Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

HOLY SMOKES!!!  Where to start?  This is my first major food holiday as a blogger.  I am feeling overwhelmed--with gratitude for my friends, family, career, opportunities, good fortune, my health, my sports, and more, but also because of all the great culinary creations to blog about.  I am certain there are far more important things to be concerned about than the backlog of the blog, but admittedly, it is stressing me.  Here's a list of the very noteworthy food items that need to be shared (in addition to these chocolate peanut butter cups):
  • artichoke, mushroom, and parmesan sourdough stuffing
  • sweet potato mashers
  • fresh rosemary and thyme biscuits
  • brussels sprouts and green bean salad with a dijon vinaigrette dressing
  • pecan pie bars
I know I am leaving you in suspense and making you wait until next November to make some of these things.  Sorry.  Regardless, I hope all of you had a lovely Thanksgiving and a relaxing long weekend. 

Most importantly at this very moment, however, is the need to celebrate the incredible deliciousness of these chocolate peanut butter cups.  My favorite processed candy is the Reese's peanut butter cup, and these homemade ones are even better because you get to decide your desired perfect proportion of chocolate and peanut butter.  They are incredibly easy to make and are absolutely heavenly.  Also, they are gorgeous to give as a gift.

These are currently my favorite candy treat--and for good reason!  Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups:
1/2 cup (125 grams) creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (55 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
Chocolate Coating
9 ounces (255 grams) semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 ounces (255 grams) milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon (10 grams) shortening

Read more:

Peanut Butter Filling...
  • a heaping 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter (I used Simply Jif because I knew it would hold together unlike natural peanut butter, but also because it doesn't have 11 million crazy preservatives)
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • about a 1/4 cup of granulated sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you want the peanut butter filling to be)
Chocolate Coating...
  • 16ish ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2ish ounces of whit chocolate chips
  • 1 slightly heaping tablespoon of shortening (it helps with the consistency and re-hardening of the chocolate...yes, it sounds gross, but it is necessary)
  1. Line a larger mini-muffin pan with mini-liners.
  2. Microwave the chocolates and the shortening until "al dente".  This means, microwave for a minute, stir, microwave for another minute which should produce 90% melted chocolate chips (there will still be a few lumps).  When at this stage, leave the chocolate and make the peanut butter filling.
  3. In another bowl, mix the peanut butter, sugar, and butter.  Microwave until smooth, but not quite melted--about 45 seconds.
  4. Microwave the chocolate one more time until completely melted.  Be careful though to not heat it so much that the chocolate seizes.
  5. Scoop the chocolate into a ziploc bag and cut a small sliver in one of the corners to use to pipe.
  6. Pipe the chocolate into the mini-muffin tins until they are a little less than 1/3 full.  
  7. Scoop the peanut butter filling into a ziploc bag and pipe onto the chocolate until the tins are about 2/3 full.
  8. Pipe the top layer of chocolate until the tins are full.
  9. Top with crushed peanuts if you want.
  10. Place in the freezer or refrigerator (or in our case, outside) until set.  
  11. Store in the fridge to maintain consistency, but these are best served at room temperature or slightly cooled.
  12. ENJOY!  These are incredible.

Peanut Butter Cups:

1/2 cup (125 grams) creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (55 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
Chocolate Coating
9 ounces (255 grams) semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 ounces (255 grams) milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon (10 grams) shortening

Read more:

1/2 cup (125 grams) creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (55 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
Chocolate Coating
9 ounces (255 grams) semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 ounces (255 grams) milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon (10 grams) shortening

Read more:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sloppy Squash "Lasagna"

Favorite meal I have eaten in a long time = this sloppy squash "lasagna".  What started as an already awesome soup turned into an absolutely heavenly lasagna of sorts with the addition of some pasta and cheese--it is a fantastic way to upcycle your soup leftovers.  It is equal parts fall harvest + healthy vegetables + comfort food. 

Sounds like perfection to me!

