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Tag Archives: vegetarian

Lemony Lemon Bars

19 Mar

Spring officially debuts on March 20, like right now.  If you’re living it up in a warm climate, you’re feelin’ the spring.  If you live where the snow is still knee-deep, well… we can surely pretend, right?  It stretches the imagination when I walk into a Target store and see the beach shorts and flip flops front and center.  Because just beyond the doors is a snow storm.  I’m all for letting the imagination fly.

Luscious Lemon Bars

Even though winter is citrus time in much of the country, fresh lemons seem to scream spring.  The pretty bright yellow just makes you happy.  These super lemony lemon bars are like spring’s mascot.  If it doesn’t feel springy, at least it will taste like it!

Luscious Lemon Bars 3

Both Hubby’s parents and my parents live in sunny So. Cal., and they are blessed with all sorts of lush fruit trees thriving in their backyard.  Whenever I get my hands on a bunch of fresh lemons, I think of my father in law’s lemon tree on steroids.  It produces lemons that resemble little grapefruits.  Wish I had a picture of those for you.

Luscious Lemon Bars 2

These lemon bars are ultra lemony.  Superbly lemonish.  The juice of three big lemons plus lotsa zest creates an amazingly tangy + sweet filling that is a burst of happiness in your mouth.  The smooth lemon filling rests atop a tender yet crisp butter crust that is a taste of perfection.  My family adores lemon bars.  My kids beg me not to give them all away when I make them.  Hubby used to buy them from a gourmet pastry shop for me when we were dating.  These are by far the most perfect lemon bars we’ve inhaled, and we think you’ll love ’em too.

Enjoy a little flavor of spring, wherever you happen to be!

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RECIPE (one 9×13 pan)

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
12 TB regular butter, chilled and cut into 1 inch pieces

For the Filling:
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup white sugar
3 TB all purpose flour
Juice of 3 large lemons (2/3 cup)
Zest of 2 lemons
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp table salt

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:  Preheat oven to 350F with oven rack at middle position.  Press a long piece of foil into 13×9 baking dish, so that the ends hang over the dish (helps with removal of bars.)  Grease the foil and set aside.

Blend flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Add butter and process to blend, about 10 seconds.  Then pulse until the mixture looks pale yellow, resembling a coarse meal.  (If you’re doing it by hand, mix the dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of a grater, into the bowl and toss pieces to coat with flour mixture.  Rub the bits with fingers until flour turns pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.)  Sprinkle crust mixture into prepared pan and firmly press into an even layer over bottom of pan.  Place pan in freezer for 10 minutes.  Then bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For the Filling:  Whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in large bowl.  Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, milk, and salt to incorporate.  Reduce oven temp to 325F.  Stir filling mixture well, and pour into warm crust.  Bake until filling feels firm upon a very light touch, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely to room temp.  Tightly cover and  chill in fridge before serving.  Once chilled, remove entire dessert with foil sling, and cut into squares.

Dust with powdered sugar upon serving, if desired.  Bars will keep well in fridge, covered.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

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Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies

10 Mar

We’re getting into that silly time of year.  Did anyone else miss that all-important hour of lost sleep for daylight savings like I did?  March equals rain and slush around here, with some days stuck in winter and other days hinting at the upcoming spring.  Warmer, cooler, sunshine, snowstorm… March cannot make up its mind, and it’s all wishy-washy this time of season.

Thank goodness we can depend on the yumminess of brownies when we need something consistently satisfying!

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies 3

These sweeties aren’t just any brownies, either.  They are Mint Chocolate Brownies, adapted from my all time favorite chewy brownie recipe.

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies

St. Patty’s Day is March 17, which is only a week away.  These deliciously chewy, rich Mint Chocolate Brownies are perfect if you’re looking for something with a little bit of green.

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies 2

These mint chocolate brownies are chewy, fudgy, and refreshingly minty.  I used a bit of peppermint extract to enhance the minty flavor, and it turned out nicely subtle, which I like.  If you want to up your minty-ness, just add more peppermint extract to your batter.

