Monday, July 14, 2014

Strawberry Monkey Bread - SRC

What's your favorite part of summer?

The longer, sunny days?
Time at the pool or lake or beach?
No school/vacations?
Outdoor concerts, farmers' markets, or grilling out?

All of those things are pretty great and all, but my absolute favorite part about summer in Arkansas is the fresh, juicy, sweet fruit that we pick at local farms (or buy at local markets, if you're so inclined).  We picked strawberries in late May, blueberries several times through June and early July, and now blackberries and peaches are in season.   I LOVE supporting local farmers!! 

There is just nothing as good as summer fruit, fresh from the vine/tree/bush - I just want to eat it all plain and not even bother cooking with it.  However, for this month's Secret Recipe Club assignment, I simply couldn't resist using some (store-bought) strawberries to make this luscious monkey bread.

If you're not familiar with monkey bread, it's basically a lightly sweet dough that's rolled into small balls, covered with cinnamon sugar, layered in a bundt pan,and doused with a large serving of a buttery, cinnamon syrup to bake.  This variation uses a homemade strawberry syrup instead of the cinnamon syrup, plus there are chunks of freshly diced strawberries sprinkled throughout the dough.  YUM!

I got the recipe from C Mom Cook, where Shelley doesn't let the busyness of being a stay-at-home mom of 2 stop her from making amazing recipes like Tiramisu, where she made each component from scratch. Including the marscapone, lady fingers, custard, everything. In fact, she has her youngsters helping her out. It's so awesome. I'm totally motivated to get my kids in the kitchen more, even though they usually slow me down and make three times the mess. :)
I also made her Skillet Arroz con Pollo, which was is a great and simple weeknight meal, but I didn't get a decent photo of it. We really liked it, though!
Oh, and these Apple Buns look perfect for fall - definitely have those on the list to make!
So needless to say, I loved perusing Shelley's blog and finding all sorts of amazing things to make.  She is one talented lady!

This delightful bread was a huge success with my family and we could have probably eaten the entire pan of it in one sitting if I hadn't made the kiddos stop. :)  Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave very nicely - but the bread is BEST served on the first day.  So make it when you have a crowd to help you eat it!

Strawberry Monkey Bread
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

1 cup milk
1/3 cup white sugar
5 Tbsp. butter (I used salted)
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
2 eggs
4 to 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup diced strawberries

To prepare dough:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, sugar, and butter. Heat until sugar dissolves, then remove from heat and pour into your mixing bowl to let it cool until just warm (about 110°F). Stir in the yeast and let stand until foamy.

Add in eggs, 4 cups of flour, and salt.  Mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Continue mixing with a dough hook or knead by hand on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add additional 1/4 cup flour if dough is too sticky. Grease a large bowl with oil or cooking spray.  Place the dough in the bowl and turn once to coat. Cover and let stand in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare sauce. Combine 1 cup sugar, butter, and strawberries in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.

To build the monkey bread: 
Prepared dough
about 1/3 cup of cinnamon sugar (1/3 cup sugar + 1 tsp. cinnamon, well combined)
1 cup diced strawberries
Prepared syrup

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously spray a Bundt or tube pan with non-stick cooking spray with flour, or grease generously with butter and dust with flour. Gently deflate dough and take small portions and roll into balls.  Roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar, then place in prepared pan.  Interspersed through the balls, toss some of the diced strawberries so that they are evenly layered throughout the pan. Once all of the dough and berries have been added to the pan, pour the prepared syrup evenly over the top.

Place the Bundt pan on a cookie sheet and place the bread in the oven.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine was done at 40 minutes.  Check on bread periodically to make sure that the top is not over-browning. If it starts to get dark, cover it loosely with foil as it bakes.

Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before inverting onto a large plate and serving.

Source: adapted slightly C Mom Cook

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Deep Dish Sloppy Joe Casserole

Question: What do you get when a 10 year old boy crashes his bike going over 20 mph downhill?  
Answer: A trip to the ER with 2 broken arms, an overnight stay, surgery (with thankfully no pins) and above the elbow casts for the next 2 weeks. 

