Thursday, June 25, 2009

When in doubt: Pie

My Grandpa Cal used to say that he had two favorite kinds of pie: hot and cold. That kind of revolutionary thinking lead to a genetic sweet tooth of diabolic proportions. I cannot get enough. So I learned to bake. A lot.

Before we started dating, The Fiance claimed that he did not really like sweets. He could give or take chocolate. Yeah ... what a weirdo! This pie was one of the first things I baked for him, and I believe that this in fact helped him on his way to becoming a Certified Chocoholic like the rest of the family. He's going to have to be to keep up with the rest of us.

Chocolate Almond Candy Bar Pie

Preheat oven to 400*. Lightly butter a 10"-pan.

Place 30-35 Oreo cookies in a sturdy plastic bag; crush with a rolling pin to coarse 1/4" pieces. Transfer to a mixing bowl and combine well with 6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted, melted butter. Pat the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pie pan. Bake for 7 minutes, then let cool completely.

Tear or snip 24 large marshmallows into small pieces. Chop 1lb almond Hershey bars into 1/4" pieces. Set aside 3 T of chocolate for decorating.

Bring 1 C heavy cream to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring constantly. Add chocolate and stir til melted. Remove the pan from heat, stir in marshmallows and tightly cover. Let stand for 5 minutes. Very gently fold the softened marshmallows into the chocolate mixture, retaining as much air in the mix as possible. There may be some unblended marshmallows. Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate for 4 hours. If not serving the pie immediately, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, spread with Cool-Whip and sprinkle with remaining candy bar pieces.  Adapted from Joy of Cooking.

And that's a Yummy Pie Face.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Most Popular Girl at the Party

... is the one that brings the food.

I am pleased to report that the food I brought to my friend's bachelorette party was a big hit. I ended up not making as much as I had anticipated, but I still managed to bring home leftovers.  Invite me to a potluck, you will not regret it.

Chocolate Chip Blondies
(aka Yum Yum Bars - the Secret Family Recipe)

2/3 C margarine or butter, melted and cooled
1 lb brown sugar
3 eggs
2.5 C flour
2.5 T baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz bag of choc chips

Combine melted butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla - stir until smooth. Add dry incredients and combine. Mix in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and back at 350 for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Slide a knife around the edges of the pan as soon as they are out of the oven and cool. They should be slightly gooey in the middle, or as my Daddy-O says, they come out "medium rare."

Mexican Pinwheels
2 8oz cream cheese, very soft
3/4 C Salsa - Pace Picante Sauce is good
1 small can green chillis, chopped
1 C shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 pkg (10) large flour tortillas

Combine cream cheese, salsa, chilies, and cheese. Spread evenly onto each tortilla and roll up, wrapping rolls tightly with Saran. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight. Unwrap and slice each roll into 1/2" pieces. Serve alone or with guac or salsa.

These two recipes are probably some of my favorite things my mom makes and I was pleased when my friends thought they were great too.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cake Balls (that's what she said)

We had quite a day today. I spent the morning preparing a dessert for The Fiance's company picnic. It was a bit stressful, since of course I waited to the absolute last minute, but what I made, Cake Balls, turned out great. I rarely remember to take photos of the finished products of my recipe experiments, much less action shots mid-cooking, but today I managed to get some good ones. I originally found this recipe on the WW message boards, of all places. It's not really diet-friendly, but all things in moderation!

Cake Balls in action ...

First you make a sheet cake from a box. When it's cool completely, you dump it in a bowl with a whole can of frosting. You can use any flavor combination, but I prefer chocolate. The answer is always chocolate.

Then you moosh it all together until it's combined. "Moosh" is quite possibly one of my favorite words, especially when chocolate is involved.

This is when I went a little crazy and added about a half a cup of peanut butter. I am a genius.

I used a cookie scoop to grab equal-sized lumps of cake mixture. You'll want to take your rings off for this part, since you'll be rolling said lumps into little balls. Hence the name, cake balls, in case you hadn't figured that part out yet.

Gratuitous ring shot. I couldn't help myself.

So now you've made your balls and stifled the resulting giggles. You're ready for the crowning glory - the dipping chocolate. I melted semi-sweet, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. The original recipe actually calls for full fledged dipping to coat the cake entirely, but that went horribly, messily, fugly wrong for me. I did three and was about to throw them across the room when I decided just to spoon chocolate on top instead. It turned out much prettier and was a million times easier.

The Fiance busted out the sprinkles at this point. They ended up being the best idea. Not only are they festive, but they helped cover some of the lumpier bits.