Enjoy!

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RECIPE (one 9×13 pan)

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup (1 oz) Dutch processed cocoa, unsweetened
1/2 cup + 2 TB boiling water
2 oz unsweetened, good quality solid chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup + 2 TB olive oil
4 TB regular butter, melted
2 large eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose, sifted flour
3/4 tsp table salt
1 1o-oz bag mint-chocolate morsels, or dark chocolate/mint chocolate combo

DIRECTIONS

Bring kettle of water to boil.  Adjust oven rack to second-to-lowest position and preheat to 350F.

Insert 2 long sheets of foil perpendicular to one another in baking pan, long enough to hang over edges.  Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil against pan.  Grease foil sling and set aside.

Whisk cocoa and boiling water (measure out correct amount from kettle of boiling water) together in large bowl until smooth.  Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted.  Whisk in oil and melted butter.  Whisk in eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and peppermint extracts.  Continue to whisk until smooth.  Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated.  Sprinkle salt and sifted flour into batter and mix with rubber spatula until just combined.  Fold in 1 cup of the mint/chocolate morsels.

Transfer batter into prepared pan, spreading into corners and smoothing the surface.  Sprinkle with remaining chocolate/mint morsels.  Bake about 30-33 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  It’s done when toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached; should not come out completely clean.  It may seem underdone, but it will set upon cooling.  Do not over bake, or brownies will be dry.

Transfer pan to wire rack and cool for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove brownies from pan using foil sling.  Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely.  Cut brownies into squares and serve.  Can be stored in airtight container at room temp for a couple of days.

By:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by Cooks Illustrated

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Bread

28 Feb

Yogurt-Banana-Chocolate-Bread.  That’s quite a mouthful.  There’s no other way to describe this wholesome, rich, moist, thick bread!   This is a densely satisfying bread for breakfast, brunch, and snack.  It’s got everything I love in it, and more.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Bread 4

We just returned from our regular trip back to So. Cal., where we’re from.  It can be challenging to travel with kiddos, but the memory-making is important to us since our entire extended family is in CA.  Nobody wanted to relocate to the Arctic with us.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Chip Bread 2

It wouldn’t have been a real trip without the usual visits to our favorite Cali eateries, being the silly foodies that we are.  Actually, any trip we take tends to revolve around food somehow.  Yet no amount of In ‘n Out can rival my mom and dad’s home cooking.  And they cooked up a storm.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Chips Bread 3

I’m not sure what all that has to do with this Yogurt Banana Chocolate Bread, except that it’s obvious my parents’ love of cooking was passed down to me.  Hopefully, I’m passing it on with all the cooking/baking I do with my own family now.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Back to the banana bread.   This sweetie’s loaded with super ripe bananas, protein-rich yogurt, flax, and a healthy dose of chocolate.  So rich, dense, moist, and just the right amount of sweetness!  I’d say this bread lasted about one day in our house.  We never have leftovers with this bread, but I’m guessing it would freeze beautifully.

Enjoy!

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RECIPE (1 9×5 loaf)

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup softened butter (room temp)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup dry flax meal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup over-ripe, mashed bananas
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate morsels (minis melt into the bread better)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F with rack on lower middle position.  Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.

In large bowl of stand mixer, mix the softened butter and sugar until fluffy and light, several minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix to incorporate.

In separate bowl, combine flour, flax, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter/egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring by hand until fully incorporated.  Gently fold in the yogurt and mashed bananas with rubber spatula just until combined.  Gently fold in the mini chocolate chips, just until combined.