Question: What do you get when you have two daughters taking ballet classes from their amazing Aunt Anna?
Answer: A beautiful program/recital on a big stage and flowers afterwards.

Question: What do you get when you talk grandparents into taking their first Selfie?
Answer: Cute!!

Question: What do you get when the other grandparents agree to watch your 5 kids so you can take a long-awaited get-away vacation (the first since your honeymoon 13 years ago!)?
Answer:  One of the best weeks ever. Pura Vida - Costa Rica!!!  Visiting with relatives, rappelling down waterfalls, white water rafting, viewing volcanoes, soaking in natural hot springs, ziplines over the rainforest, wildlife tours, horseback ride to a waterfall, we packed a lot into a week. 

Question: And what do you get when you combine sloppy joes with pizza?
Answer: A dinner that Grant says is one of his favorite things EVER.  No kidding. He couldn't stop talking about how much he loved this meal.  And really - we all agreed.  It's so delicious!! 

You have a super simple pizza dough, a flavorful and meaty filling, and lots of cheese on top.  
It's like a deep dish pizza that you can just dig right into and serve up hearty slabs.  Eat with a fork or your fingers, whatever you please. We don't mind! 

The only problem with this recipe?
One dish of it doesn't make enough for us to have two dinners of it.  Everyone liked it so much, they kept going back for more.  So my plans of having leftovers for dinner kind of went out the window. Guess I'll make another one. :) 

Deep Dish Sloppy Joe Casserole

1 Tbsp. instant yeast
1 cup very warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups flour (I use white whole wheat)

1 pound lean ground turkey
1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Montreal Steak seasoning
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp. dried mustard powder
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Begin by preparing pizza dough. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast with warm water and sugar.  Allow to foam for a few minutes. Add salt, oil, and flour.  Stir until a dough forms.  Knead by hand or with a dough hook on the mixer for 5-6 minutes.  Cover and set aside. 

In a large saucepan or skillet, brown ground turkey with minced onion, garlic, and steak seasoning. Drain grease if necessary.  Add the carrot and chopped bell pepper and saute a few minutes longer, until veggies are beginning to get tender.  Add tomato sauce, mustard powder, ketchup, vinegar, and brown sugar.  Simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

Preheat oven to 420°F.  In a lightly greased 13 x 9" pan, spread out pizza dough, coming up the sides about an inch to create a little crust.  Pour filling over the dough and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. 

Source: adapted slightly from Finding Joy in my Kitchen 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Revel Bars - SRC

Now that grilling and barbecue season is upon us, it's time for a great dessert for a picnic, potluck, or holiday party.  
Oh, who am I kidding?  
I'm always up for a great dessert, special event or not.  

This is a perfect cookie/treat for a crowd, because they're so rich, you can cut them into small bars and serve plenty of folks. I found this gem of a recipe on my blog assignment for the Secret Recipe Club this month, It Bakes Me Happy. (isn't that the cutest blog name??) 

Emily is an amazing baker and full-time mom who has a serious sweet tooth and loves chocolate. I know we'd be great friends. :)  She has so many recipes I'm anxious to make, like Turtle Muffins Pistachio Gelato (I totally almost made this, but after I bought the pistachios, I couldn't resist just eating them out of the bag. I hadn't had them in such a long time. And MAN, are they good. But next time I'm making the gelato), and Heavenly Hash Brownies. Plus many, many more great choices. 

But I couldn't resist the Chocolate Peanut Butter Revel Bars. 

So here's the breakdown: an incredible oatmeal peanut butter cookie dough crust, a rich, almost fudge-like chocolate center, and more cookie dough on top.  Bake it to a light golden brown, and you're done. Simple, and ohhhhhhh, so delicious.  It's a good thing I made them for a home-school mom's group, or I would have eaten even more of them.  As it is, I ate way more than my share.  Sigh. Another week of weight-loss failure.

