Monday, April 8, 2013

Snickers and Mars bars

 Here's to the mighty Snickers bar, and here's to making it (sort of) by yourself (sort of) at home (sort of)!!

I know I've talked about this recipe once before, but I found myself making two batches this month, one with peanuts (like a Snickers) and one without (like a Mars Bar).

So, if you ever really wanted to know what's involved in making your own, here's the (less than) skinny on the process.

(And maybe this will be my last set of parentheses!)
Bottom Layer Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter

Nougat Layer Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cup salted peanuts chopped, roughly chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
Caramel Layer Ingredients:
1 14-ounce bag of caramels
1/4 cup whipping cream

Top Layer Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter

It's really not a lot, this process just TAKES TIME since every layer needs to cool enough to hold its own before you add another one on top of it.  I'd plan on at least an hour per layer, even if you use the fridge, because you really want that pretty set of layers to come out evenly when you're down.
 Directions (Bottom Layer):
1. Buy a 9x13 disposable pan and spray it with a non-stick cooking spray.  You really want disposable and you really want to grease it up.  Trust me on both.  It makes the final steps the easiest.
2. In a microwave safe dish/measuring cup, melt together the bottom layer ingredients over 90 seconds, stopping every 30 seconds to stir, or until completely melted and combined.
3. Spread out melted PB chocolate goo into prepped disposable container, set in fridge to solidify.

Directions (Nougat Layer):
1. Melt butter in your pan over medium heat, then add your sugar and milk and bring to a boil.  Stir well so everything dissolves nicely.
2. Cook for about five minutes, still stirring from time to time.
3. Add fluff, PB, and vanilla - keep stirring!  Make it smooth.

 4. Turn off the heat and fold in the peanuts (for Snickers), or don't (for Mars bar)
5. Pour and spread over cooled and set bottom chocolate layer.  Stick that puppy back in the fridge for another hour.

Directions (Caramel Layer):
1. Combine caramels and cream in saucepan over low heat.  Stir until smooth (10+ minutes).
2. Pour over nougat and return to fridge for another hour.

 Directions (Top Layer):
1. In a microwave safe dish/measuring cup, melt together the bottom layer ingredients over 90 seconds, stopping every 30 seconds to stir, or until completely melted and combined.
3. Spread melted PB chocolate goo on top of other three set layers.  Put back in fridge to solidify one final time.

 Directions to Serve:
This is the part where you're really thankful I told you to use a disposable pan...

First, peel back the edges if your pan.  You'll see how nicely the layers have set, making it super simple for you to take them out of the pan.

I just flip it upside down and peel off the bottom.  The flexibility of the disposable pan helps.  If you're super-anti-disposable pan, then try to use a silicon one or something with equal amounts of flex.

 Next, take your nicely sharpened knife and cut it up.  You can make bars, squares, or whatever your heart desires.  I'd store them in the fridge because the chocolate will go soft if you leave it out too long.

When I make a double batch (two 9x13" pans), I can keep them in the fridge for about two weeks and they still taste amazing.  I can't vouch for longer than that because they really won't ever last once people have tasted them.

Try it.  You'll never want to go back to your standard Snickers/Mars bar again.  I promise.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

{Fake} King (Cup) Cakes!

Did you ever just have one of those recipes that made you go crazy?  You follow along, you make sure you're doing everything exactly the way it's been written, and then it flops just the same??

This is not that recipe.  Well, okay, it started out that way, but I just ditched all pretense of following along after a certain point and I just started to wing it.  Yes, I "wung" it.

While I'd normally say that that's a bad idea for me to follow through with, this time it actually worked out okay, and in the long run this is a much more simple way to make individual king cakes.  Not exactly a win-win, but a better than lose-lose for sure!  The original recipe can be found over with the Foodie Bride, but the dough on that liquified at some point.  I won't get into it, but the following is my "no-fail" recipe!