Spread batter evenly into greased loaf pan.  Bake about 60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out with tender crumbs attached (not totally clean.)  Cool loaf in pan 15 minutes and transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.  Cool completely before slicing.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Perfectly Creamy Mac ‘n Cheese

22 Feb

For many, mac ‘n cheese means warmth and comfort.  Many of us grew up on mac ‘n cheese and can recall random stories that involve this family friendly pasta dish.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 2

Back in junior high, I would come home famished, and cook myself some stovetop shells and cheese of the Velveeta variety.  That was my after-school snack.  Then, I’d venture on to eat a normal dinner later.  Those were the days.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 3

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve worked through what feels like a mountain of homemade mac ‘n cheese recipes, hoping to capture that rich and creamy texture using fresh ingredients.  No ingredients I can’t pronounce, please.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese

Needless to say, I’ve had my share of hits and misses.  One solid recipe almost made it to post-worthy status, but it was a teensy grainy, so it didn’t make the cut.  Another popular recipe was great right out of the oven, but the leftovers were kind of clumpy.

You know I’m here to share “the one.”  The one mac ‘n cheese made with whole ingredients that is worthy enough to have its own post.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 4

This mac ‘n cheese is perfectly creamy, rich, superbly cheesy, and big on flavor.  It’s fabulous right out of the oven, and it manages to reheat surprisingly well.  Sharp white cheddar makes all the difference, with its super creamy texture.  Pecorino Romano puts this dish over the top.  It’s deliciously pungent, and lends toothsome flavor to the cheese sauce.  Grate your own fresh cheeses, as it makes a difference in the texture too.

With more winter days lying ahead, it’s the perfect time to make the perfect mac ‘n cheese.  Round your people up for a warming, comforting, satisfying meal.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE (12 servings)

INGREDIENTS
6 TB regular butter
5 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 1/2 (18 oz) cups freshly grated sharp white cheddar
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1 lb elbow macaroni pasta

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 375F with rack in middle position.  Grease a large casserole dish and set aside.

Fill large pot with salted water.  Bring to boil, add macaroni and cook 2 minutes fewer than the package states for al dente.  You want the pasta just under al dente (outside of pasta cooked and inside is a bit underdone.)  Transfer cooked macaroni to colander, rinse well, and set aside to drain.

In saucepan, heat milk until hot and set aside.  In large pot, melt 6 TB butter over medium heat.  When butter starts bubbling, add flour and cook 1-2 minutes, constantly stirring.

Add hot milk into flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly.  Continue cooking and whisking on medium heat until mixture bubbles and becomes thick, about 10 min.

Turn heat off.  Stir in garlic and onion powder, nutmeg, black pepper, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper.  Add 3 cups of the white cheddar and 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano.  Mix thoroughly until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.

Add cooked macaroni into cheese sauce and stir to combine well.  Pour mixture into greased casserole dish, distributing evenly.  Sprinkle top with remaining 1 1/2 cups white cheddar and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano.  (To add breadcrumbs, see note below.)  Bake until top is golden brown, about 30 min.  If needed, broil a minute or two until desired browning.  Let casserole cool about 5 minutes and serve.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Note:  I didn’t use breadcrumbs for this recipe by preference.  If you want to include chunky bread crumbs:  Cube 6 slices of good quality (crust removed) bread into 1/4 in. pieces.  Place pieces in bowl and mix with 2 TB melted butter and toss well. Scatter breadcrumbs over top of casserole right before baking. 

Fresh ‘n Chunky Guacamole

29 Jan

Any game day gathering means plenty of chips and dips.  Whenever possible, this chunky guacamole makes an ever-popular appearance in our lineup of chips and dips.  The guacamole is always good to the last drop.  Or scoop.  After the party, there’s nothing left over where the guacamole once sat.

Chunky Guacamole

Last year, someone in our home (Hubby) found himself frequently hunting down a nighttime snack to help keep him awake for those late-night work deadlines.  Nights like that can feel like college all over again, except it feels a little worse when you’re no longer 19.

Snacks.  Our pantry is stocked with a variety of snacks….but alas, let’s not steal from the kids’ lunch box stash.

