TWD: Caramel Crunch Bars

Lately, I've been a bit picky with the TWD recipes I make each month. We can barely polish off one week's treat before I am back in the kitchen baking the next. I hadn't made bars for awhile, so I decided to give the Caramel Crunch Bars a whirl. Before you go thinking, "Mmmm....caramel," I will be upfront and tell you there is no caramel in these bars. Unless, of course, I missed an ingredient, like 1/3 cup of caramel. Looking back, that isn't the case. I guess the toffee bits on the top are kinda caramelesque. But certainly not enough to earn it a spot in the title. Nevertheless, this is a good little bar. The base has a cinnamon and espresso taste. (Actually, I used Folgers and it came out fine). Dorie suggested making an ice cream sandwich with these, but that seemed a little too much for me. I want to keep my teeth. She says they will freeze up to 2 months, so I popped half the pan in the freezer to enjoy later.

Thank you to this week's hostess Whitney from What's Left on the Table. Check out her blog for the recipe and check out Tuesdays with Dorie to see the other baker's blogs.


Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie

Typically, I make the chicken potpie recipe found on the box of Bisquick. It is fast and super easy. Well, with just a little more chopping and some wine (a little for the potpie...a little for me), this is just as fast and easy. AND, tastes even better! Then again, how can adding wine to a dish taste bad?

Chicken and Vegetable Potpie
Real Simple, February 2009

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups 1 percent milk
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
kosher salt and black pepper
1 9-inch store-bought piecrust, thawed if frozen

1) Heat oven to 400° F. Cook the chicken in a pot of simmering water until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes; let cool, then shred.

2) Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, 6 to 8 minutes (do not let them darken). Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

3) Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken, peas, thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Transfer to a shallow 1 1/2- to 2-quart baking dish.

4) Lay the crust on top, pressing to seal. Cut several vents in the crust. Place the pot pie on a baking sheet and bake until bubbling and the crust is golden, 30 to 35 minutes.


Sweet & Sour Pork Stir Fry

This is one of those, "Ha ha...I fooled you. It's healthy!" meals. Once Jeff found out I was going to serve it over brown rice, he was dragging his feet.

"I think I want mine with noodles," he said. (He must have still been thinking about that news segment on pasta from the other night).

"Just wait," I said. "Once it is covered in this pineapple juice love sauce, you won't even notice it."

And, he didn't. He even went back for a second helping.

Sweet & Sour Pork Stir Fry
Everyday Food
Serves 4

1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks in juice, drained (juice reserved)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), cut into 2-inch pieces
1 package (10 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed and patted dry
Cooked brown rice, for serving

1. In a small bowl, stir together 1/3 cup pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup water. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Cook pork, in two batches, until well browned on one side, about 1 minute (pork will cook more later).

3. To skillet, add peppers, broccoli, and pineapple chunks. Whisk sauce; add to skillet. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring, until broccoli is warmed through, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve with rice.

Seafood Mac & Cheese (AKA Economic Stimulus Pasta Bake)

A few nights ago on the news, there was a report that pasta production and sales are up. They attributed this to the low cost of pasta and its ability to provide a filling meal. I bet Dr. Atkins is rolling over in his grave. Seafood mac & cheese may seem like an extravagance, but really it makes fiscal sense. We used left over crab sticks from sushi night and some slightly freezer-burned shrimp. It was AWESOME! We are already setting our sights on using different cheeses and slightly freezer-burned lobster. Just kidding. I wish I had slightly freezer-burned lobster.

Vanilla Bean's Seafood Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Emeril's Mac & Cheese, as seen in Everyday Food

salt and ground pepper
1lb elbow macaroni
6 tbsp butter
1/2 medium onion,finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 pound,coarsely chopped cooked lobster, shrimp, crawfish or crabmeat,or a combination
4 cups mixed grated cheeses (we used cheddar and pepper jack)
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. creole seasoning

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.In a large pot of boiling salted water,cook macaroni 2 minutes less than al dente.Drain,rinse with cold water.Set aside.