Ingredients (dough):
2 cans of crescent roll dough
4 T melted butter
Ingredients (cream cheese filling):
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 C + 2T sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Ingredients (glaze):
3/4 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3-4 tsp water
yellow, green, and purple decorating sugar

1. Mix up cream cheese filling ingredients.
2. Roll out cresent dough into two long rectangles per can of dough (1 rectangle for each segment of 4 crescent rolls - 4 total)
3. Brush each with 1 T of melted butter, leaving the top 1" dry.
4. Divide cream cheese filling in fourths, and spread evenly over each rectangle of dough, leaving top 1" dry.
5. Starting with the long side of dough closest to you, roll jelly-roll syle.  Pinch the last inch of dough onto the roll and place it seam side down on your counter.
6. Lightly roll/pat/pull the roll so the diameter is even in its length.
7. Slice into 1" thick rolls (each rolled rectangle should make 6 sliced rolls - 24 total).
8. Place each roll into a paper lined cupcake tin.
9. Bake about 15 minutes at 375, or until lightly browned

As the cakes are cooking, whisk together the glaze ingredients.  Slowly add water until you get a smooth and thick, but scoopable glaze.

Spoon glaze over the cooled cupcakes, then sprinkle them with the colors of Mardi Gras.  Try to make them within a day or two of eating them. 

If you're really making these for Mardi Gras, and not just for fun, make sure to hide a king in one, or at least a little red bean - just make sure to warn everyone who may be unsuspecting.  You don't want a cracked tooth!

I loved these little King Cakes.  They definitely help to set the mood, and while they didn't turn out ANYTHING like I had expected, I think the crescent dough really helped to save them (and my sanity) in the process.  Not bad for a "faker" recipe, not bad at all!

(Oh, and for those of you celebrating that king today, Happy Easter!)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cajun Pork Sandwiches

This recipe is amazing for two reasons: the pork AND the sandwiches.  The pork tenderloins come out so juicy and amazing, I would just happily serve them as a main dish hot from the oven.  But, when you add them to the other ingredients to make a sandwich, they're still phenomenal.  It was hard to remember to stop eating these before the event!

2 pork tenderloins, 1 lb each, trimmed
2 tsp vegetable oil
3 T paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
36 French bread slices or mini buns
Butter, softened
Mixed greens
Thin slivers of sweet peppers

1. Rub each tenderloin with 1 tsp of vegetable oil, then combine the spices in a small bowl.  Pat mixture over tenderloins, then cover and refrigerate over night.
2. Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes or until a meat thermomether reads 160.  Let stand for 10 minutes, then thinly slice.
3. Slice french bread and spread butter over each slice.
4. Top each butter bread slice with mixed greens, pork slice, and sweet peppers.

Now, if it were up to me, there would be another sauce drizzled on top to keep the moisture and to make these open faced sandwiches look even cuter.  I'm not sure what I'd choose, but it's something I'd like to keep in mind for next time (provided I'm making sandwiches again).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Herb and Cheese Sweet Peppers

Here's something that won't take too long, but it'll be gone rather quickly.  It's a new item for our traditional crudite platters that start to bore me after a while...

You'll need a bag of 30 (or so) mini sweet peppers.  These are easily found at Costco for $3.99, or you can grab a bag at most grocery stores.

You'll also need 18 oz. of semi-soft chevre (goat cheese), 1/4 C snipped chives, freshly ground black pepper, and some basil to garnish.

And then, the easy part?  Mix up the cheese, chives, and pepper to taste.  Clean and cut the peppers in half, lengthwise, and stuff the cheese mixture inside.  Garnish and serve.

So simple, but at least it changes up the look of your platter, and they taste great, even for those less than fans of goat cheese!
See?  They're in the middle back of my platter!  You have to hide them otherwise they're gone ASAP!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cheesy Shrimp Dip

This dip was a HUGE crowd pleaser.  I multiplied this recipe by five (5!!) for 60 people and they could've kept eating it all night if I hadn't run out.

The recipe originally comes from the Crock Pot Girl.  I didn't modify it too much, but here's how it went...

