch of the peanuts and chocolate, the creamy filling, and the rich topping truly create a masterpiece.  You heard me, a masterpiece.  One taster said, "Dear Lord, my dad may leave my mom....over this torte."  It is that good.

It is a once-in-a-special-occasion kind of treat.  Like Valentine's Day.  Or a special birthday.  This is something you save for a very important day.  It also requires a bit of work (and an awful lot of dishes), but it is definitely worth every second.

Again, I apologize for presenting this to you.  Plan on some extra exercise--you can discuss how guiltless you feel about the additional calories because it is that good.  I am sorry.  But you will thank me later for sure.

Peanut Butter Torte:
Closely adapted from this recipe.

  • 1 1/2 cup finely ground chocolate Teddy Graham crumbs
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted 
  • (next time, I may increase the chocolate crumbs to 2 cups and the butter to 1/2 cup
Crunchy Stuff for the Filling:
  • 1/2 cup loosely chopped salted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup loosely chopped semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (Starbucks Via works very well)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground nutmeg 
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 12 ounces reduced fat (but not fat free) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup loosely chopped salted peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter 
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream 
Ganache Topping:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces of broken/smashed bittersweet chocolate 
  • 1/2 cup loosely chopped salted peanuts

To make the crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Very liberally butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet. 
  3. Combine Teddy Graham crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl.
  4. Combine with a fork to moisten crumbs. 
  5. Use your fingers to press into a thin layer covering bottom and sides of springform pan to within one inch of the rim. 
  6. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes. 
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling.  
To make the crunchy stuff for the filling:
  1. In another small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts, chopped semisweet chocolate chips, sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. 
  2. Mix to combine and set aside.
To make the filling:
  1. In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip the 2 cups of cream until it holds medium peaks. 
  2. Beat in 1/4 of powdered sugar and whip until cream holds medium-firm peaks. 
  3. Transfer cream into a separate bowl and refrigerate until needed. 
  4. Wipe out (do not wash) mixer bowl and replace whisk with paddle attachment. 
  5. Beat cream cheese with remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. 
  6. Beat in peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of cream, and 1/4 cup of chopped peanuts until well combined. 
  7. Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about 1/4 of refrigerated whipped cream to lighten the peanut butter mousse-like mixture. 
  8. Still working with spatula, stir in the crunchy stuff for the filling.  
  9. Fold in remaining whipped cream until just combined.
All together now!
  1. Scrape the filling into crust, mounding and smoothing top. 
  2. Refrigerate uncovered until the filling sets.  Then cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.
  4. After it is fully cooled, leave it in the fridge while you make the topping.
  5. Put the crushed chocolate in a medium sized bowl.  
  6. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream just to a boil.
  7. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 3-5 minutes so the chocolate can melt.
  8. Use a spatula to stir the ganache together until smooth. 
  9. Carefully pour the ganache over the torte.  Smooth with a butter knife. 
  10. Scatter the remaining 1/2 cup of peanuts over the top.
  11. Chill to set the ganache.  (It is torture, I know.)

Sundried Tomato, Spinach, and Feta Turkey Burgers

My latest dream culinary career is to open a bakery/burger joint to go along with Ryan's dream of opening a brewery.  We could be really creative and name it "Baked Goods, Burgers, and Beers".  What more does one need in life though?  It sounds pretty good to me.  Well, I suppose the pot of gold needed to get the whole operation off the ground would be pretty nice. 

Until that lucky day, however, we will just have to settle for creating deliciousness in our own kitchen.  The most recent creation comes in the form of a turkey burger.  It should come as no surprise to you that I am making yet another post about some variation of these little gems as we all know my obsession with them.  This latest variety certainly did not disappoint!  Sundried tomatoes, fresh spinach, feta, basil, and oregano, and a little bit of love and that's all it took.  I served them with the curried rice and pea salad and it was a quick and easy early summer feast.