Super Guacamole for Game Day 2

Hello, Guacamole.  It’s the perfect fresh and healthy snack that curbs anytime munch attacks.  Fresh, ripe Hass avocados.  Freshly diced tomatoes, red onions, and cilantro.  Loads of garlic.  This is not for the faint of heart (aka those who worry about garlic breath.)  If you’re noshing on homemade guacamole, there’s gonna be some onion and garlic breath.  When everyone’s got it, nobody notices it 🙂

Super Guacamole for Game Day 3

We love homemade guacamole for its fresh, bold, and addictive flavor.  But what I secretly relish are the abundant antioxidants in this yummy dip…it’s a total win-win snack.

Serve up the guacamole with flaxseed corn chips, and you’ve got some Super Food…just in time for Super Bowl 😉

Munch on, feel great, and enjoy!

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RECIPE (makes about 2.5 cups, give or take)

INGREDIENTS

3 large, ripe Hass avocados
1 small-medium red onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ripe tomatoes on the vine, seeded and chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 TB kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Peel and mash avocados with fork.  Combine with juice of 1 lime and chopped red onion, mixing to combine well.  Add rest of ingredients and mix to thoroughly incorporate.  Serve immediately with corn chips, for best color/appearance.

If serving later, keep guacamole in airtight container, with cling wrap set directly on top of the guacamole, to seal out air.  Place in fridge until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

27 Jan

We’re in the final days of Back-to-Healthy month (aka January), and we are still quite oatmeal-happy here in our kitchen.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies 4

My new year’s non-resolution (no official resolutions here) was to eat a lot more oatmeal, a lot more often this year.  I haven’t exactly kept up with my one-bowl-a-day ambition, but healthful oats are finding their way into my everyday baking.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 3

True, true… these are cookies.  Cookies with chocolate, at that.  But, hey… they are also laden with robust old-fashioned oats.  Not the quick-cooking oats, but the good ol’ old-fashioned oats.  Heartier, chewier, and bigger oat-y taste senstation is the result.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 2

These are unbelievably scrumptious oatmeal cookies!  For one, they taste like chocolate.  Like a rich chocolate chip cookie with texture…soft in the center and lightly crisp at the edges.  For another, the use of old-fashioned oats give these cookies a satisfying chewiness that you can sink your happy sweet tooth into.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies boast a perfect balance of sweetness with a bit of saltiness, loads of semi-sweet chocolate, and chock-full of natural oats.  Can this combo be any better?!  Oh, yes, they can – because these fab cookies naturally bake up nice and full, without spreading too much.  You can count on a perfectly thick, dense cookie that stays soft and chewy.  Just the way you like ’em. 🙂

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RECIPE (40-50 medium sized cookies)

INGREDIENTS

1 cup regular butter, softened just to room temp (not too soft)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 TB vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups rolled old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)
1 (12oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels

DIRECTIONS

In the large bowl of stand mixer, cream together room-temp butter with the white and brown sugars, until fluffy.  Several minutes on medium-high should do it.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Mix in the oats.  Gently work in the chocolate morsels until incorporated.  Dough may be thick and heavy.

Preheat oven to 350F, adjusting rack to lower-middle.  Keep cookie dough in fridge while waiting for oven.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Drop rounded balls of cookie dough, about the size of a walnut, 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Flatten each rounded ball to a 1/2 inch thick cookie.

Bake 8 minutes in preheated oven.  Cookies will seem underdone, but remove them from oven.  If you’re making much larger cookies, remove at 9 minutes.  The key is not to overbake.  They will set upon cooling.  Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.  Enjoy!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from allrecipes

Note:  If you want less salt, reduce to 1/2 tsp salt.  Cookies stay soft and chewy for a couple of days in airtight container.  They are best on the day they’re baked, but nobody complains about leftovers!  Cookie dough can be wrapped up tightly and kept in fridge for up to a week.