So anyways, I love these bars and I love Emily's blog and I hope you'll go visit her and check out all her awesome treats.  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Revel Bars

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla, divided use
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3 cups oats, old fashioned
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz) package semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. 
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and 1/4 cup peanut butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. 
  3. Add the brown sugar and beat until well mixed.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time and then 1 tsp. vanilla
  5. In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, and oats.
  6. Gradually stir the dry mixture into the peanut butter mixture; set aside
  7. In a medium saucepan, combine the 1/2 cup peanut butter, sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips.
  8. Cook over low heat until the chocolate melts, stirring occasionally.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1 tsp. vanilla. 
  10. Press two-thirds of the oat mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9" pan.
  11. Spread the chocolate mixture on top of that.
  12. Using your fingers, crumble the remaining oat mixture over the top.
  13. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. 
  14. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.  
  15. Slice and serve.
Source:  It Bakes Me Happy, originally adapted from BHG 100 Best Cookies

P.S. These go GREAT with a big glass of milk.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cheddar Chive Biscuits - SRC

This month for the Secret Recipe Club I was assigned to Rachel Cotterill, who lives in England and has a great passion for travel and learning a wide variety of skills, from juggling to rope splicing.  She has authored a couple of novels as well. Impressive!

Rachel has an abundance of vegetarian dishes on her blog, and many interesting ethnic foods I had never heard of, such as Kalaalit Kaagiat  (Greenlandic cake), Pastiera Napoletana (Italian Easter Pie), and Baslama (Turkish grilled flatbread).

But when I saw these scrumptious-sounding biscuits (or scones, as they're called in England), I had to try them.  I'm sorry, Rachel - I had to call them biscuits because in my house, "scones" are sweet and served for breakfast.  I didn't want to confuse my children (or husband)!

I made them as an accompaniment to this soup and the dinner was a HUGE hit.  The kids couldn't stop talking about how much they loved the biscuits and how tasty they are, without even a smear of butter inside. (of course, I was thinking that a brush of garlic butter would be fabulous, but it's really not necessary).
The leftovers reheated in the oven beautifully the next day and were nearly as good as fresh.

This is a keeper recipe for sure.  Thanks, Rachel!

Cheddar Chive Biscuits
Makes a large batch - about 10 3" biscuits and 12 to 14 1-1/2 " biscuits

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour 
5 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (4 oz) salted butter
4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
black pepper, to taste
3/4 ounce chopped chives (or other desired herb, such as rosemary, parsley, or sage)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk (I used milk - and I didn't need quite all of it)

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Grate the cold butter into the flour and mix with fingers to make mixture with the texture of breadcrumbs.
Add most of the cheese to the bowl, reserving some for sprinkling on the tops.
Season with pepper and chives (or other herb).  Stir to combine.
Break the eggs into the middle of the bowl and add a little milk.  Start to pull the mixture together, adding extra milk as needed to make a soft (but not very sticky) dough.  Mix just until combined - trying not to knead it much.
Roll out the mixture to about 1 inch thick on a floured surface and cut with a biscuit cutter.  I made some large and some miniature.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with a little milk and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

adapted slightly from Rachel Cotterill 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Salted Caramel Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache

Okay, so don't hate me.
This cheesecake has a ton of steps and more than a few calories. I think I may have gained 2 pounds the week we ate it. (not a joke)
And, I made it for Valentine's Day and haven't gotten around to typing it up until now.

Y'all know I love cheesecake. Definitely more than the normal person.  I've made quite a few that I thought were top of the line.  But this one.......this one really is at the top.

Oreo crust, rich homemade caramel flavoring the cheesecake and a layer of extra sauce dripping out of the sides, smooth and creamy ganache, and mildly sweetened whipped cream topping it off.  
It's phenomenal.
The only thing that could make it better (for some people) would be some toasted pecans, making that classic turtle flavor.

I love love love this caramel sauce recipe.  I've tried several, with varying degrees of success (read: some outright failures, resulting in tears a few times) over the years, and this one was not only simple, but simply divine.  I did burn the first batch, but that was only because I walked away from the stove for too long.  So keep an eye on it.  But if you follow the tutorial (linked to in the recipe, it's fantastic), you should end up with a jar full of pure deliciousness that you'll almost hate to put in a cheesecake because you just want it eat it by the spoonful.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I am also thrilled with the stabilized whipped cream.  I can tell you that it stayed perfectly piped on the cheesecake leftovers for the entire week while Grant and I nibbled away at it each night - no drips, oozing, or melting.  But it still tastes like regular whipped cream.  I've wondered how to pull that off for years - probably since my first Cheesecake Factory visit.  Now I can do it myself!!!  Major score.