Sloppy Squash "Lasagna":
  1. In a large pan, boil the water for your pasta, and cook until al dente.
  2. Drain the pasta.
  3. Turn the heat of your burner to medium low.
  4. Add enough soup to make the pasta thick, but not soupy--a little more than just coating, a little less than drowning.
  5. Add your desired amount of mozzarella cheese--I used about a cup and a half.
  6. Add a little parmesan cheese.
  7. Cook and stir continuously until the sauce is hot and the cheese is melted.
  8. Enjoy your sloppy "lasagna"!  It is so good.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pretzel Poppers

A few weeks ago, we made these pretzel sticks that were absolutely divine.  They certainly were the best soft pretzels I have ever eaten in my entire life.  We decided that an out-of-this-world combination would be to stuff the already delicious pretzel with jalapeno popper filling.  That's precisely what I decided to bring for our "game night" the other night.  Holy smokes they were tasty.  All things wonderful about the soft and salty pretzel combined with the creamy, spicy, and cheesiness of the popper filling. 

These have "tailgate party" written all over them.  If you really wanted to bring out the tailgate theme, you could dip the pretzel poppers in chili.  That may just be heaven in one bite!  They are also perfect for BBQs, picnics, and as an appetizer to share.  I can't wait to make them again!

Next time I am going to increase the filling to pretzel dough ratio.

Pretzel Poppers:

For the Pretzel Dough...
Use the recipe for these.
  • 2 cups of nonfat milk
  • 2 packets of active dry yeast
  • 6 healthy tablespoons of packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of butter, softened
  • 5 1/2ish cups of all-purpose flour (maybe a little more or less depending on the dough)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/3 cup of baking soda
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • kosher salt for dusting
  1. Warm the milk in a 2 cups pouring measuring cup (or a bowl, I suppose) in the microwave until hot but not boiling (about 110 degrees).  This will be about 1 1/2 or 2 minutes.
  2. Add the yeast to the milk and let proof until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. When the yeast has proofed, pour the mixture into a stand mixture and add the brown sugar, butter, 1 cup of flour, and the 2 teaspoons of salt.
  4. Mix with your paddle attachment until blended. 
  5. Switch to the dough hook attachment.
  6. Add the remaining flour a cup at a time.
  7. "Knead"/mix on medium low until the dough is elastic and comes off the sides of the bowl freely.
  8. Move the dough to a medium-sized mixing bowl liberally sprayed with cooking spray.
  9. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
For the Popper Filling...
  • 10 ounces of 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened
  • about 1/2 cup of light sour cream
  • about 1 1/2 cup of Mexican blend cheese
  • 4-6 ounces of dices jalapenos
  1. Add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl, and stir to combine. 
  2. Scoop the filling into a gallon sized ziploc bag.  Cut a small corner off of one of the corners.  (This is now your "piping bag".)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
  2. Break off a small ball of dough and roll out on a well floured surface.
  3. Pipe your desired amount of filling.
  4. Fold up the sides and pinch the ends.  Use a butter knife to cut off the excess.
  5. When all of the pretzel poppers have been assembled, whisk together the warm water and the baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
  6. Dump a cookie sheet full of the poppers into the water/baking soda and slosh around.
  7. Let the excess water drip off the popper and re-place them on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 8-12 minutes until golden brown.  The cooking time will vary based on the ratio of dough to filling and how big your poppers are.  Keep a close watch--make sure they don't burn.
  9. SAVOR!!!!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Aside from peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, wine and chocolate, or beer and pizza, I can't think of two things that go together more wonderfully than butternut squash and sweet potatoes.  When you pair that combination with the love triangle consisting of rosemary, thyme, and sage in the form of a soup, the result is simply magical.  The only thing that could potentially make it better would be to include a warm fire and a classic movie.

This is the perfect fall meal.  Next time I am going to make butterscotch pumpkin bread or gingersnaps for dessert.  Maybe tomorrow....

