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Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

20 May

One peek into our pantry reveals our family’s obsession with granola bars.  Fruit-filled granola bars, nutty granola bars, and the kids’ favorite… chewy chocolate chip granola bars.  But because I’m uber picky about the ingredients that go into the granola bars I buy, it gets pricey keeping a replete supply on hand.

chewy chocolate chip granola bars 3

Granola bars must be one of the best creations of all time.  Busy families can attest to their great worth.  After all, granola bars are a multi-hat-wearing kind of food.  They serve as the perfect breakfast-on-the-go, sans mommy guilt because they’re packed with good stuff.  They are an easy grab for the lunch boxes.  Perfect after school snack.  Car snack.  Shopping snack for the kids 😉

chewy chocolate chip granola bars

Whenever I can, I love making our own granola bars.  We’ve done all kinds of granola bars, but my kids’ ultimate fave are these chewy chocolate chip granola bars.  Like the store variety, they are chewy and sweet, but infinitely better because you made them yourself.  You know exactly what went into them.  No ingredients you can’t pronounce.  Only the good stuff goes into these yummy granola bars.

chewy chocolate chip granola bars 2

Sweetened with brown sugar and honey, chock full of oats, and tossed with mini chocolate chips.  Exactly eight ingredients went into these addictive granola bars.  They store well for days, if kept in an airtight container.

Get ready for a quick and satisfying breakfast or snack.  You just might need to double the recipe.

Enjoy!

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CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP GRANOLA BARS (makes one 8×8 pan)

INGREDIENTS

1/4 – 1/3 cup  light brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
1/4 cup honey
4 TB salted butter
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

Butter an 8×8 baking pan and set aside.  In large bowl, combine oats and cereal only.  In a saucepan, melt brown sugar, honey, and butter over medium heat, stirring, until it reaches a low boil.  Immediately reduce to simmer, and stir another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, and stir in cinnamon and vanilla extract until fully incorporated.

Carefully pour melted honey mixture over the cereal mixture.  Mix until fully incorporated.  Press granola mixture into the buttered pan, pressing down to pack the granola tightly and evenly into pan.  Sprinkle mini chocolate chips evenly over top of granola, using back of spoon or slightly wet hands.  (Mini chips may melt if you try to fully mix into the granola rather than sprinkle on top)

Allow granola to fully cool before cutting.  Store in airtight container.

Note:  If your granola bars break apart, it may help to chill the bars prior to cutting.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from browneyedbaker.com

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars

15 May

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars.  This post needs no words, really.  A picture is worth a thousand, right?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars 1

But I do have a small back-story.  It went like this:

Hubby:  I have a Dessert Challenge Day at work coming up.  Do you have an idea for what I can make?

Me:  Awesome!  I’ve totally got ideas.  What’s the date of the Dessert Challenge?

Hubby:  Tomorrow.

Me:  (Silence. Blink. Blink.)

After I recovered from the mini shock, my excitement to bake something yummy kicked in.  I’d been hankering for Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars for quite some time.  No better excuse than a Dessert Challenge to break out these decadent treats.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake bars 2

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  This was so, so worth it.  So worth the late-night baking and kitchen blunders that occur as a result of late-night baking.  Hubby was making an entire pan for work, and I was making another pan for me.  A little chaos in the kitchen.  Note to Self:  Make this during normal hours and pay attention =  it’s a cinch!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars 3

There’s something here for everyone.  Flavorful graham cracker crumb crust for all the crust-lovers.  Thick, rich cheesecake for cheesecake fans like myself.  Chocolate chip cookie dough full of gooey chocolate for cookie buffs.  Decadent and rich.  Smooth and creamy.  Textured and chewy.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars

You can taste the crust, cheesecake, and cookie all separately yet it all marries together like a match made in heaven.

You have to try this.  Your taste buds will thank you.  And your family and friends will look at you with speechless awe.  Enjoy!

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CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE CHEESECAKE BARS (12 servings)
* serve cold for best taste and texture

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
7 TB melted, salted butter

Cheesecake Filling:
12 oz cream cheese, room temp (indents when lightly pressed, but not melty at all)
1/3 cup sugar
1 extra large egg, room temp
1 TB pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:
5 TB salted butter, room temp (indents when lightly pressed, but not melty)
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 TB granulated sugar
1 TB pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips (mini chips turn out more gooey)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325F with rack on lower middle.  Line 8×8 square baking pan with parchment paper, with enough hanging over handles to make a “sling.”  Oil the parchment paper.

