Monday, October 22, 2012

Crack Brownies*

*does not contain crack or any other illegal substance

I made these crack brownies for an office party.  I thought to myself "WOW, these have a lot of STUFF on top of the brownies...maybe I should leave some of it off".  Then I thought "self, what would Teresa do?  She would make the recipe as is the first time and the second time you can make changes".  Yes, that is what I would do.  I would add the peanuts, marshmallows, peanut butter cups, chocolate, peanut butter and rice crispies and see if these really were addictive.  THEY ARE and I am joining a 12 step program tomorrow.  

The brownie is just the stage to all the deliciousness on top.  Mostly, you taste chocolate, with a hint of peanut butter and a crunch of rice crispies.  I do not notice the peanuts at all and the marshmallows just add an "oohey goohey" factor.  

These are best when served cool so the chocolate does not melt.  And these will last a while.  I prepared them Thursday night, they were served Friday and the remaining were put in the refrigerator and I just had one today (Monday) and still just as fabulous.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Soup and Cake

On the weekends I enjoy making new recipes for a main dish and a dessert.  The main dish I eat during the week (I LOVE left overs) and the dessert is given away minus one piece....ok, two pieces. 

Both recipes that I cooked featured new cooking techniques.  I find that to be very exciting. 

In my crock pot I prepared Tomato Basil Parmesan soup.  I loved the flavor and the fact that it is full of vegetables.  It also has fat in the way of butter, cheese and half and half.  Our brains need fat plus if I make something sans fat I am left feeling hungry.  Fat is our friend.  Some tips for the soup:  cut the vegetables in very small pieces.  Likewise with the herbs if you use fresh. 

The new technique in this recipe was you make a roux with butter and flour then add some of the soup and then you put that back into the crock pot.  I have not made a lot of roux and I found it fascinating how the butter and flour paste became a super thick concoction when some of the soup was added.  Then when added back to the crock pot it thickened it all.  I liked the flavor alot and I think next time I will use my immersion blender to make it a smooth, creamy soup.  

For the new dessert recipe I made a most excellent Banana Cake with Brown Butter Icing.  YUM YUM YUM.  This is baked in a jelly roll pan (looks like a cookie sheet with 1 inch sides) though I am sure you could bake it in a 9 x 13, just adjust the baking time. The cake could not be simpler to put together - the recipe practically says to just throw it all in together and blend.  I used my stand mixer and first I mixed the butter and sugar, then added the other wet ingredients and then the combined dry ingredients.  The only substitution I made was using pecans instead of walnuts.  

The frosting is super simple as well and the secret is browned butter, which I have never prepared before.  Melted butter cooks and browns, whisk in some powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and voila, icing.  I used only about 3 cups of powdered sugar and enough milk to make it thin enough to stir.  You cannot mess it up unless you burn the butter!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Strawberries and Cream Pie

Strawberry season is almost gone.  Winter is getting close.  I wore my boots today despite the fact that it is supposed to be a high in the 80s.  

So what I am trying to say is I made this Strawberries and Cream Pie as an homage to summer 2012.  I followed the directions except for the  chocolate on top.  I did not think it was necessary.  As if chocolate needs to be necessary... 

The pie tasted like a lighter, fluffier cheesecake and I always love a homemade graham cracker crust.  I placed the strawberries on at the last minute to keep them fresh and from tinting the white filling.  This was very good and it would go with any summer berry.  I will definitely make it again.  Next summer.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cooking Group September 30, 2012

We met at Carol's house for a themed dinner of figs!  It is the height of the season and we wanted to take full advantage of the elegant little fruits.  Guest tonight were Vicky and Jennifer and missing were Janet, Tonya and Evelyn.

Cocktail and Wine:  Mary, Sangria
Bread:  Mary, Pumpkin Cheese and Chive Muffins
Appetizer:  Angie, Figs and Toasted Almonds Brie and Elegant Fig Appetizers with Goat Cheese
Salad:  Jennifer, Green Salad with Fig Vinaigrette
Side Dish:  Carol and Jennifer,  Autumn Vegetable Mash
Main Dish:  Carol, Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Fresh Figs and Marsala Pan Sauce
Dessert:  Carol and Jennifer, Fig and Peach Crumble


Carol set a beautiful fall table with fresh flowers and tan napkins. 

We started the evening off with a stout cocktail of sangria.  The color was beautiful and perfectly fit in with the fall decorations. 



 I found two great fig appetizers and both featured cheese and honey.  Figs and Toasted Almonds Brie was delicious and served with water crackers.  I do not make brie often and next time I will remove all rind from the top.   Though edible, the rind is not easily spreadable and most people do not want to eat it anyway.  I used slivered almonds and chopped the figs before putting on the cheese.

Elegant Fig Appetizers with Goat Cheese and Almonds was super simple to put together.  Like the brie appetizer, I assembled this the night before and baked it right before serving.  After baking, drizzle with the honey and balsamic vinegar.  I used herbed goat cheese as called for and it complimented the sweet figs, honey and vinegar nicely. 


The salad was simple with greens, cucumbers and tomatoes.  The vinaigrette featured fig vinegar which gave a sweetness and a deep brown color.  I loved the flavor and had no idea there was such a thing as fig vinegar!

Vinaigrette

1 part Black Fig Vinegar
3 parts Olive Oil
Diced Shallot
Diced Garlic
Sugar and Salt to taste


Mary made a delicious Pumpkin, Cheese and Chive Muffins with sweet butter.  The muffins were moist, lightly sweet and flavorful.  I loved them with the fall menu of Autumn Vegetable Mash and Pork Medallions with Figs.  