The only thing I should note about the whipped cream is that this recipe makes WAY too much for this cheesecake.  And I was very generous with extra dollops on top of each piece as I served it.  So next time I'll just reduce it in half (hopefully that won't affect the way the gelatin works at all) and hope for the best.

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

Caramel Sauce: 
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 Tbsp. salted butter
3/4 to 1 tsp. kosher salt (to taste)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. water

1 Family Size package chocolate sandwich cookies (like Oreos), finely processed into crumbs (about 45 cookies)
7 Tbsp. salted butter, melted and cooled

Salted Caramel Cheesecake Filling: 
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup caramel sauce 

Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate
8 oz. heavy cream

Stabilized Whipped Cream:
1/4 cup cold water
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar 

Step 1. Make Caramel Sauce
**See Baking a Moment for an awesome tutorial
  • In a small pot, gently heat the cream, butter, and salt until the butter has melted and the salt has completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
  • In a larger pot, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Heat over a medium high flame, swirling the pot occasionally to distribute the heat evenly.  
  • Continue to boil the sugar mixture until the bubbles begin to get smaller and it becomes amber colored.
  • Reduce the heat to low and pour in the warm cream mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps or crystals.
  • Immediately transfer the hot mixture to a heat-safe container and cool completely.  
Step 2. Make Oreo Crust
  • Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Combine crushed cookies and melted butter until all the crumbs are moistened.  Press into bottom and up the sides of springform pan.  Place in freezer while you prepare filling.  
Step 3. Make Salted Caramel Cheesecake Filling
  • Heat oven to 300°F. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth. Beat in eggs, one a time, just until blended.  Add heavy cream and 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce; stir until blended.  Pour filling over crust.
  • Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes or until edge of cheesecake is set at least 2 inches from edge of pan but center of cheesecake still jiggles slightly.  Turn oven off; open door 4 inches. Let cheesecake remain in oven 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen cheesecake.  Cool in pan on cooling rack 30 minutes. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. 
  • Remove from refrigerator and pour the salted caramel sauce on top.  Use as much as you want - but be sure to reserve some for drizzling when serving. Put back in the refrigerator while you make the ganache. 
Step 4. Make Chocolate Ganache
  • Chop the chocolate finely and place in a medium bowl.
  • Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until bubbles form around the edges.  Pour over the chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool about 5-10 minutes, until it's still pour-able but no longer hot.
  • Pour ganache on top of caramel layer and refrigerate while you make the whipped cream. 
Step 5. Make Stabilized Whipped Cream
  • Place 1/4 cup of cold water in a small sauce pan, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin. Let the gelatin soften and absorb all of the water (about 5 minutes)
  • Place pan over low heat and stir until the gelatin dissolves. Let it cool off the heat while you complete the next step.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Slowly pour in warm dissolved gelatin and mix until soft peaks reform.  You may not get stiff peaks, but it will be perfect for piping on top of cheesecake, pies, and other desserts.
  • Place whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a 1M tip, remove cake from fridge, and pipe whipped cream out on edge of cheesecake.  Drizzle top of cake with caramel sauce and sprinkle with flaked sea salt if desired.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Sources: adapted slightly from Tidy Mom; caramel sauce with tutorial from Baking a Moment

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spicy Corn Chowder with Chicken - SRC

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  (And Happy Birthday to my younger sis, Anna!)

So this isn't exactly an Irish recipe - but it does have potatoes in it, so that has to count for something.

And, I got the recipe from the blog of a lovely lady from England......which is neighbors with Ireland, so that has to count for something too. (little bit of a stretch there, I admit it)

For this month's Secret Recipe Club assignment, I had the pleasure of visiting Sarah's Kitchen.  Although Sarah is originally from England, she has been living in the States for 12 years and has been an American citizen for four.  She loves crafts and couponing, as well as cooking and baking.