2 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
3 medium onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 jumbo shrimp, peeled/deveined (I used pre-cooked as well)
1 large Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
3 C Monterey jack cheese shreds (I used a Mexican 4 cheese mix)
1/4+ tsp cayenne pepper
4-8 drops Tabasco sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste
* Serve with chips or crackers of choice

1. Cook bacon until crisp, drain, and crumble.
2. Saute onion and garlic in bacon drippings, drain.
3. Coarsely chop shirmp
4. Transfer all dip ingredients to crock pot
5. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour, occasionally stirring, until cheese is melted.

* If need be, you can thin out the dip with a little milk.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cajun Crab Dip

Here's a super simple appetizer that you can make in advance and then just bake up when your company arrives.

8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T sliced green onion
1 T milk
1 T Tabasco sauce  (+++)
1/2 tsp prepared horseradish
1/4 tsp salt
6 1/2 oz crab meat (drained, flaked, cartilage removed)
Slivered almonds for topping (optional)
* serve with your favorite crackers (I loved the cracked pepper water crackers)

1. In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients except the crab.  Once everything else is well combined, gently stir in the crab meat.
2. Spread in a lightly greased pie plate.  Sprinkle with almonds if desired.
3. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until heated through.

I don't eat seafood, so I know I'm not the best judge at some of these recipes, but I can tell you that I received many compliments on this "dip."  Mine appeared almost like more of a spread than an easily dippable material, but it was still great.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bourbon Brownies

Let's start this day off right, shall we?  Let's celebrate a day of revelries with two of my favorite ingredients: chocolate and booze!

In addition to celebrating St. Patrick's Day, let's also celebrate my triumphant return, with a little piece of love, originally called the Bourbon-Brownie Petit Four by Better Home and Garden magazine's test kitchen.  They say you can cut out about 64 brownies from this recipe (being that they're petit fours), but I doubled the recipe and struggled to get that since you don't want them to crumble away to nothing.  Let's say one recipe easily makes 2 dozen, and then you can be pleasantly surprised at anything above and beyond that!

Ingredients (brownie):
1/2 C butter
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 C bourbon
3 T instant coffee granules (I always use a bold roast)
1 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
Ingredients (glaze and frosting):
1 C whipping cream
6 oz milk chocolate chips
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a medium saucepan, melt and stir the butter and unsweetened chocolate until smooth.  Remove and cool.
2. Preheat your oven to 350.  Line an 8"x8" pan with foil that hangs over the edge for easy brownie removal. Grease the foil and then set it aside.   In a small cup/bowl, combine the bourbon and coffee granules and set aside as well.
3. Stir sugar into your chocolate mixture.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined.  Then, stir in your vanilla and the coffee bourbon mixture.
4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour and baking soda.  Add to the chocolate mixture, stirring until just combined.  Spread batter evenly into your prepped pan.
5. Bake for 30 minutes, then cool on a wire rack. Lift brownies out of the pan.  You can cut off the edges at this point, or leave them if you'd prefer.  I cut mine off (as recommended), but the edges weren't so crusty that I think they would've ruined my squares.
6. Cut brownies into 1" or 1 1/2" squares.  Coat with Semisweet chocolate glaze (see following recipe).
7. Top each glazed brownie with piped Milk Chocolate Frosting rosette (see following recipe).

Glaze and Frosting Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan, bring whipping cream just to boiling over medium high heat. Remove.
2. For Milk Chocolate Frosting, transfer 1/2 C of the cream to a small bowl and add milk chocolate chips - DO NOT STIR.  Let stand for five minutes, and then stir until smooth.  Cover loosely, then chill for about 2 hours, beat with an electric mixer until fluffy, then bag and pipe.
3. For Semisweet Chocolate Glaze, take warm cream and stir semisweet chips in until smooth (helps if you're doing this in the hot saucepan, then glaze over cut brownies.

For whatever reason, I was super annoyed with the frosting and chose not to use it.  The brownies were still amazing and no one would've ever guessed you needed frosting to enjoy these.  So rich and decadent, and while you could detect the hint of bourbon, it wasn't overwhelming.  More people noticed the hint of coffee than the liquor in the brownie.