Tucker Bear waits for me to drop something nummy for him to snarf up. Normally how would not be disappointed, but alas, chocolate makes me more careful. He did get a couple of rogue sprinkles though. Look at that face. Obviously we starve him. Did I mention we had to put him on a diet to lose a pound? Maybe if I wasn't such a messy cook we wouldn't have this problem.

Once the sprinkles were in place, I put the whole tray in the freezer so the chocolate would set - and then bolted back upstairs to get ready. The picnic was outside, so The Fiance very carefully packed a styrofoam cooler with ice and put the cookie sheet right on top. This feat of ingenuity was supposed to keep the cake balls cold and prevent the chocolate topping from melting right off. They turned out great - super chocolately and very rich ... like an inside-out cupcake.

However, this brings us to the "downs" portion of the day. We loaded up and headed to the park for an afternoon of strawberry-infused lemonade, sack races, and coworker schmoozing. The Fiance is up for a promotion so we were making good face with the Boss Man, who organized the picnic. I feel pretty good about how this is going so far. Yes, we're late, but that's no surprise. I got to wear a dress, my food was tasty, and it was gorgeous outside. We get to the park, I grab the chairs, The Fiance grabs the cooler, and we head to the pavilion.


Less than three yards from our destination, the handles on the cooler rip off, sending ice, lemonade, and cake balls flying. My heart broke. Hours of work, on the sidewalk. One of The Fiance's coworkers came over right away to help, but a good third of the cake balls were lost to the concrete. Most, thankfully, had stayed on the cookie sheet that had landed right side up (when does that EVER happen, seriously?) and scittered across the sidewalk to safety. All was not lost.

The Fiance felt awful and blamed himself for over-icing the cooler and trusting the craptastic handles. He also blamed my over-enthusiastic use of sprinkles, insisting that they tipped the cooler to the breaking point. We were able to laugh about it eventually, but I sulked a bit at first. My ego was soothed by watching several children stuffing them in their little faces. They ended up being the only item on the dessert table that was completely gone at the end of the day, so I at least have that.

And all of the adorable little rug rats playing all afternoon totally gave me baby fever. Uh oh.

But please, a moment of silence for our fallen comrades ... one dozen white chocolate Cake Balls. You were missed, my little chocolate friends.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Baby loves Buffalo

The Fiance loves buffalo sauce. No, I take that back ... The Fiance loves Syberg's Buffalo Sauce.
In his defense, that stuff is fantastic, as is the restaurant that makes it. So now my job as Dutiful Fiance is to incorporate it into as many different meals as possible. He dips everything in it too, mind you.

These are a couple of things we've come up with...
Buffalo Chicken Shake N Bake
Dip your chicken in buffalo sauce before adding it to the Shake N Bake breadcrumbs. Follow SnB directions for baking.

Buffalo Chicken Toastada
Mix equal parts marinara sauce and buffalo sauce and spread on a tortilla. Add chopped cooked chicken and 2% Kraft mexican cheese blend. I add chopped onion to mine but not The Fiance's. Broil for a few minutes until cheese is melted and tortilla is crispy. Drizzle low-fat ranch on top and cut into sections.

Buffalo Tuna Puffs
The Fiance gets credit for this one. It sounds weird but I promise you it's delicious.
Mix canned tuna with mayo, low-fat ranch dressing, and buffalo sauce to taste. Add chopped celery, a smidge of honey, and garlic powder. Unroll low-fat crescent roll dough and seperate into triangles. Add a little tuna mixture on top of half the rolls and fold into little pockets using the unused dough. Bake as directed on the roll packaging.

Those meals are now in common rotation in our house. He cannot get enough.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chicken Empanadas

I turned an appetizer recipe into dinner last night (and then lunch today). Adapted from The Appetizer Bible. It was very yummy, although I am thinking there should be some way to lighten it further.

Chicken Empanadas
  • 1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 C salsa
  • 1 T garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • cilantro to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 C cooked chicken, diced
Preheat oven to 425*. Remove pie crust from fridge and let sit 15-20 minutes. Heat cream cheese over low until melted. Add salsa and seasonings, stir until smooth. Add cooked chicken. Unroll pie crust onto a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil. Spoon chicken mixture onto one half of the pie shell and fold over, pressing edges with a fork to seal. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Serves 6.

I thought this was fantastic as is, but Kenny wanted to add more salsa. We both agreed this was a definite make again. The original recipe called for 2 pie crusts and halving the cream cheese and chicken so as to make 20 small appetizer-sized empanadas. I didn't want little ones, however, so I turned it into One Big Dude instead.