Steel Cut Oatmeal ‘n Blueberry Muffins

22 Jan

January has one thing in common with September.  Both are “Back to…” months.  It’s “back to school” for September.  For January, we’re all “back to healthy.”  At least, in theory.   🙂

Steel Cut Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins 2

Though my beloved family would agree that we enjoy our share of indulgent-worthy foods, we absolutely include lots of good-for-you stuff.  You know… just to even things out a bit.  Because we all adore oatmeal, we have a stash of various types of oatmeal.  My favorite is Steel Cut.  They are whole grain and minimally processed, so they’re more nutritious than other types of oatmeal.  They are also super delish!

Steel Cut Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

Ever make just a bit too much oatmeal?  I do that almost every time.  Oatmeal leftovers are…well, they aren’t exactly the same the next day.  No worries, because Steel Cut Oatmeal Muffins are here!

These are fantastic.  Steel Cut Oatmeal Muffins are tender, moist, and overflowing with good things!  You’ll feel great about these muffins first thing in the morning.  These are lightly sweet, chock full of blueberries, infused with warm cinnamon, and the best way to use up leftover oatmeal!

Steel Cut Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins 3

I have only made these using steel cut oatmeal, so I can’t attest to how the muffins would turn out using other kinds of oatmeal.  If you haven’t tried Steel Cut oats, it’s SO worth the try!  Steel Cut oats are heartier and chewier, with delicious nuttiness and oatiness (not a real word.)

You might never go back to the old stand by, once you’ve had Steel Cut oats.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE (12 large muffins)

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 TB dry flax meal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
1 TB ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, room temp
1/3 – 1/2 cup white sugar (depending on sweetness of berries)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 TB vanilla extract
1 cup leftover, cooked steel cut oatmeal
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not defrost)
Turbinado or coarse sugar for topping

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F, positioning rack to middle or lower middle.  Oil or line 12 muffin cups.

Sift together the wheat flour, all purpose flour, flax meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In separate bowl, beat together eggs and sugar until well incorporated.  Add buttermilk, olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla, and mix well.  Mix in cooked oatmeal until incorporated.  Quickly fold in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Just gently fold from bottom up, until flour is no longer visible.  Do not overmix.  Some small lumps are okay.  Lastly, very gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling all the way to the top, as full as possible.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out almost clean, with a few tender crumbs still attached.  Remove from oven and cool at least 10 minutes before removing from muffin tin.  Finish cooling on a rack.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by NY Times

Note:  These can keep a couple of days in airtight container at room temp.  They can also be frozen in airtight container for up to a month or two.

Texas French Toast Bake

19 Dec

Technically, I suppose “French” toast isn’t Texan.  But this scrumptious French Toast Bake is big and hearty, and the saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas.

Texas French Toast Bake, 2

What makes this French Toast Bake superb is the use of Texas Toast, in place of regular sliced bread.  If you aren’t familiar with Texas Toast, it is typically found in the sliced bread aisle of grocery stores, and the thing about it is… well, it’s Texas-sized.  It looks like white bread, sliced extra thick and made extra dense.

Texas French Toast Bake

I usually buy whole-grain bread, so it’s something special for me to reach for the enriched stuff.  Though whole-grain sandwich bread has come a long way in texture and flavor, the white slices brought me back to my childhood.  Back when wheat bread tasted like cardboard and my mom kindly bought us white loaves.   It’s a special occasion to bite into these Texas soft slices.  It’s hard not to cheat and eat the bread straight out of the bag.  Just remember that you’ll need to use almost the entire loaf for the French Toast Bake, so try.  Just try.

Texas French Toast Bake 3

This is one of the most ideal, no-fuss offerings for brunch on Christmas, New Years, or any weekend morning.  It’s simple to assemble the night before.  Wake up late the next morning, pop it in the oven, and give your family a carefree smile.  My family loves anything French Toast-ish, and they flipped for this one.  Devoured the whole pan the same day.  I’m talking no leftovers, not even a few crumbs.