While pasta is cooking melt butter over medium in a large saucepan.Transfer 2 tbsp. melted butter to a medium bowl,and reserve.Add onion and garlic to pan,cook until softened,3 to 5 minutes.Add flour,cook,stirring,1 minute.Add milk,whisk until smooth.Bring to a boil,reduce to a simmer,and cook until sauce has thickened,2 to 3 minutes. Season with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.

Remove pan from heat.Fold in seafood,macaroni,and cheese,transfer to a shallow 4-quart baking dish.To bowl with reserved melted butter,add bread crumbs and creole seasoning,toss,and scatter over macaroni mixture.Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet.Bake until topping is golden and sauce is bubbling.15 to 20 minutes.Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Grandma Bernie's Chicken and Noodles

I would like to apologize. I have been teasing you all with the promise of this recipe for some time now. I've been busy. I've been lazy. I've been cold. This however, warmed me right up!

Chicken and noodles is a Christmas Eve tradition at my Grandma's house. When I moved down to St. Louis and couldn't make it back home every year, I started making it myself. There was, of course, a learning curve. The first year I used regular fettucine noodles and found that the dish multiplied...even after everyone had eaten! Grandma recommended the yolkless pasta and my multiplying problem was over.I made it again this year for Jeff's side of the family and they loved it. So much so, that they ate it all! We barely got a bowl each. And, when you only eat this once a year, you need more than that! So, here we go again.

Chicken and Noodles
by my Grandma Bernie

1 whole chicken, plus extra breast pieces
salt and pepper
chicken broth
chicken soup base

Boil chicken in a large pot of chicken broth. Add salt and pepper. Heck...toss in a bay leaf. Add chicken soup base if desired. Remove from stock and cool. Keep the stock!

1 package of yolkless noodles (I use No-Yolks)

Cook noodles in leftover chicken broth. Tear chicken into bite-size pieces. Add noodles, chicken and some broth to a large crockpot. Set on low. Add more broth as needed, so it doesn't dry out. And more pepper, too. I like mine peppery.


Champagne Risotto

I started cooking risotto after watching Hell's Kitchen and always hearing Chef Ramsey scream, "Where is my risotto, you stupid cow?!?!" I love that man.

I tried this recipe by Giada De Laurentis for Jeff recently. I thought it was about time I posted it here. This is perfect for a romantic Valentine's Day meal. And, he said it is the best risotto I've ever made. You can't get much better than that! Well, a box of chocolates and Gordon Ramsey wouldn't be bad, either.

Champagne Risotto
Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 2

4 slices of prosciutto
3 cups of chicken broth
12 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 tbls. unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
3/4 cup Arborio rice (or medium-grain white rice)
3/4 cup champagne
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Place the slices of prosciutto on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until the prosciutto slices are almost completely crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. The slices will crisp up even more as they cool. Reserve for garnish.

3. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Blanch the asparagus in the chicken stock for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon. Set the asparagus aside and keep the chicken stock at a low simmer.

4. In another medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes more. Add the Champagne and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in the asparagus, remaining butter, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Spoon the risotto into serving dishes and garnish by breaking the crisp prosciutto into smaller pieces over the top of the risotto. Serve immediately.

TWD: World Peace Cookies

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Jessica at Cookbookhabit. You can find the recipe on her blog.

I haven't made up my mind on these cookies. I want to like them...I mean, who doesn't wish for world peace? And, once I am eating one, I am glad I did. But, I have to force myself to eat one. I'm not exactly running home after work to pop one in my mouth. Or telling myself if I work out 10 min. longer, I can have two. So, my suggestion is to check out Cookbookhabit, get the recipe, and make them for yourself. On the upside, Jeff seems to like them.

These were slice and bake cookies. The first time I have ever made this kind. From looking at other blogs, some people had problems w/ the dough being crumbly. Mine turned out fine, really. I made half of the recipe and got one log (about 15 or so cookies). The twist in these is an increased amount of salt. I used course sea salt (ground up) and didn't really notice any difference in the cookies. Overall, they are a chocolately, crispy cookie that goes great with a tall glass of milk.