Make Crust:  Mix melted butter and cracker crumbs together until resembles wet sand.  Press mixture firmly and evenly into bottom of pan.  Bake for 7-8 minutes.  Remove pan to rack, but keep oven on.

Make Cheesecake Filling:  In bowl in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy and smooth.  Mix in egg and vanilla on low until incorporated, taking care not to overmix.  Pour cheesecake batter into prepared crust.  Set aside.

Make Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:  In bowl on stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and mix just until combined.  Slowly mix in the flour on low speed just until combined, taking care not to over mix.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Drop clumps of slightly-flattened dough evenly on top of cheesecake batter.  Continue until all cookie dough is evenly distributed across top of cheesecake.

Bake 30-40 minutes, until top of dough feels mostly dry and entire pan looks mostly set if given a gentle shake.  It will continue to set up as it chills.  Move bars to cooking rack to cool completely.  Chill several hours or overnight.  Lift bars out by sling and cut.  Keep cut bars in fridge until ready to serve.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from mybakingaddiction

Note:  Leftover bars can be wrapped and stored in freezer.

Fresh Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

10 May

For Mother’s Day weekend, I knew immediately what I’d want to bake up.  A great strawberry cake.  Mommies and berries and pink.  They were all three meant to be.  My lovely Mom is almost clear across the country, but I dedicate this pretty pink cake to her.

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I love that this cake is made with back-to-basics ingredients.  No artificial coloring and no boxes of Jello or pudding.  Just lots of strawberries.  I ended up changing much of the original recipe instructions.  For reasons still a mystery, the first bake attempt didn’t work.  The second time, it turned out beautifully.  The cake is light, fluffy, and tender.   It naturally won’t bake up as pink as artificially-colored cakes, but you’re welcome to add a drop or two of red food coloring if you really, really want to 🙂

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 2

This strawberry-cream cheese frosting is really what steals the show.  I’m not a huge buttercream frosting girl (gasp!), but I do adore cream cheese frostings.  Cream cheese takes treats over-the-top.  Have you met the cheesecake ?  This rich frosting has the decadent flavor of strawberry cheesecake, with a smooth and creamy texture that’s perfectly spreadable.

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 3

Frosting that’s a treat in itself.  Spoon-licking worthy.  Finger-licking yum.  You get the idea.  I am already brainstorming ways to incorporate this dreamy frosting into future desserts.

How would you use this frosting?

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FRESH STRAWBERRY CAKE (about 8 servings)
*Fresh strawberries need to macerate overnight

For the Cake:

16 oz very, very ripe, red fresh strawberries (with not much white on them.  If a lot of white needs to be cut off, you’ll need more strawberries.  The riper the better.)
3 tsp sugar
12 Tb unsalted butter, room temp (lightly indents when tapped, not melty at all)
1 3/4 cup white sugar
4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated – room temp
1/4 cup whole milk, room temp
1 TB vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup cake flour, sifted after measuring
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

For the Frosting:

4 TB strawberry puree (use leftover puree from cake)
8 TB regular butter, firm
8 oz cream cheese, slightly cold
16 oz (1 lb) confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Cake:

Hull and slice fresh strawbrries.  Toss with 3 tsp sugar and cover.  Let sit in fridge overnight, until they become macerated and juicy.  Blend strawberries with short pulses, just until pureed.  Do not over blend.

Preheat oven to 350F with rack on lower middle.  Line bottom of two 8 or 9 inch round pans with parchment paper.  Grease and flour the paper and sides of pans.

Beat butter and sugar in stand mixer with paddle attachment on medium high, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add milk, yolks, vanilla, and 3/4 cup of strawberry puree (save remaining puree for frosting, filling, or other use.)  Blend just until combined.

In separate bowl, whisk together:  sifted cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Fold in the butter mixture with rubber spatula, just until wet/dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Do not over mix.

In a clean bowl, using electric mixer, beat egg whites just until still peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into the cake batter with rubber spatula, softly folding until combined.

