Monday, September 17, 2018

Peanut Butter White Chocolate Blondies

  Do you ever get in one of those moods where you just feel like having a specific something??? Like, lately I've been in the mood for something peanut butter. I blame my niece, Kristin, because she's always saying "The peanut butterier the better!" So I did a quick inventory of my pantry to see what might inspire. I found a bag of white chocolate chips and immediately knew that this was the right PB pairing. It reminded me of white chocolate Reese's cups, which I ABSOLUTELY LOVE. So I did a bit of googling and found this recipe on a blog called Bake or Break. That's it!! It's sweet, it's salty, and it's everything you want in a peanut butter dessert. Also it's quick to throw together and it uses regular everyday ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. Perfect!
So the next time you're feeling like something peanut butter, just whip up a batch!
They'll definitely satisfy your deepest PB cravings!

1  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer on medium speed or mixing by hand, combine the butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. If using a mixer, reduce the speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars.


*As I've posted above, you'll notice that the original recipe includes cinnamon, but tbh, I think I may omit it next time. Now, you know how much I love cinnamon... my usual rule of cinnamon is "there's no such thing as too much", but in this instance, I think even that tiny little bit conflicts with the peanut butter flavor. I think it gets in the way of the salty sweet thing that I love so much. But they're still delicious either way! You decide!

Baking for a bigger crowd? Just double the entire recipe and bake it in a 9x13 pan. The baking time stays the same. 
Want it to be even peanut butterier? Add some peanut butter chips along with (or instead of) the white chips!
As always, when I bake any kind of brownies or dessert bars, I line the pan with parchment paper with a little extra hanging over the edges. Then after the bars are baked and cooled, I use the parchment as a sling to lift the whole batch out of the pan at once. This saves your pan from being ruined, and it lets you make nice even perfect cuts!
Btw, I added an extra tiny little pinch of salt because I love salty and sweet together. It also really brings out the flavor of the peanut butter! 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Summer Squash Cheesy Bake

 Since it's the end of summer, before I move on to all of my new Fall recipes, I figured I'd do just one more recipe involving summer squash. Many of my friends have home gardens, and by now they have TONS of zucchini, so it's not uncommon for people to ask me if I know of any new squash recipes.
 Quite a long while ago, I signed up for a daily recipe to be sent to my email from Just a Pinch Recipes. I must admit that very often I don't have time to go through every recipe that is sent to me, but every so often, one will make me stop for a minute and give a look. That's what happened here!
 This recipe is easy and simple, quick to throw together, and it's SO flavorful! Clearly this is the zucchini recipe I was looking for! It's also very much lighter than your usual cheesy casserole because it doesn't have any heavy ingredients like cream or mayonnaise.
 Now, of course, you don't have to use a cast iron skillet, as I did. I just figured it would be an easy way to go from stove top to oven without dirtying another dish. Also, as you can see, I didn't really measure the amount of cheese. I just piled it on and then baked it until was all melty and bubbly. (Melty?)
 Btw, I know this is a "summer" recipe, but you can definitely make this recipe any time of year. Since squash is readily available, this just might be a perfect new addition to your Thanksgiving menu. You could even incorporate other kinds of squash into it. Endless squashabilities!
Definitely give this one a try!

1 medium onion, chopped 
4 cloves garlic, minced 
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced 
4 large yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 tbs dried basil 
1/4 c olive oil 
1 c Parmesan cheese, freshly shredded 
1/2 -3/4 c mozzarella cheese, shredded 
salt and pepper, to taste
 Heat oven to 350ºF.
Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. 
Sauté onions and garlic in two or three tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread evenly on bottom of casserole dish. Stack zucchini and yellow squash on top of the onions, alternating vegetables. Make rows in the baking dish, standing the vegetables vertically in the pan. Continue until you fill the pan. Sprinkle squash with dried basil, salt, and pepper; then drizzle with olive oil. Cover pan with foil and bake for about 15 minutes. Uncover pan. Cover vegetables with Parmesan cheese. Return to oven for 10 minutes. Cover vegetables with mozzarella cheese and return to oven for about 5 minutes until cheese gets golden brown. 

