Monday, June 22, 2015

Peanut Butter Bars with Chocolate Ganache

Everyone loves dessert and these rich chocolatey bars are no different.  First of all, they boast my personal favorite flavor combo of peanut butter and chocolate.  Secondly, they're wonderfully decadent whether served at room temperature, chilled, or slightly warmed with a big glass of cold milk.  They're easy to put together and even easier to pack up, making them the perfect "non brownie" dessert to complete a meal for a neighbor in need...or maybe your husband who claims the whole tray so he can have treats at the office all week!

1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup syrup
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
12 ounces milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

Cream peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy.  Add syrup, eggs, and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing until just combined.  Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake bars until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.  Let cool completely, about 1 hour, before topping.

To make the ganache topping, heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming.  Add chocolate chips and whisk until smooth.  Remove from heat and pour over bars.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.  Let ganache set up for about an hour before cutting into bars.

To make it travel-ready:  Simply bake these yummy bars in a foil pan.  No muss, no fuss!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Greek Salad

My mom and I went to Athens for my 16th Birthday.  I'm fairly certain we ate Greek Salad for every single meal...and I'm not complaining.  Ever since, I've been a huge fan of the stuff.  In Greece, the salads were simple bowls of large chunks of the produce.  Huge wedges of tomato, large chunks of cucumber, and whole olives.  And ever since I've been on the hunt for the perfect Greek vinaigrette recipe.  This one comes pretty close, though I never make it the same way twice.  Just continue to taste and adjust according to your preference.  You'll have enough dressing for a few salads, so just store in the fridge!

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
minced fresh mint, optional
1 heart of romaine, torn
1 cucumber, halved and sliced into half-moons
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/3 - 1/2 cup thinly sliced purple onion
12 ounces feta cheese, crumbled into large chunks
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and drained

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, garlic, salt, and vinegar.  Taste and adjust the flavors to your preference.  Add in some fresh mint if you like, but I prefer it without.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Combine the lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, cheese, and olives.   Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

To make it travel-ready:  Pour the dressing in a pint-sized mason jar.  Just shake it well before dressing your salad.  Lettuce can be transported in gallon-sized zip-lock bags.  Depending on how close your delivery is to meal time, you can either put the veggies and cheese in the same bag as the lettuce, or use smaller separate bags to keep veggies fresh and prevent mushiness.  Using grape tomatoes, rather than dicing a roma (or other variety) will prevent them from getting soft before serving.

Recipe adapted from Delicious Salad Meals by Dot Vartan.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Chicken Tetrazzini

This is a classic casserole that everyone's mama's mama has been making since the dawn of time.  It's easy to throw together for a weeknight supper, can be made in advance, freezes (and travels) well, and can be doubled, tripled, or halved to feed whatever size army you have around your table!  Another little bonus I've learned about casseroles?  They may not be the prettiest, especially in photographs, but because they usually involve cheese, you can sneak in tons of veggies for those picky toddlers in your life.  Believe me.  I know!  Oh, and this is even better the next day...hello leftovers!

2 sticks butter
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cups chicken stock
12 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
2 cups bite-sized pieces cooked chicken (I poach 2 or 3 boneless skinless breasts)
12 ounces vermicelli, or other long noodle
grated parmesan for sprinkling
 paprika for sprinkling

Melt the butter over low heat in a large saucepan.  Add the bouillon and mash into the melted butter.  Add the onion, celery, and mushrooms.  Saute until vegetables are light brown.  Add 2 cups of the stock and the Velveeta.  Cook until the cheese is melted.  Stir in the chicken.  Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 300.  Cook the pasta until just al dente; drain.  Add the chicken mixture and 1/2 cup of the remaining stock and mix well.  Spoon into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with parmesan and paprika.  Bake 10 minutes.  Pour the last 1/2 cup stock over the top and bake an additional 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Serves 8.