Divide batter evenly among the two pans.  Give the pans a gentle shake to level out the tops.  Bake 20-25 minutes just until toothpick inserted in center has a few tender crumbs attached.  Watch carefully so it does not over bake and become dry.  Let cakes rest at room temp for 10 minutes and turn out onto wire racks.  Let cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:

In stand mixer using paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until it is light, pale yellow, and fluffy.  Add cream cheese and beat until combined.  Reduce speed to low and add confectioner’s sugar and beat until combined.  Add the strawberry puree and mix just until combined.  Place frosting in fridge about an hour before use.  Frosted dessert should be kept in fridge until ready to serve.  This frosting is best suited for spreading rather than piping, as it is smooth and creamy soft.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by foodiebride (cake only)

Lemon Monkey Bread

8 May

If you like lemons and lemony creations, you will love this one.  We are overt lemon enthusiasts around here.  My all-time favorite lemony dessert are these best-ever, most lemony lemon bars.  I could eat the entire pan.  One of my favorite savory lemon dishes is a  fabulous lemony pesto.

Now, let’s talk breakfast.  Introducing my new favorite citrus breakfast piece.  Hello, Lemon Monkey Bread.

Lemon Monkey bread

If you take a peek around our blog, you’ll find that we adore great breakfast/brunch concoctions.  Savory or sweet, gotta be simple, and must be deemed unquestionably delish!  This lemon monkey bread fits the bill.

Lemon Monkey Bread 2

I really, really like that this lemon monkey bread doesn’t rely on pudding mixes or food coloring.  The lemony glaze is the star of this monkey bread, plus plenty of fresh lemon juice and zest.

Lemon Monkey Bread 3

The result is an unbelievably light and airy texture with a refreshingly lemony taste.  The slightly crunchy topping offsets the tender bite underneath, with just the right amount of sweetness.

Lemon Monkey Bread 4

Because I’m the polar opposite of a morning-person, I made this lemon monkey bread the night before, minus the drizzle.  I let it cool, wrapped it up, and waited until morning to drizzle ‘n devour.  An absolute keeper.

Enjoy!

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LEMON MONKEY BREAD (makes 12 rolls)

INGREDIENTS

12 Rhodes frozen white dinner rolls or Rhodes Texas rolls (not warm ‘n serve variety)
zest of one large lemon
1/2 cup white sugar
3 TB salted butter, melted
butter for greasing

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 TB fresh lemon juice (slightly more or less, depending on desired consistency)

DIRECTIONS

Thaw frozen dinner rolls just until no longer frozen but still cold (not yet risen).  Butter a 9×13 baking pan or two round cake pans.  Cut rolls in half and arrange in pan cut-side down, 1/2 inch apart.  Drizzle with melted butter, evenly over rolls.

Mix lemon zest and sugar together in a bowl.  Sprinkle a third of the zest/sugar mixture evenly over the rolls.  Cover and let rise until rolls are doubled in size, approx. 1 hour, depending on your room temp.  (I covered my baking pan with an equal-sized baking pan in lieu of cling wrap, to give room for rolls to rise upward.)

Preheat oven to 350F, with rack on lower middle.

Carefully sprinkle remaining zest/sugar mixture evenly over the rolls.  Bake 16-18 minutes or just until golden.  (If it is the night before, let baked rolls cool completely.  Cover and let sit at room temp until ready to reheat.)

Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over warm rolls.  Serve while still warm.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from mybakerlady

Russian Tea Cakes (Mexican Wedding Cookies)

2 May

It’s about time I posted these Russian Tea Cakes.  These cookies are fabulously popular during the winter holidays, and though Christmas was five months ago, these cookies know no boundaries in time.  Russian Tea Cakes are otherwise known as Mexican Wedding Cakes and Snowballs.  My personal favorite moniker for these cuties are Southern Pecan Butterballs.  Ultimately, they are simply one thing:  melt-in-your-mouth-amazing.

Russian Tea Cakes 4

The simplicity of Russian Tea Cakes is quite deceiving.  Like, don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover deceiving.  They are far more than meets the eye.  These cookies are perfect morsels of nutty sweetness.  They are tenderly crisp and melt into a buttery bliss bite after bite.  After bite.

Russian Tea Cakes 2

Russian Tea Cakes are made with just six ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.  I love the flavor that pecans impart, so I stick with pecans for my nuttiness 🙂  Grinding the pecans allows the texture of the cookies to remain light and airy, and the flavors to infuse seamlessly.

Russian Tea Cakes 3

I think these are Hubby’s new favorite cookie.  The kids inhale them, of course, because what kid doesn’t love plenty of magical powder sugar?  I personally had to share them with friends so I wouldn’t pop all of them into my mouth in one afternoon.