Texas French Toast Bake 4

This Texas French Toast Bake is something that will easily go on your family’s list of favorites.  The thick, dense slices of Texas Toast soak up the custard perfectly.  The brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon meld together like magic.  It’s just the right amount of sweetness.  You can serve with pure maple syrup, but you might not need it.

Oh, this is important – be sure to scrape out all the gooey yummy goodness you’ll find on the bottom of pan.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE (one 9×13 pan)

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 loaf Texas Toast
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 TB vanilla extract
2 TB light brown sugar, mixed with 2 tsp cinnamon
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Real maple syrup for serving, if desired

DIRECTIONS

Put butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 20 second increments, stirring in between, until melted.  Add 1 cup brown sugar and stir until well incorporated  Pour into bottom of a greased 9×13 pan, spreading mixture evenly.

Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla until incorporated.  Set aside.

Lay a single layer of Texas Toast in pan, cutting pieces to fit if needed.  Spoon 1 cup of egg mixture over bread.  Sprinkle with half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Repeat with second layer, ending with a sprinkling of brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Cover tightly and chill overnight in fridge.

Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, covered for the first 30 minutes, and uncovered after that.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  If desired, serve with pure maple syrup.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Rach’s Blog

Orange Chocolate Lace Cookies

18 Dec

‘Tis the season for cookies.   Cookie exchanges, cookies on the dessert table, cookies for gift-giving… and cookies in our own cookie jar.  We’ve already been giving away many of our favorite cookies this season.  What to bake up next?

Orange Chocolate Lace Cookies

Orange Chocolate Lace Cookies!  I’ve always admired pretty lace cookies, but they look like they’d be way more work than the usual drop cookies.  In a sudden spirit of adventure, I talked my preschooler out of Word World so we could create  crunchy cookies together.

Orange Chocolate Lace Cookies 2

Surprisingly, these orange lace cookies are unbelievably easy to pull off.   So easy and deliciously tasty.  These cookies boast a fabulous crispiness and depth of flavor that reminds me of toffee.  Only better, because they’re infused with lively orange and then drizzled with chocolate.

orange chocolate lace cookies

Because these orange chocolate lace cookies are super crisp, they keep extremely well.  No worries about the cookies drying out or getting stale.  These little pretties are probably one of the easiest treats for mailing or gifting because of how well they keep.

The kiddos will enjoy watching the bubbling lace pattern develop in the oven.  Science project-slash-dessert?   Yeah, maybe just dessert.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE (about 25-30 cookies)

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup tightly packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup regular butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 TB Cointreau
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/2 cup + 2 TB all-purpose flour
1 TB orange zest, finely chopped
4-6 oz semi sweet chocolate morsels, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F and place rack on lower middle position.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine sugar, butter, corn syrup, Cointreau, and orange extract in a small but heavy saucepan.  Stir over low heat, until butter melts.  Remove from heat and add flour and orange zest.  Stir to combine.

Drop heaping teaspoons of batter onto parchment lined baking sheet, 2 1/2 inches apart.  Wet hands for easy dough handling.  Place baking sheet in oven and bake until cookies are spread out, bubble up, and golden brown.  About 11-13 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool several minutes before transferring to wire rack.  Finish cooling on wire rack.  Continue baking batches, stirring batter occasionally.

When cookies are completely cool, it’s drizzle time.  Melt chocolate morsels in microwave safe bowl (20 second intervals, stirring in between.)  Scrape melted chocolate into ziploc bag.  Cut a tiny hole in corner of bag, and drizzle on as much warm chocolate as you want.  Cool completely.  Enjoy!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Notes:  You can also dip the cookies halfway in melted chocolate in lieu of drizzling.  If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can make cookie-curls.  Cool cookies just 1-2 minutes, or until they are warm and pliable.  Curl around handle of wooden spoon.  When firm, slide cookie off.