To make it travel-ready:  Bake the casserole in a foil disposable baking dish with a plastic lid.  This way, you can easily write the reheating instructions on the lid with a permanent marker...or tape a note to the top of the pan too.  Your neighbor will appreciate that she doesn't need to wash and return your bakeware, so she can save the meal for later if she's already stocked from other well-meaning friends.

Recipe adapted from My Mama Made That, by the Junior League of Hampton Roads.

Monday, June 1, 2015

This Month: Meals on Wheels

Growing up military, my mama taught me to always look out for my friends and neighbors.  She's from the midwest, too, so hospitality runs deep in her veins.  Anytime a neighbor was sick, a friend had had a baby, or someone had lost a loved one, Mama was the first person to head to the grocery, pick up a bunch of throw-away foil containers, and pack up a meal for a family in need.  And she didn't just stop at a dish of lasagna or a basket of muffins.  Mama made the whole meal!  It was delivered completely cooked with instructions on how to reheat.  My husband's in the military too, and we've lived 3000 miles away from family, so I know how it feels to feel helpless and need someone to look out for you.  I know what it's like to have a newborn plus a toddler and no family around, freshly home from the hospital and wondering how you'll get food on the table.  Or right after a foot surgery when hopping on one foot and hobbling on crutches just don't mix with cooking.  Or when you've just moved and nothing's unpacked and there's no food in the fridge.  Here's an easy meal you can whip up and deliver to anyone who might need it.  The bonus is that everything doubles easily, so you can make dinner for your own family at the same time!

A Bottle of Wine

Monday, May 25, 2015

Red Snapper Veracruzana

I love Mexican food.  So usually on Cinco de Mayo, I whip up a batch of creamy cheesy enchiladas, but this year I wanted to make something different.  Something a little bit healthier.  Yet still in keeping with my favorite flavors.  I stumbled upon an entire menu in a cookbook I've had for ages but haven't really sampled.  I knew I had to try it.  This dish is not complicated, but it also isn't something that comes together in five minutes.  Give yourself a little time to babysit the fish and you won't regret it!!  Enjoy!

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeƱos, seeded and minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes and juices
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup minced cilantro
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
8 4-ounce red snapper filets (or use another firm fish, like mahi!)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, onions, and jalapeƱos.  Saute until veggies are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the wine and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.  Stir in tomatoes, sugar, cilantro, and bay leaves.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.  Place each filet on the sauce and spoon additional sauce over the top side.  Cover and cook 8-10 minutes.

Serve, garnished with additional cilantro and lime wedges if you'd like.

Serves 8.

Recipe adapted from The Comfort Table, by Katie Lee.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cilantro Lime Rice

It's hard to imagine a Mexican fiesta without rice.  This tasty twist on a classic is perfect.  I used a rice blend, so the contrast of white rice with bright green cilantro is more subtle, but it was a healthier carb choice for me.  Use whatever kind of rice you have on hand, and serve up this tasty rice with your favorite south of the border dishes!  If you'd like, you can even mix your rice in with these beans for a one-hit wonder!  Ole!

4 cups water
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups rice
3/4 cup chopped cilantro

Bring water, lime juice, and salt to a boil.  Add rice, place the lid on the pot, lower heat to simmer, and allow to cook until the moisture is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and stir in the cilantro.

Recipe adapted from The Comfort Table, by Katie Lee.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Spicy Black Beans

We're continuing our Cinco de Mayo celebration with some spicy black beans this week!  These beans pack a punch, so proceed with caution, but they are worth every fiery bite!  Serve them alongside your favorite Mexican dishes, use them as a taco or burrito topping, or even add them to a fiesta soup to add tons of flavor.  Beans are versatile, so play around with the spice blend and pepper choices according to your tastes!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1 bay leaf
2 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup water

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper.  Saute until translucent.  Stir in the spices and bay leaf and cook 2-3 minutes more.  Add the beans, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and water.  Bring to a low boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook 30 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

Recipe adapted from The Comfort Table, by Katie Lee.