Saturday, January 25, 2014

Elvis Phyllo Cups

This recipe is really delicious and SO easy to make.  My brother found it in the newspaper a few Sundays ago and called me up to tell me about it.  He was SUPER excited that I immediately knew where he was going with this:

Me: do you want to make it together?
Josh: yes that would be so awesome!
Me: ok, I'll get the few things that we need, check your work schedule and let me know when you can come over.

You wanna know what I had to purchase?  A banana and some phyllo cups.  Oh, and I bought more peanut butter, mostly because I wasn't sure how much we had left and it was on sale when I was at the store. That's it.

At the store, I couldn't find the pre-made phyllo cups, but I was able to find phyllo dough which ended up being a better deal for me.  For probably the same price as what the cups would have cost, I was able to make them myself and now I have a ton of phyllo dough sheets left over.  I don't know what I'm going to do with them, but that's another story.  Actually, I'd love to try making baklava, but I think I'm the only person I know who eats it, so that's probably out.

I googled the crap out of it, but making the cups was super easy!  You have to work quickly but carefully to make sure the dough doesn't rip or get dried out, but it's pretty much impossible to ruin them.

As for preparing the "Elvis" part of these?  It was easy.  Easier for me, because I had Josh do it while I supervised.  I don't know if I've mentioned it, but we've been giving him cooking lessons so that when he doesn't have to survive on pizza delivery and McDonalds... or that if he does, it's by his own choice, not because he doesn't know what to do in the kitchen.  We've taught him fairly basic things so far: mashed potatoes, chop suey, shepherd's pie, cheeseburgers, pork chops, kielbasa.  He and I haven't gotten to do much baking, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to help him read a recipe and put it all together.  I did make the cups ahead of time, but that's because I was planning on it being a lot more complicated than it really was.

The banana makes the cups soggy if they hang out for too long, so put them together right before you plan to serve.

For real, though, these little cups have everything you'd want in one little bite-sized dessert: crunchy, salty, sweet.  No wonder Elvis loved this combination!

Elvis Phyllo Cups

15 phyllo cups, pre-baked and cooled*

1/3 c. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 banana, sliced
3 slices of bacon, cooked and cooled

*I was unable to find frozen phyllo cups at the grocery store, but I was able to find sheets of phyllo dough.

To make the cups:
4-5 sheets of phyllo dough
2 Tbsp melted butter

Lightly grease a muffin tin and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cover your work surface with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  Lay down one sheet of phyllo dough.  Lightly brush the sheet with a little bit of the melted butter.  Dust a little bit of sugar on top of the melted butter.  Top with a second sheet of phyllo dough.

Repeat until you have a stack of 4 or 5 sheets of phyllo dough.  Using a sharp knife (I used a paring knife), cut the sheets into squares that are slightly bigger than the muffin cavities.  Press each little stack of phyllo dough into the muffin tins.

Bake for 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned.  Babysit them, as they will cook quickly.

Remove from oven and let cool.

In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter, sugar and vanilla.

Place 1 slice of banana into the bottom of each phyllo cup. Top the banana slice with 2 tsp. of the PB mixture and garnish with a chunk of bacon.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

By now, it should be a well known fact that I'm a chocoholic.  If it's got chocolate, I'm interested.  At the same time, Joe is pretty much the human version of Cookie Monster.

So, what do you when you're craving something seriously chocolatey and you know that your future husband would like something in cookie form?

Make these babies.

Chocolate cookies with semi-sweet, white chocolate and dark chocolate chips.  Go ahead and pour yourself a tall glass of (chocolate) milk to go with them - you'll need it.  YUM.

I told Joe that I only made a half batch of these because I wasn't sure if he would like them (turns out there is such a thing as "too chocolatey"), but I really only made a half batch because I knew I would literally inhale these.  It's too bad, because now I wish I had more.

Guess I'll have to make some!

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. milk chocolate chips
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease cookie sheets and set aside.

Combine all ingredients except for flour and chocolate chips.  Mix in flour until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto cookie sheets (I used a cookie scoop that makes cookies 2"-3" diameter).  Bake for 9 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm sure I've mentioned my love/hate relationship with bananas before.  Mostly, I just have trouble eating them before they go bad.  In theory, this is no big deal, because I love turning my rotten bannas into something else.  In practice, though, it's kind of annoying, because I never know what else to make besides banana bread.  And, while I LOVE banana bread, there are only so many variations you can make of it before that gets boring, too.