Squash and Sweet Potato Soup:
  • 1 butternut squash, cut in half and seeded
  • 2 good-sized sweet potatoes, pealed and cut into inch-sized pieces
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • up to 8 cups of low sodium chicken broth (we used water and 5 teaspoons of chicken bouillion)
  • a whole bunch of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage, very thinly chopped (sorry, I didn't measure--I started with a little of each and then kept adding.  I would say it was probably 4ish tablespoons of each....but I really have no idea.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the butternut squash cut-side down on a cookie sheet that is lined with nonstick tinfoil.
  2. Cook until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork.  
  3. In the meantime, add a little olive oil to a very large pot and head on medium-high.  Add the leeks and cook until the leeks are soft.
  4. Add about 6 cups of broth (or water and the bouillion if you are going that route) to the pot, along with the chopped sweet potatoes and bring to a rolling boil.
  5. Cook until the sweet potatoes are soft.  Turn the heat to low.
  6. When the squash is finished cooking, scoop it out of the peel and add to the pot with the sweet potatoes and the leeks.
  7. Add your first round of spices and the rest of the broth/water if the soup is very thick.
  8. Use an immersion blender to puree everything into smitherines.
  9. Taste and adjust the spices.
  10. Cook on medium-low for a few minutes to give the spices and flavors a chance to integrate.
  11. Taste and adjust the spices again.
  12. Serve with a lovely glass of wine and ENJOY!

One Pot and One Tagine Pasta

With the election over, and lots of people either elated or furious, we decided to mend the fences with one of the easiest, freshest, and tastiest dinners we have had in a very, very long time.  Also, this dish is green and yellow--how bipartisan! 

Broccoli, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, chicken, wheat pasta, a dash of crushed red pepper, and parmesan.  That's all this takes.  Yes, you read it right.  That's all.  The key is to (obviously) use fresh broccoli and fresh lemon.  No cheating, people.  The whole thing from start to finish takes less than half an hour.  Holy smokes!  The result is gourmet--the zing of the lemon, the freshness of the lemon, a hint of creaminess from the parmesan, and a touch of heat from the pepper.  It's so good.

Anyone who you serve this to will be sure to get along.

Bipartisan Pasta:
  • one head of broccoli cut into bite size florets
  • the zest of one fresh lemon 
  • the juice of that lemon 
  • two large chicken breasts, cut into smaller pieces
  • a dash of red pepper flakes
  • a little olive oil
  • wheat penne pasta
  • grated parmesan cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil to cook the pasta.
  2. In a tagine (or a large saucepan with a very tight fitting lid), add all of the ingredients except the pasta and cheese.  
  3. Cook over medium-high until the chicken is cooked through and the broccoli is soft, but not mushy.
  4. When the broccoli and chicken are a few minutes away from being done, add the pasta to the boiling water.
  5. Cook until al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta and return to the pot.  Add a little olive oil to the pasta.  Add the contents of the tagine.  Add the parmesan.
  7. Stir to combine.
  8. ENJOY!!!!!
  9. (Yes, it is that easy.)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cauliflower and Broccoli "Breadsticks"

Who knew that cauliflower and broccoli could be turned into "breadsticks"?  Sounds like a magic trick.  I suppose this transformation is better--and certainly healthier--than taking a blue box of noodles, adding some powder, and calling it mac and cheese (which I absolutely love, don't get me wrong).

These "breadsticks" truly taste like something straight out of your favorite Italian restaurant, but without the guilt--perfectly seasoned, equally "doughy" and crispy, and a hint of cheese.  We served them with the butternut squash spaghetti the other night.  I can't wait to experiment with turning these little tasty guys into a lasagna of sorts, make them spicy, or turn them into curried bites to serve with Indian food.

Don't let the broccoli and cauliflower scare you.  These "breadsticks" are fantastic!

Cauliflower and Broccoli "Breadsticks"
Inspired from this recipe.
  • 1/4 head of a large head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 head of broccoli
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 4-6 ounces of lowfat mozzarella cheese (we used light sting cheese because that's what we had in the house and it worked just fine)
  • about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning
  • a few dashes of crushed red pepper flakes
  • a hint of salt and pepper
  1. Prehead the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.
  2. "Bread crumb" the broccoli and cauliflower by grating on the smallest side of your cheese grater.  You should end up with about 2 cups of "crumbs".
  3. Put the "crumbs" in a bowl and microwave until softened, about 6 minutes.  Let cool slightly.
  4. While the "crumbs" are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the garlic until fragrant.  This should take about a minute--it goes real fast, so be careful not to burn.
  5. To the bowl of "crumbs", add the garlic, egg, the grated cheese, the Italian seasoning, the crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper. 
  6. Stir to combine and then spread in the prepared pan.
  7. Bake until the loaf is set and starting to turn golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  8. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.  Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf out of the loaf pan and carefully flip it over onto the lined baking sheet (so the bottom is on top).  Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
  9. Preheat the broiler.  
  10. Broil a couple minutes until the cheese is melted and golden in spots.  
  11. Cut into pieces.
  12. ENJOY!!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Butternut Squash Spaghetti