Best Apple Pie with Flaky Butter Crust

16 Dec

I have a little confession.  Despite my affection for all things sweet, I don’t like cooked apples.  Wait a minute.  I do love fresh, crispy apples.  Just don’t love them cooked, is all.  That puts me in the little category of people who regularly pass up the apple pies on the dessert buffet.  But here is a glimmer of hope.  I gave this Best Apple Pie a chance, and new door has opened up.  There’s no turning back.

Perfect Apple Pie with Flaky Butter Crust

Hubby would never have imagined I’d eat, let alone bake, an apple pie.  I’m good with every kind of fruit pie, but he’s never seen me dart for the apple one.  For reasons still mysterious, I began searching high and low for apple pie recipes.  After digging through countless variations, I settled on this tried and true version.  And now I’m done digging.  This here is the only apple pie I’ve ever really liked!

Perfect Apple Pie with Flaky Butter Crust 3

What makes this apple pie extra memorable is the fabulous flaky butter crust.  We always prefer using butter rather than shortening  whenever possible.  This is our go-to recipe for a flaky butter crust; perfect for any sweet or savory pies.  Technically, one could use store bought pie dough.  But it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say this out loud:  store-bought pie dough won’t produce the buttery deliciousness of a homemade crust.

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The pie dough needs a bit of time to chill.  If you plan ahead for that, you’re good.  Try to stick with Granny Smith apples for best texture and balance of tart vs. sweet.

You’ll love that this apple pie can be totally prepared ahead of time.  In fact, it’s best that way.  Bake it and let it set overnight or at least several hours, so the filling has time to cool and thicken.  The pie reheats beautifully, especially if you’re going for a la mode.  Vanilla bean ice cream and warm pie…mmm.

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Add this to your dessert list for the holidays… or really any day.  Apple pie lovers in your life will go nuts over this one.  That non-apple-pie eater just might experience a conversion to the other side.   Enjoy!

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RECIPE (about 8 servings)

INGREDIENTS

For the filling:
1/2 cup butter
3 TB all purpose flour
3 TB  water, with 2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in it
1 TB vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
8 Granny Smith apples – peeled and sliced (not too thin)

For the dough (double crust):
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp table salt
1 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/2 cup very cold ice water
1 egg white, beaten
coarse sugar for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Prepare the dough (make ahead): 
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, just until there remains small pea-sized butter chunks in the dough.  Gently stir in 1 TB of ice cold water at a time, until mixture starts to hold together.  It should be pliable enough to stick together when pinched, but not sticky.  Work the dough sparingly, using either pastry cutter or cold fingers.  The key is not to overwork the dough (avoid using food processor.)  The little chunks of butter should still be visible.

Gently form 2 dough balls (1 slightly larger than the other) and wrap well in plastic.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to overnight.)

To make the pie:
Preheat oven to 425F and place rack on lower middle position.

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Stir in flour to form a roux.  Add water with dissolved cornstarch, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to barely simmer.  Keep sauce warm while you roll out the crust.

Roll the larger dough ball out to fit bottom/sides of  9-inch pie pan, with bit extra for edges.  If dough is firm, you may need to roll it out twice.  Place crust in bottom of pie pan.  Press evenly into the bottom and up sides of the pan.  Press down the edges.  Roll the smaller dough ball to fit over top of 9-inch pie pan.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine apple slices with the warm sugar sauce, reserving about 1/4 cup (or enough for brushing over top crust.)  Brush bottom crust with beaten egg white.  Fill with apple mixture, mounding.  Place top crust over filling, crimping tightly at edges to ensure good seal.  Cut several slits in top crust.  Brush remaining warm sugar sauce over entire top crust.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar and light dusting of cinnamon, if desired.

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.  Reduce temp to 350F and bake another 35-45 minutes, until top crust is golden brown and apples are soft.  Use thin strips of foil to cover pie edges, if they start browning too quickly.

Cool before serving.  Enjoy…it is totally worth your work!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie

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