These cookies are a mouthful... literally.  I've made these a few times and every time, I try to think of an easier name for them, but I keep drawing a blank.  The name is a lot to say, but they're so easy to make that it's definitely worth it.  I'm pretty sure that my brother has eaten an entire container of these by himself without thinking twice about it.

For me, these cookies are perfect as a snack, but I've been known to have a few (or maybe 5 or 6) for breakfast.  I'm probably just deluding myself into thinking that the oatmeal makes these way healthier than they are, but all things considered, I'm pretty sure these are pretty decent. I mean, oatmeal's good for you!

What helps me feel better about it, right?

The awesome part about this recipe is that you can pretty much make any substitutions you want and you'll still get something delicious.  I normally use regular all-purpose flour and old-fashioned oats, but I've also made these with whole wheat flour and quick oats.  Making it this way, you get a little bit of a wetter batter, but no discernible taste difference.  I also like to substitute dark chocolate chunks or chips instead of semisweet chips.  While they taste good, I find that the dark chocolate tends to mask or overpower the banana flavor.  Nest time, I might do a combination of dark chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips and see what happens.

You'll notice that the cook time on these is a little bit longer than the cook time on pretty much any other cookie I make.  The banana makes these cookies really moist which does two things: first, it means they can hang around for a little longer before they're get too dry and stale.  Second, it means you end up with a really wet batter that takes a little longer to cook!  Fret not, though, because even though you're cooking them for about 10 minutes, you still get a really moist and chewy cookie with a TON of banana and chocolatey flavor.

What's your favorite thing to make with bananas?

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 ripe bananas
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. flour
2 c. old fashioned oats
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips.

Combine all ingredients except flour, oats and chocolate chips. Stir in the flour, then the oats, then the chocolate chips. Batter will be wet.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes or until the tops of the cookies are dry. Let cool on cookie sheets for two minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Try not to eat them all in the meantime!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Oatmeal Cream Pies

When I first met Joe, I'm pretty sure the only reason he was still alive was because of Little Debbie, but especially because of her oatmeal cream pies.

For years, I've been looking for recipes and trying to figure out a way to reproduce these things.  If you're not familiar with them, oatmeal cream pies are two soft-baked oatmeal cookies with a light, marshmallow frosting in the middle.  I'm not positive, but I suspect the secret ingredient might be crack or something other addictive substance, because they are THAT good.

The thing is, I knew I could make them better and more delicious.  And, perhaps, a tiny bit healthier, with ingredients that I knew how to pronounce and knew where they came from and/or how they came to be in my kitchen.

And, then, one day, like manna from heaven, I stumbled on a recipe.  I tweaked the recipe a bit, but you can adjust it to your liking.  We had one of our couple friends over for dinner, and the boyfriend was so excited when he saw the photo on Facebook.  We're trying to make a date to hang out again, and he suggested a dinner party - while it sounds like a great idea, I think he just wants me to make more of these!

I used my cookie scoop for these because I wanted to make sure that they were all the same size - easier to make sandwiches that way!  Don't pack these cookies too tight when you bake them, because they will definitely spread out a little bit. If it helps, mine were about 3 inches in diameter - about the same size as the store bought ones.  You'll also want to make sure you store these in an airtight container.  Mine were in an airtight container, and I'm not sure if it's because someone didn't close it right or just the nature of the recipe, but the marshmallow-like filling got a little hard around the edges.  It's not enough to discourage eating them, but is something to be aware of.

I had been looking for a recipe like this for so long that I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised - these were SO good and pretty addicting.  You probably have everything you need to make them, (well, maybe not the oatmeal), making them much cheaper than the kind you buy at the store.  Winning!