These cookies are known to keep superbly well for many days (even weeks!) in an airtight container.  But seriously, let’s be real – nobody can keep them around that long.  Sounds good in theory.   Enjoy!

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RECIPE for Russian Tea Cakes (40-50 cookies)

INGREDIENTS

1 cup salted butter, room temp
2 cups powdered sugar
1 TB vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, toasted, cooled, and finely ground (not to the point of it becoming a paste)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon, depending on taste

DIRECTIONS

Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 5-8 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until well blended.  Add flour and nuts, beating until incorporated.  Remove dough and divide roughly in half.  Wrap each half in plastic and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F, rack on lower middle position.  Whisk together remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon in a pie dish.

Take out first half of chilled dough.  Make 1-inch cookie balls and arrange balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies just until bottoms are light golden brown, 16-17 minutes.  Cool for 5-10 minutes on sheet.  Carefully toss warm cookies in the cinnamon sugar mix, coating completely.  Place cookies on wire rack to finish cooling.  Once fully cooled, re-coat each cookie in cinnamon sugar mix and serve.  Repeat with other half of dough.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Easy Enchilada Casserole

30 Apr

It’s almost Cinco de Mayo.  Time for something festive, delicious, and easy.  Like a  Mexican Pasta Bake.  Or, serve up this foolproof Enchilada Casserole.  No need to roll tortillas one at a time; just layer up the good stuff.

Enchilada Casserole 4

This Enchilada Casserole has been in my potluck repertoire for years.  It’s a sure-fire hit at parties.  When I made it for the fam recently, my finicky 6-year-old eater swiftly polished his plate off and reached for seconds.  To my happy astonishment, all my kiddos proclaimed themselves enchilada fans.  Who knew?

Enchilada Casserole

This Enchilada Casserole is hearty, hefty, and heavenly.  Dee-lish.  And unbelievably easy.   It’s piled high with melty cheese, savory meat sauce, and chunky salsa.  Soft corn torillas are layered within.  How can this not be good?

Enchilada Casserole 2

Ooh, let’s not forget the best part.  The sauce can be made the day before, and you can quickly assemble it when ready to bake.  I simply adore all food that can be done ahead of time.  In fact, this sauce tastes better as it sits overnight.  Bonus!

Enchilada Casserole 3

Enjoy, and happy Cinco de Mayo!

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RECIPE for Enchilada Casserole (one 13×9)

INGREDIENTS

Light olive oil
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 chopped brown onion
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups of chunky salsa (thicker the better)
1 can (1-lb size) refried beans
1 1/2 cups good enchilada sauce
1 cup sliced olives
18 (6 inch) corn tortillas, sliced in half
4 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
sliced green onions for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Make the Sauce:  In large heavy skillet, saute onion and garlic with olive oil for one minute.  Add ground meat and cook until browned.  Drain if needed.  Stir in salsa, refried beans, enchilada sauce, and olives.  Bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to simmer.  Cook and stir for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

To assemble:  Layer half of the corn tortillas on bottom of a greased 13×9 baking dish.  Cover with half of the meat sauce.  Sprinkle on half of the cheese.  Repeat layers.  Cover tightly with foil, and bake 20 minutes at 375F.  Remove cover and bake another 5 minutes until cheese is nicely melted.  Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by Ortega

Mexican Pasta Bake

26 Apr

Casseroles are an ever-popular dinner choice for busy people, not to mention great for bringing to new mommies and new neighbors.  It wasn’t until I moved to the midwest that I realized how prominent a role The Casserole enjoys around here.  I now have many favorites, ranging from breakfast bakes and brunch bakes to dinner bakes.

Here’s a sassy twist on casseroles.  We’re kickin’ it up with a Mexican Pasta Bake.

Mexican Pasta 2

This is such a fun change of scenery in the realm of pasta bakes!  My family loves taco nights, when we have a tempting spread of various goodies to fill our tacos with.  This Mexican pasta bake is almost like a taco in casserole form.  All the lively spices are seamlessly paired with pasta and baked to aromatic perfection!

Mexican Pasta

So, I totally realize we’re not talking authentic Mexican fare at this moment.  Hubby and I spent most of our lives in LA, and this really wouldn’t be found on any Mexican menu 😉  But this yummy dish is SUCH a super tasty way to change up your usual pasta bake routine!