The vegetable mash has the consistency of mashed potatoes and the parsnips and especially the celery root give a tangy flavor.  There is no butter and you really did not miss it as all the vegetables are so flavorful.  

Autumn Vegetable Mash Recipe

Prep Time: 20 min | Cook Time: 20 min | Servings: 12 |

Ingredients:
8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large celery roots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups chicken broth
2-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2/3 cup 2% milk
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In a Dutch oven, combine the potatoes, parsnips, celery roots, broth and 2 teaspoons salt. Add water to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a large bowl; reserve cooking liquid. Mash vegetables, gradually adding the milk, garlic powder, pepper, remaining salt and enough reserved cooking liquid to reach desired consistency. Yield: 12 servings (3/4 cup each).


 I loved the pork medallions.  The sauce was thick like a gravy and the figs and Marsala gave a hint of sweetness.  The thinly sliced pork was very tender. 

Pork Tenderloin Cutlets with Marsala and Fresh Figs
Makes 4 Servings

1 pork tenderloin, about 1 1/4 pounds, well trimmed
kosher salt
pepper
flour
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/3 cup minced shallots
1 1/4 cup sweet Marsala Wine, divided
2 tsp thyme, finely chopped
12 firm ripe figs, preferably green skinned, cut into wedges
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs fresh lemon juice

Trim the fat from the pork tenderloin.  Loosen the shiny white membrane.  Cut the tenderloin into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Lightly pound the slices to make the cutlets about 1/4th inch  thick.  Sprinkle cutlets with salt and pepper.  Dredge the cutlets in flour.

 Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add the cutlets and cook 1 to 2 minutes per side until it looses its pink color.  Pour 1 cup of the Marsala over the pork and gently boil the Marsala, turning the pork, until the wine is cooked down and the pork is golden and cooked through,  about 5 minutes.  Transfer the meat to a platter.  Boil the Marsala and juices until thick, about 1 minute.  Pour over the pork.  Sprinkle with half of the thyme leaves.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of Marsala and the figs.  Sprinkle the figs with sugar and cook, over medium high heat, turning the figs until they turn golden and are cooked into a chunky jam, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice.  Spoon over the pork and sprinkle with the remaining thyme.  Serve at once.




We finished our meal with Fresh Fig and Peach Crumble with ice cream that was fancied up by Carol and Jennifer.  I think there was figs and pistachios mixed with vanilla ice cream.

Fresh Fig and Peach Crumble
Makes 6 to 8 Servings

8 tbs cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/3 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbs all purpose flour
pinch of salt

Fruit:
1 lb peaches, peeled, halved, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 lb firm, ripe figs, preferably Brown Turkey, stems removed, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 tbs fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Confectioners' sugar

Combine the butter and 1/3 cup sugar in a large bowl of electric mixer and beat until well combined, about 3 minutes.  Add 1 cup of the flour and salt and beat on low just until flour is incorporated but the mixture is still dry and crumbly.  Remove bowl from mixer and scrape flour from the bottom and edges of the bowl and press into the pastry.  The pastry should still be crumbly.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a 1 1/2 to 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Combine the peaches and figs in a large bowl;  add the lime juice and toss to blend.  In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tbs flour and sugar and the cinnamon; stir to blend.  Sprinkle over the fruit.  Fold gently just to blend without crushing the fruit.

Spoon fruit into baking dish; spread in even layer.  Sprinkle the cold pastry crumbs over the fruit.  

Bake until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly, 35 to 30 minutes.  Cool slightly and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve with ice cream.




Monday, October 1, 2012

Football Food

I had some friends over this weekend for an AGGIE football watching party.  I also invited a few non-Aggie friends (hiss) and they were respectfully dressed in "neutral" colored clothing (i.e. no burnt orange).  Except one was wearing red, which happened to be the color of the Aggie opponent.  Whatever!  This is a blog about food and not football rivalries.

Since the game was at 11, I wanted to have not only dips (2 store bought - HEB's That Green Sauce and sour cream and onion dip) as well as queso (with some left over fajita meat) but also something hearty for lunch.  I chose Oven Baked Frito Pie.  Growing up my parents would make REAL Frito pie (fake Frito pie being Fritos covered in chili) and they would layer wolf brand chili, Fritos, onions and cheese into a casserole dish and bake until hot and bubbly.  It was gooey and crunchy and delicious.  It was also incredibly fattening because cans of chili are somehow super injected with fat and calories. 

The recipe I chose had homemade chili which is much healthier than wolf brand and it has diced tomatoes and tomato sauce for a nice vegetable component.  I left out the beans because I have never preferred chili with beans.  Otherwise, I only added some chili powder as I found the packet of taco seasonings did a good job making the beef taste like chili. 

The other change to the recipe I made was to leave out the sour cream.  I really did not see the point of it and again, I was trying to make this somewhat easy on the waistline.  No one seemed to notice anything missing and everyone wanted the recipe.  I cooked the chili the night before, to allow more time for flavors to blend, and then I put the pie together and baked it right before lunch.  Some people added more cheese (in the form of queso) or Fritos.  This was very good and a keeper for a big group.

I cannot have a gathering without having something sweet!  I have been craving peanut butter lately and this recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars looked decadent and easy!  The peanut butter layer is a doctored yellow cake mix, the chocolate layer is essentially chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk and it comes together in minutes. It can sit on the counter for days to be nibbled on.  A kid at the party said these were FABULOUS and I have enjoyed them at breakfast, and as mid morning and late night snacks.  I finally took the few remaining to work today as I cannot be trusted with these bars.  YUM.  Like a Reece's peanut butter cup in a bar form.  The chocolate layer is almost fudge like and the peanut butter layer is pretty mild because it is mixed with the cake mix.  These cut easily and come out clean for easy staking.