Before Cooking

Perfection After
Sundried Tomato, Spinach, and Feta Turkey Burgers:
  • 1.25 pounds of lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil
  • 6 ounces, or so, crumbled feta cheese
  • 3/4 cupish (I really have no idea how much I used), chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 healthy teaspoon, dried oregano
  • 1 healthy teaspoon, dried basil
  • 1 egg
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Form into patties.
  3. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high.
  4. Cook the patties until browned on each side (about 4 minutes each).
  5. Serve with fresh spinach, heirloom tomatoes, and other goodies.  Enjoy!
  6. You can certainly grill these little delights as well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Curried Rice and Pea Salad

I am not one for potato or pasta salad, namely because they generally involve red onions, which I HATE.  However, there is something to be said about a cold, crunchy, chewy, flavorful, and hearty carbohydrate-filled, calorie-laden, and guilt-inducing side dish at a summer bbq.

This curried rice and pea salad certainly hits the mark--and it is (moderately....ok, barely) healthy.  I mean, it has peas!  The slight crunch of the rice and vermicelli partnered with the pop of the peas, all blended together with curry, green onions, and Greek yogurt make for a perfect summertime side dish.  Making it ahead of time to let the flavors marry means for less stress and more fun before heading to your bbq.  This is a unique and tasty side dish that won't disappoint and will have your friends begging for the recipe.

Easy, original, and flavorful--nothing else needs to be said.

Curried Rice and Pea Salad:
  • 1 box of lower sodium Rice-a-Roni, chicken flavor
  • 1 1/2ish cups, frozen peas
  • 2 or 3 green onions, thinly sliced 
  • a tablespoon or so of curry powder
  • plain Greek yogurt, enough to coat
  • a heaping tablespoon, mayonnaise (optional)
  1. Cook the Rice-a-Roni according to the package directions, including adding the seasoning package.
  2. Move to a bowl or plastic container and refrigerate until cool.
  3. Cook the frozen peas until just tender, then strain and run under cold water until very cool.
  4. Once the rice mixture and the peas are cool, combine the two in a medium mixing bowl.  Add the diced green onions.  Mix well.
  5. Add a tablespoon or so of curry powder.
  6. Add two or so heaping tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt.
  7. Mix to combine.  
  8. Taste and add more curry powder if you want.  Add more Greek yogurt, if needed to reach your desired consistency--certainly enough to moisten (or a little mayonnaise, if you choose).
  9. Serve with you favorite bbq items!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jerk Chicken Tacos

Although I love to be creative in the kitchen on most occasions, I certainly appreciate an intensely flavorful yet teasingly quick and easy meal.  Dishes like these are always a humbling reminder that good food does not always require time, effort, expertise, and magic.  They are like the $10 bottle of mass-production wine that tastes just a good (if not better), than the overpriced $75 bottle from an estate vineyard in Napa.  Great food doesn't always need bells and whistles. 

These jerk chicken tacos fit all of the criteria mentioned above.  Quick, easy, tasty, flavorful.

Jerk Chicken Tacos:
(There are no measurements...use the combinations that work for you)
  • chicken breasts, fat trimmed off
  • your favorite jerk seasoning 
  • corn tortillas
  • sweet onion
  • bell peppers of different colors
  • garlic cloves
  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cayenne
  • olive oil
  • avocado
  • cabbage
  • tomatillo salsa
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet with nonstick tinfoil.
  2. Rough slice the onion and peppers.  Combine in a mixing bowl with the garlic cloves.  Lightly coat with olive oil.  Add your desired amount of chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper, and cayenne.
  3. Move the veggies to the lined baking sheet.  Roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.
  4. While the veggies are cooking, poach your chicken breasts by placing in a deep skillet and covering with water.  Cook on almost-high, rotating regularly, until the chicken is cooked all the way through.  Be sure to not over-cook, otherwise you will have a rubbery piece of yuck. 
  5. In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the cooked chicken to the bowl.  Turn the mixer on to medium, and mix/stir until chicken is shredded to your liking.
  6. Place the shredded chicken in a medium saucepan, and add a touch of water--just enough to keep the chicken moist.  
  7. Season with jerk spice to your liking.
  8. Serve on corn tortillas with cabbage, the roasted veggies, and the tomatillo salsa

Saturday, May 5, 2012

PB & J Coffee Cake

I am confident that our family dog Humphrey (bless his little heart) is the only individual in the history of the universe to love peanut butter more than me.  Every single day of high school, my mom would make my peanut butter (no jelly) sandwich and Humphrey would get to lick the knife clean.  Ask her about the time that he licked the knife and then she did too.  Although I don't eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch daily anymore, I love it all the same.  I have eaten peanut butter toast before every marathon and half marathon I have ever run.  There is no doubt that the stuff is delicious.