Mexican Pasta 3

Ground beef or turkey, taco seasoning, salsa, and cheese…you just can’t go wrong.  I made mine with whole grain penne, but feel free to use any pasta you like.  Rotini, Corkscrew, or Mafalda… have fun with it.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE for Mexican Pasta Bake (8 servings)

INGREDIENTS

2 TB olive oil
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 (1.25 oz) envelope taco seasoning
1 jar (about 15-20 oz) mild chunky salsa
1 small chopped and seeded green pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
12 oz uncooked pasta of choice
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
1/2 cup light sour cream
chopped cilantro for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Cook pasta in well-salted water to al dente only.  Drain (don’t rinse) and set aside.

In large heavy skillet, brown ground meat over medium heat.  Drain if needed.  Stir in taco seasoning, salsa, green pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano.  Bring to boil, stirring. Immediately remove from heat.

Meanwhile, combine cooked pasta with 1 cup of the cheese and sour cream and mix well.  Spoon into a greased 2-qt baking dish.  Top with the meat mixture and remaining cheese.

Bake uncovered 350F for 30 minutes.  Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from taste of home

Luscious Key Lime Bars

22 Apr

Spring envy is sooo rampant around here as everyone awaits completion of our final (please, let it be the last one) dump of snow.  In case you didn’t see the post date, it’s April 22.  Our ridiculously late spring is supposed to make an entrance this weekend, and the entire state will suddenly bust out walking, biking, playing, and dancing.  Or just standing.  Outdoors.

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I recently posted one of my favorite spring treats here.  It’s time to break out my other favorite spring treat.  Key lime bars.  Luscious, because they are unbelievably and unforgettably amazing.

Luscious Lime Bars 6

Limes tempt your senses with their freshness and springy-ness.  You already know of their cocktail virtues, but did you know the Lime stars in its own to-die-for dessert?

Luscious Lime Bars Cooks Illustrated

I was truly surprised at how fabulous these Lime Bars are.  The batch I brought to a gathering left me nothing but crumbs to bring home.  My kiddos and hubby inhaled every small bit they could get their hands on.

Luscious Lime Bars 5

These Lime Bars are sweet and lightly tangy, rich and creamy, light and smooth… all at the same time.  That decadent filling sits on top of a crisp textured, perfectly sweetened crust.

You will l-o-v-e this.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE: KEY LIME BARS (one 13×9 pan)

INGREDIENTS

For the Filling:
4 oz cream cheese, room temp
2 TB grated lime zest
1 cup fresh lime juice, from 6-8 limes
1/8 tsp salt
2 (14 oz each) cans sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
powdered sugar, for dusting

For the Crust:
10 oz animal crackers (i.e., Stauffer’s Original)
6 TB packed brown sugar
8 TB salted butter, melted and slightly cooled

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325F, with rack on middle position.  Press a long sheet of heavy-duty foil into the corners and up sides of 13×9 pan, with enough foil hanging over edges of pan, for super easy removal later.  Grease foil.

Pulse animal crackers in food processor until evenly fine.  Add brown sugar and salt and process to combine.  Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are moistened with butter evenly.  Press crumbs firmly and evenly into bottom of prepared pan.  Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes.  Cool while making the filling.  Leave oven on.

In medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zest, and salt with a rubber spatula until soft and creamy and fully incorporated.  Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until combined and no lumps of cream cheese remain.  Whisk in egg yolk.  Add lime juice and gently whisk until fully combined.  Mixture will thicken slightly.

Pour filing into crust.  Spread to corners and smooth the surface.  Bake until set and edges begin to pull slightly away from sides, 23-25 minutes.  Center will still be a bit jiggly.  Cool on wire rack to room temp.  Cover with foil and refrigerate until fully chilled.  Remove bars from pan using foil.  Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar right before serving.  Keeps for days in fridge.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Cooks Illustrated cookbook

Creamy Avocado Pasta

17 Apr

One hallmark of the house I grew up in was a colossal avocado tree in the backyard.  From my vantage point, it was a monumental tree amongst several other smaller fruit trees.  Much to my parents’ chagrin, we kids wouldn’t touch the avocados that grew profusely.  Mom always ended up giving away loads of fine fruit.

Creamy Avocado Pasta 1

Fast forward to present day.  Hello, Self. What was I thinking?!  Avocados cost like 1.50 each.  Hind sight is always 20/20.