Like I said, I didn't use a baking dish. I just sauteed the onions and garlic in a cast iron skillet, then added my rows of squash right on top, then put the whole thing into the oven. 
 I didn't follow the amounts either. I started with an onion and 4 cloves of garlic as directed, but then I added squash until it was enough to fill the pan, and added cheese as much as I like. 
Since the sliced are stacked on their sides, I chose yellow squash and zucchini that are about the same diameter, but you can always cut them to fit.
 For a little extra topping, I added some bread crumbs to a bit of grated Parmesan cheese, then sprinkled it over the top.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Pineapple Strawberry Skillet Buckle

 Have you ever heard of a buckle? Basically it's a kind of fruit dessert that sort of falls into the same category as many other baked fruit desserts, each of which has its own defining characteristics:
 A crisp or a crumble has fruit on the bottom and a streusel topping and is baked in the oven.
A grunt or a slump is basically the same as a crisp or crumble, but it is cooked on the stove top.
A brown betty is the same but it has a buttered bread crumb topping.
A pan dowdy has fruit on the bottom and pie crust on the top.
Cobblers require a bit more discussion, but most will agree that it's basically fruit on the bottom with a biscuit topping, giving it a cobbled appearance.
 But wait.. I've gotten off track.. I was about to tell you about a buckle, right? Yes, a buckle is similar to all of those other desserts, but it has more of a cake batter. The Boston Examiner defines it as a "single-layer cake with a streusel topping" saying "as the cake bakes, the dense batter sinks to the bottom of the pan, which makes the streusel buckle on top." Others describe a batter that collapses a bit or "buckles" as it cools.
 Basically, it's a fruit coffee cake, and it's absolutely DELISH! It's a cinch to throw together and it screams for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I found this recipe on a blog called Afropolitan Mom and it was just the perfect thing to make when a gang of friends came over for a little baking fun.
It's not a huge dessert, so it's just the perfect thing for a Sunday afternoon tea or a light lunch with friends. Btw, usually when I try a recipe, I like to tweak it a little here and there. But with this one, it's perfect just as it is! Definitely give it a try!

2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup of sugar 
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of buttermilk or milk
1 cup strawberry, diced
1 cup pineapple, diced

1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
5 tsp of butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Grease a 10″ cast iron skillet generously. Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Mix flour, baking soda, salt in a small bowl. Add to the butter mixture; mix well. Fold in the pineapple and strawberry. Pour batter into prepared skillet; set aside. For topping, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Cut butter into topping mixture until coarse. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Instead of buying buttermilk, make your own! Add 1 tbs of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup whole milk. Microwave it for about 30 seconds on high. It will make the milk curdle, which is exactly what you want! Don't have a microwave? Just sit your milk mixture on the counter until it comes to room temperature. It will eventually curdle. The microwave just speeds up the process!
 Don't have strawberries or pineapples? Use another kind of fresh fruit! Actually, it's traditional to use blueberries when making a buckle, but as you can see from this recipe, you don't always have to stick with tradition! Try it with diced peaches and raspberries! Yum.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Blueberry Banana Zucchini Bread