Oatmeal Cream Pies

For the cookies:
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 c. quick cooking oats

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease cookie sheets; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and cinnamon.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, syrup and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Gradually add the flour mixture into the bitter; mix just until incorporated.  Stir in oats until evenly distributed.  Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator.  Drop by rounded tablespoons onto baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes until the edges are browned and middles are mostly set.  Let cool on baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling:
2 egg whites
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a double boiler, add egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar; heat over simmering water (I used a glass pyrex bowl set inside of a small saucepan filled with enough water to touch the bottom of the bowl).  Whisking frequently, heat until egg whites become frothy and sugar is dissolved, approx. 160°F.  Carefully add egg mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on high speed for several minutes, until stiff peaks form.  Carefully fold in the vanilla. (*Note: I couldn't find my candy thermometer, so I just kept mine on the double boiler the entire time.  Doing it this way, I was still able to get a fluffy and marshmallow-y frosting.)

Add frosting to the bottom of one cookie and top with a second cookie.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Potatoes with Spicy Sour Cream Sauce

I wasn't going to post about these so soon, but I figured I should share at least one Superbowl recipe with you guys.

I saw the picture on pinterest, but it didn't actually lead to a recipe.  So.. I made it up.  Wrapping the potatoes in bacon was a little bit more time consuming than I had anticipated, so you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time.  Also, you kind of do want to pay attention to your potato pieces and make sure they're all about the same size.  I just guessed as I went and found myself having to trim a few as I was wrapping them with bacon.  Honestly, you'll probably just want to make them smaller than what you think you should.  Trimming some wasn't a big deal for the small amount that I made, but if you're planning on feeding a larger crowd, it's probably better to make sure they're the right size the first time.

Cooking the potatoes for this is a little tricky, too.  You want to the water to boil so that the potatoes cook, but you DO NOT want the potatoes cooked all the way through - if they're too mushy, they'll fall apart when you try to do the next steps!  I am not too sure how to describe the softness that you're looking for - fork tender, I guess.  You should be able to spear the potatoes with a fork without them falling off.

Once you drain them, make sure you rinse them with cold water to cool them off a little!  This will help slow down the cooking process, but it's also practical so you don't burn your hands!  I found it easier to cut the bacon into thirds as I went, so I didn't cut more than I needed, but the total amount of bacon depends on the number of people you're feeding.  As with all bacon stuff, make sure you drain on these on paper towels before you serve them - I found that some of the grease got trapped in between the bacon piece and the potato.

The sauce was so easy and so great.  I only added 1 1/2 tsp. of hot sauce to mine, because Joe doesn't like things that are too hot.  The sour cream does cool it down quite a bit, though, so you should be able to spice it up a good amount without burning the mouths of too many people.  For me, I would have definitely made it hotter, but sometimes, you've just gotta go with what the crowd wants and likes.  For game day, I think I'm going to chop up some chives or green onions and mix it in with the sour cream sauce so it really tastes like a little baked potato.  Man, I'm drooling just thinking about it!

The reaction to these was off the hook!  I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I love baked potatoes and I felt like these would taste pretty similar.  When the boys saw me take these out of the oven, they got so excited when they realized what they were about to eat.  When I presented the plate to them, they practically knocked me over in their quest to eat snacks.  Between the three of us, we devoured this plate in just a few minutes.

The recipe below makes about 3 dozen bites - increase accordingly based on your needs!  If you try this one, please let me know what you think!

What are some of your favorite Superbowl/party foods?

Bacon Wrapped Potatoes with Spicy Sour Cream Sauce
 3-4 potatoes
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp. salt
garlic powder*
onion salt*
ground peppercorn*
smoked salt*
cajun seasoning*
6 slices bacon
4 oz. sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. hot sauce

*all spices are to taste.  these are what I used, but you can use whatever you like!

Peel potatoes and dice into about 1" cubes, keeping the pieces about the same size (it's okay if they're not the same shape).

Put the potatoes in a medium pot, cover with cold water, season with salt and bring to a boil.  Cook potatoes until they're fork tender but don't fall off the fork.  You want them to be almost cooked through but not mushy

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Drain the potatoes.  Rinse under cold water and transfer to a large bowl. Season with spices and oil, coating evenly.