We have been on a pasta kick lately--we had the turkey risotto (which isn't a pasta, I know, but it's close enough), the best bolognese, which we then turned into the braided spaghetti bread (that I keep dreaming about), and the pasta with balsalmic chicken, to name a few.  As I type, I am eating another pasta dish that will be blogged about in the very near future.  Anyhow, the reason for our pasta habit is not because of some deep-rooted craving, but because we are so busy that the only thing we can seem to throw together when we get home is wheat pasta from Costco, chicken also from Costco, and whatever veggies still look fresh enough to eat from the fridge.

This butternut squash spaghetti did require a trip to the store to get a squash because I didn't happen to have one lying around, but I had all of the other ingredients on hand.  What a tasty treat!  The creaminess from the butternut squash tricks you into thinking you are eating cream-, butter-, and cheese-laden fettuccine alfredo at a world-class Italian restaurant while drinking Chianti and whispering sweet nothings to your dinner partner in the candlelight.  Keep that image in your head--this dish is nearly there--but even better because it comes with all of the flavor (and romance if you want) but without the calories!  This was an incredible hit at our house.

Teaser Alert:  I will post the veggie breadsticks we made as dipping vessels in a future post.  Since we are talking about romance, I am going to leave you wanting to come back to more.  What a flirt, I know.

In the meantime, relish in the beauty, grace, and elegance that is this butternut squash spaghetti.  It is the absolute perfect meal for a fall date.  In fact, I may have to make it again for just that reason!

Butternut Squash Spaghetti:
(This makes a ton of sauce.  You could easily use the leftovers to make a butternut squash soup.)
  • 1 butternut squash, cut in half and seeded
  • 4 chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 2ish portabello mushroom heads cut into small pieces
  • 1 large leek, the white part thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4ish cups of lower sodium chicken broth (the amount depends on the consistency you are going for)
  • 4-5 fresh sage leaves, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated paremesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound of wheat spaghetti
  • more grated parmesan for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a cookie sheet with nonstick tinfoil and place the squash cut-side down on the prepared sheet.  Cook for 25-30 minutes or until a fork inserted into the thickest part of the squash comes out very easily.  We are going for fully cooked here, people, not al dente.
  2. Get a large pot of water boiling for the pasta.
  3. While the squash is cooking, add the leeks and garlic to a large saute pan coated with a little bit of olive oil.  Cook until the leeks are soft.  
  4. Once the squash is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and let cool slightly until you can manage it without having to go to the hospital.
  5. While waiting for the squash to cool, cook your chicken and portabellos.  We threw all of the diced chunks of both into the tagine with a little bit of olive oil.  You can easily cook your chicken and the mushrooms together in a skillet with some olive oil and a hint of wine if you want. 
  6. As soon as the chicken is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water.
  7. Monitor the chicken and pasta and make the sauce at the same time.
  8. Scoop half of the squash into the food processor along with the leeks and garlic. 
  9. Add about a cup of chicken broth and begin to puree. 
  10. Continue to add the rest of the squash.
  11. Add chicken broth until the sauce has reached your desired consistency.  
  12. Return the sauce to the large saute pan used for the leeks and garlic to reheat on medium/low.  (The temperature will have dropped because of the chicken broth.)  
  13. Stir in the parmesan cheese and the sliced sage.
  14. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  15. To serve, place a bed of spaghetti on the bottom of your dish of choice, add some sauce, and top with the chicken and poratbellos.
  16. Garnish with parmesan cheese.
  17. ENJOY!