Creamy Avocado Pasta 3

When my parents moved to their current house, a new avocado tree took root in their new backyard.  A petite version of their massive old one.  This new avocado tree may not be the tallest in the bunch, but it sure yields a copious crop.  When people visit my folks, they go home with more fruit than they know what to do with.  Older and wiser now, I made sure to bring home my share of large avocados.  Still firm enough to safely cram into my suitcase for the cross-country flight home.  Did I mention they would normally cost 1.50 each?

Creamy Avocado Pasta 2

What my avocado-loving middle child didn’t immediate polish off, I was able to make into yummy dishes.  Case in point:  this phenomenal Creamy Avocado Pasta.  This pasta has all you’d want in a creamy-sauced pasta dish, minus the cream.  No cream.  Just pure avocado bliss.  It’s rich, smooth, and light all at the same time.  For extra nutrition and beautiful color, add plenty of fresh parsley (you can’t really taste it in the dish.)  To make it Superman healthy, we use whole grain pasta.

P.S.  If you keep the sauce separately in an air tight container, it will keep beautifully ’til tomorrow!  Enjoy it!

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RECIPE (8 servings)

INGREDIENTS

4 large ripe Hass avocado, peeled and pitted
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
8 garlic cloves, peeled
4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp paprika
1 cup flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
20-24 oz dried pasta
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly shaved Parmesan for topping

DIRECTIONS

Blend lemon juice, garlic cloves, salt, paprika, parsley, and olive oil together in a food processor until smooth.  Add avocado.  Continue processing until smooth and creamy.  Add black pepper to taste.  Set sauce aside in air tight container, with cling wrap resting directly on top of sauce to keep air out.

In a large heavy pot, bring well-salted water to boil.  Cook pasta just until al dente, according to package.

Drain pasta in strainer and sprinkle with olive oil to prevent sticking.  Plate the pasta and pour desired amount of sauce onto each plate.  Toss to combine and sprinkle with plenty of fresh parmesan.  Serve immediately.

Note:  If there will be leftover sauce, keep it in a separate air tight container (cling wrap resting on top of sauce.)  Keeps well in fridge for a day or two this way.  When ready to use, simply make hot pasta and pour on remaining sauce.  Don’t reheat the sauce – just toss it with hot pasta.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from ohsheglows

Parmesan ‘n Panko Crusted Pork Chops

11 Apr

Parmesan and Panko.  Both fabulous creations in their own right.  Put together, they equal  unparalleled deliciousness.  If you haven’t tried Panko, please try it soon.  It literally can put bread crumbs to shame.

Panko Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops 4

These Parmesan and Panko crusted pork chops are bursting with tender juiciness, well-seasoned flavor, and a crisp bite to the exterior.  What more could we ask for in a quick weeknight meal?  Yes, I did say quick and weeknight in the same sentence.  Because it’s that easy.

Panko Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops 2

Pork, famous for being the other white meat, really is surprisingly lean.  I had sworn it off many years ago when I was in my health-nut phase and thought all pork was fatty.  It eventually dawned on me that with the right cuts, it’s an extremely lean protein that makes the taste buds happy.  Pork chops became my friend again.

Panko Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops

These Parmesan and Panko crusted pork chops are super popular with kids and grown ups alike.  We don’t bother with sauces here, because there is simply enough robust flavor in this recipe as is.

Go ahead.  Have your pork and eat it too.  Enjoy! 🙂

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PARMESAN PANKO CRUSTED PORK CHOPS (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

2 large eggs
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
3/4 cups freshly grated (grate it yourself) Parmesan cheese
4 large (10-12 ounces each) center cut pork loin chops, 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick
light olive oil
kosher salt and freshly grounded black pepper
optional lemon wedges for serving

DIRECTIONS

Lightly beat eggs in a pie plate.  In another pie plate, thoroughly combine Panko, oregano, basil, garlic powder, and onion powder.  In a third pie plate, place freshly grated cheese.

Sprinkle each pork chop lightly with kosher salt and pepper on both sides.  Coat the chops completely with fresh cheese, pressing down to adhere.  Dip pork chops into beaten eggs, and then completely coat with Panko mixture.  Pat to adhere on both sides.

Heat 4 TB oil in large heavy skillet (nonstick works well) over medium heat.  Add pork chops one or two at a time (do not overcrowd), cooking uncovered until golden brown and 150F at center – about 6 min per side.  Repeat with remaining chops.  Transfer to plates and serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

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