Because of my love of peanut butter and my love of baking, I get really excited when both of these worlds collide.  After inventing the world's best cookie, which had peanut butter chips, I craved the stuff in baked goods form, but couldn't justify making something just to curb my desire.  A birthday for a dear friend and co-worker provided the perfect excuse, however, and that's how we ended up at the Peanut Butter and Jelly Coffee Cake. 

If you love peanut butter and jelly, then this treat is for you.  The perfect about of moist peanut butter combines with ribbons of jelly, and both are accentuated by the crunchy peanut streusel on top.  You can have it for breakfast, lunch, and dessert and all would be perfectly appropriate! 

It was a little slice of childhood.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Coffee Cake:
Closely adapted from this recipe.

For the Coffee Cake:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk (next time I will use a little more)
  • 1 cup jelly (next time I will use a little less)
 For the Peanut Butter Streusel Topping:
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Make the peanut butter streusel topping.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour and brown sugar.  Mix with a fork until there are no big brown sugar clumps.  Add the peanut butter and pour the melted butter on top.  Stir with a fork until the mixture is crumbly.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. 
  4. Use your stand mixer and paddle attachment to beat the peanut butter and butter until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. 
  5. Add the brown sugar.  Mix until creamy. 
  6. Add the egg and vanilla extract.  And mix. 
  7. Turn the mixer to low and alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Don't over mix, beat until just combined.
  8. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.  Spoon the jelly evenly over the cake. 
  9. Take a toothpick and gently swirl in the jelly. 
  10. Sprinkle the peanut butter streusel over the cake, and press lightly. 
  11. Bake for 35ish minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  12. Transfer the cake to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Maybe it is the change of seasons, but the creative juices in the Owl's Nest have certainly been flowing lately.  I think it is the Alaskan urge to be really, really productive during the very, very few months where we wake up and the sun is shining and go to sleep (18 hours later) and the sun is still shining.  A complete garage renovation and shelf installation project started it off a few weeks ago, and the creative productivity train has kept on cruising.  My overarching creative mission for the summer is to learn to take really good photos (as seen on every other food blog but this one) to give appropriate credit to the incredible flavors and tastes to the foods highlighted.  My secondary creative mission is to invent recipes from scratch far more often than I do currently. 

Well, I gave a shot to both of those missions with these tasty little bites of heaven.  I know for certain that I achieved the second mission, but the jury is still out on the first.  (Tangent:  Thirty of our secondary students are finishing the last three weeks of the school year with a photography intensive where they get to exclusively guessed  I have learned more in the last 24 hours about aperture, ISO, f-stops, shutter speed, perspective, contrast, shadows, light, and more than I ever imagined possible.  I love my school!)

Because the other one that lives here was traveling to Boston and New York--my two favorite cities--without me, I wanted to send him with a delicious baked good to savor and enjoy.  I knew it needed to be able to travel well, so cheesecake, pie, and cupcakes were obviously out.  As a result, I arrived at cookies as a viable option.  From there, I decided I needed something soft, yet chewy, and non-standard.  The Result = Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies.

I have never created my own baked good recipe before for fear of chemical explosions in the oven.  I will not be shy, however, when I openly admit that my first attempt was a wild success.  The east coast traveler texted the following, "Holy hell.  These cookies give Otis and Mrs. Fields a run for their money."  Victory!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies:
Invented by yours truly...
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 package of vanilla pudding mix (3.4 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk.  Mix to combine.
  4. Add the vanilla pudding mix and combine.
  5. Add, but don't mix the cocoa powder.
  6. Sift together the flower, baking soda, and salt.
  7. With your mixer on low, slowly add the sifted dry goods to the bowl.  Mix until just combined.  
  8. Mix in the peanut butter chips.
  9. Form into tablespoonish sized balls and place a little bit apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  10. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until just set.
  11. Remove and place on rack to cool. 
  12. Otis and Mrs. Fields, eat your heart out.
 sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  slowly add to the bowl and slowly mix to combine.  add the peanut butter chips.