  As the end of summer rapidly approaches, many home gardeners are faced with the same question: "what are we gonna do with all of this extra zucchini?" Well, my friends, here's the answer!
 Yes, I know that zucchini bread isn't exactly the most ground breaking idea to ever come into the kitchen, but when you add blueberries and bananas to the party, well now, THAT is something new!
 I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Averie Cooks. It hits all of my recipe criteria (quick to throw together, ingredients that are readily available, easy enough for the baking novice) and it tastes absolutely delicious! It's not overly sweet, but it lets all the flavors shine through. Oh, and can we talk about how moist it is? Usually when you're baking breads, you have just one ingredient headliner that contributes a lot of moisture, such as blueberries, or zucchini, or bananas. Well, in this case, we have ALL THREE! So believe me when I tell you that this might be the most moist bread you've ever baked. I'm not even kidding!
 Ok, so, as I often do, I asked a few of my friends to try it, just to let me know if they think it's good enough to share on my blog. When they tasted this one, they ALL said "yes, absolutely, 100%!" (Actually, I think they were my friend Mack's actual words! lol) In fact, it was almost gone before I even had a chance to take a picture! So here we are. Sharing is caring!
 Oh, and one other thing. When I share recipes, I always post my own little hints or tips at the bottom, just in case there is anything extra that is noteworthy, but Averie has already done that for me too! So, thank you again, Averie, for another great recipe and also for the great tips. I'll definitely be making this one again!

1 large egg
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour + 1/4 cup for tossing with blueberries
1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (from about 2 medium/large bananas)
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini, laid loosely in cup and not packed (don’t wring out)
1 cup (6 ounces) fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray one 9×5-inch loaf pan with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pan; set aside.
To a large bowl, add the the first six ingredients, through vanilla, and whisk to combine. Add 1 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and stir until just combined; don’t overmix. Add the bananas, zucchini, and stir to combine; set aside. To a medium bowl, add the blueberries, 1/4 cup flour (helps prevent them from sinking while baking), and toss to coat. Add the blueberries and all flour bits to the large bowl with the batter and stir until just combined; don’t overmix. Turn batter out into the prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.  Place loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 90 minutes (start checking at about 75 minutes), or until the top is golden, the center is set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow bread to cool in pan for about 15 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. Bread will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Averie's Tips:
 Before baking, evenly sprinkle the surface with 1 to 2 tablespoons blueberries for a visual pop of color.
At the 45 minute mark, tent the pan with a sheet of foil draped loosely over it to prevent the top and sides from browning too quickly while giving the interior a chance to cook through.
I encourage rotating the pan a couple times during baking to ensure even baking because many ovens don’t bake evenly. Baking times will vary based on the moisture content of the bananas, zucchini, blueberries, climate, and oven variances.
Bake until done; watch your bread, not the clock and don’t worry if it takes more or less time to bake than the baking time estimate provided.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Fresh Corn Pie

 In my never ending search for recipes using fresh corn, I discovered this recipe on a website called Just a Pinch. It's just a simple quiche, perfect for a light meal, and it's easy to throw together in no time at all. Full disclosure, this version isn't exactly the same as the original recipe. I tweaked it ever so slightly to fit the ingredients I had on hand, but it's still basically the same thing. If you don't happen to have fresh corn, you can still make it using frozen corn. But, of course, fresh is always better!
 Serve it with a light salad and a glass of sweet tea and you have a perfectly summery delicious brunch. Definitely add this one to your summer repertoire!

1 9" deep dish pie shell with fluted edges
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large scallion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 425ºF.
Prick crust well on bottom and sides with a fork. Line the crust with parchment paper, fill with pie weights, and par-bake the crust for 5-7 minutes. Remove parchment paper and pie weights.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together remaining ingredients except paprika. Carefully pour into pie shell. Sprinkle paprika over the top. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until center is almost firm. Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Tbh, I debated whether or not the crust needed to be par-baked with weights before adding the filling. It's not my usual method whenever I bake a quiche. But since I happened to have parchment and pie weights, I went with it. Not sure what pie weights are? I just use uncooked navy beans. You crumple up a piece of parchment paper which makes it easier to line the pie crust, then you pour the navy beans on top, filling up the plate. This is so you can bake the crust before adding the filling, which keeps it nice and crisp. (this is called "blind baking", btw). If you were to try this without the beans to weigh the crust down, then the pastry would likely slide down the sides of the pie dish and lose its form. After the crust is baked, then you remove the beans and parchment, let them cool, put them in a container and use them again and again whenever you want to blind bake a crust. I've literally had the same beans for years and years!