She has a wide variety of recipes on her blog - one that I found particularly alluring was the Processor Danish Pastries.  I actually made them over the weekend with some variations on the fillings and absolutely loved them - but I failed miserably at getting the dough to stay pinched closed and the pastries were....shall we say....messy looking.  Certainly not photogenic.  But totally mouth-watering and irresistible.  I can't wait to try again with that dough.  It was so easy and flaky, buttery perfection.

But that was okay, because I had already made another recipe from her blog that I loved as well.  This chowder is so flavorful with the variety of peppers, but overly spicy.  Although my son thought I was crazy for pureeing part of the mixture, it really helps to thicken it up and make it more chowder-like and not as much of a brothy soup.   It's hearty, satisfying, and just perfect for a chilly evening.   I loved the little chunks of browned chicken breast in there, as well as the crispy bacon on top, but you could certainly make this vegetarian with equally good results, I'm sure.

Spicy Corn Chowder with Chicken

4 slices of bacon 
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
4 small/medium potatoes, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme (or 3/4 tsp. dried thyme)
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 cups cooked and diced or shredded chicken (I just seasoned a couple of chicken breasts with salt and pepper and sauteed in a bit of oil in a frying pan until cooked through)

Cut the bacon into strips and fry in a large dutch oven until crispy; set aside.  If you used turkey bacon like I did, you might need to add a little oil to the pan - if you use regular bacon, drain grease, reserving 1 Tbsp.
To the reserved fat, add the onion, jalapeno, poblano pepper, red pepper, and corn. Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add in the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Add in the potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree.  Add back to the soup pot and add in the milk, heavy cream, and cooked chicken. Let simmer for a few minutes.  Top each bowl with some crumbled bacon.

Adapted slightly from Sarah's Kitchen

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

How's everybody liking the return of Daylight Savings Time?

Me??  I'm loving it.

It makes me so happy to have sunlight later in the day....and it makes me nearly giddy to have a few uninterrupted minutes in the morning with my husband (and once he leaves, to myself) without my darling littlest ones pulling on my pant legs asking for vitamins or bananas or cereal or my ipod.....because they're still asleep.  :)

I currently have a bunch of quickly ripening bananas in my fruit bowl and I'm gonna make a batch of these to welcome the kiddos up from their slumber today.

When I first saw this recipe, I was seriously skeptical.
The notion that you could make legitimate muffins, that actually look and taste and feel like muffins, without any flour whatsoever just perplexed me.  It just wasn't possible.  Was it??

Curiosity got the best of me and I made a batch recently.
I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.

They're tender, moist, and even have a crumb just like regular muffins.  We kinda went crazy for them.  Even my boy who has gotten rather weary of me making "banana" muffins.  Could have been the chocolate, but whatever.

What's also awesome is how fast they go together.  Throw a few ingredients in a blender, whir it around until it's smooth and creamy, stir in a little chocolate, and bake.  Couldn't be easier.

And while we are certainly not a gluten-free family, it's pretty awesome to have some recipes that are.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Banana Mini-Muffins
Yield: ~ 40 mini-muffins

2 medium bananas, peeled (don't need to be over-ripe)
2 large eggs
1 cup peanut butter
4 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate - optional

Preheat oven to 400° F. Prepare mini-muffin tins by lining with paper liners or spraying generously with floured cooking spray.

Place bananas and eggs into a blender and puree until smooth.  Add peanut butter, honey, vanilla, baking soda, and salt and puree again until thoroughly combined.  Add chocolate and stir by hand.

Fill mini-muffin tins 3/4 full.  Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or with a few crumbs.  Be sure to watch closely, as all ovens are different!
Allow to cool in pan for a few minutes - until they're cool enough to handle.
Muffins are best fresh - but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 4 months.

Note: If you used the muffin liners, some of the batter will stick to them.  If you wait until the muffins are completely cool, it will be easier to remove them.  You may still be nibbling some of the muffin off of them. :)

Source: adapted slightly from Averie Cooks

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