Cut the strips of bacon into thirds. Wrap each potato in a piece of bacon, securing the ends with a toothpick. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until bacon reached desired crispiness.  Remove from oven.  Let cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Combine the sour cream and hot sauce; serve.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Peanut Butter Blossoms

You've probably seen these a million times recently, since lots of people make these for Christmas.  Hell, you've probably even made them yourself.  I, on the other hand, have made these exactly twice in my entire life.  The first time I made these, Joe still live in his dingy bachelor pad downtown.  I remember that I had to go out and specially purchase everything I needed - butter, peanut butter, cookie sheets, etc.  The man had the bare essentials and that was it.  He did have one cookie sheet, but it was questionable looking.  He had been talking about these and I remarked "are you kidding, those are so easy to make!" and then he asked me if I could make them for him.  I did, and then never made them again.

What a jerk.

See, it turns out that chocolate + peanut butter is Joe's favorite combination.  It also turns out that Hershey Kisses are my kryptonite.  You'd think that having to unwrap them in order to eat them would slow me down, but I think I see it as more of a challenge than anything else.  The tricky part with these cookies is that you have to unwrap the chocolates first, since you need to be able to press them into the cookies right away.  See the problem?

We were having some friends over and I hadn't made them in awhile (about 8 years, if you were wondering), so I decided it was about time to resurrect these babies.  Also... I really wanted some Hershey Kisses.

My self control paid off, since I had about a dozen chocolates left over that I could eat without feeling guilty (or giving myself a tummy ache) and everybody loved the cookies.  Also, Joe might have made a funny little shriek/squeal noise when he saw them cooling on the counter.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

48 Hershey Kisses, unwrapped
1/2 c. shortening
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c. granulated sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease cookie sheets and set aside.  Place the additional sugar on a small plate or in a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter until well blended.  Add sugars and beat until fluffy.  Add egg, milk and vanilla; stir until incorporated.  Combine baking soda and flour and gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar.  Place on baking sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned (I baked mine for 8 minutes).  Remove from oven and immediately press a chocolate into the center of each cookie.  The cookies will crack around the edges.  Let cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Apple Pie

Alright, peeps (yes, I say "peeps" in real life, and not just when I'm talking about the marshmallows), I have a confession to make: the crust on this pie is not homemade.

I know, I know.  I tried to make it.  Twice, in fact.  The same crust recipe I use for my chicken pot pie, since it's just a basic pastry crust that can be used for anything.

This time, though, it failed me.  I'm not sure what happened.  My dough was really hard to roll out.  And I don't mean physically difficult, because I may be little but I'm pretty strong.  Seriously, though, the dough was very solid and tough, not doughy and stretchy at all.  If I really muscled and forced it, I could get it to stretch, but then it would rip.  I tried putting it in the bottom of the pan and stretching it out that way, since it's not like the bottom crust has to be pretty.  That sort of worked, but I ended up nixing that idea pretty quickly because there was some niggling thought in the back of my head that told me the crust just wasn't going to come out right.  Also, I really didn't want an apple crumble pie.

The only problem was that my oven was already preheating and my apples were already mixed and waiting to be poured into the crust.  So, I did what any self-respecting person does when they're having a minor kitchen emergency: I put on my sneakers and went to the grocery store in my pajamas to buy pre-made crust from the dairy aisle.

While that solved my immediate problem, it also gave me a new one.  HOW WAS THE PIE GOING TO TASTE? Having never used pre-made pie crust before, I was a little worried that it would *taste* like it came from a box or the store and not like it came out of my kitchen. So... I decided not to tell Joe.  And then I cut him a slice of pie and he ate it and said it was delicious, and I kept the crust a secret... until now.

Whatever - the pie was delicious and that's all that matters!

Also, I think I need a new pie crust recipe.  I'll probably do some Googling and figure one out myself, but if you have one, I'd love to see it!

Apple Pie Filling
6 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used Granny Smith & Macintosh)
2/3 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp corn starch
1 1/2 tsp. apple pie spice

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Lightly grease an 8" or 9" inch pie plate and set aside.

Press first pie crust into the bottom of the pie plate, leaving overhang.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well, making sure all apples are evenly coated.

Pour into pie shell.  Top with second pie crust and crimp edges as desired. Cut slits in the top for ventilation.

Place pie plate on a baking sheet (this makes it way easier to handle!).  Bake for 40 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes, then cover edges with foil to prevent browning.  Return to oven and bake for remaining 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling.