Monday, September 21, 2020

Lunchroom Lady Peanut Butter Bars



 Very often, when people have some extra time on their hands, they like to watch TV or a movie. I, on the other hand, like to watch videos on Youtube. Actually, I often refer to it as "going down the Youtube rabbit hole" because sometimes I'll get so involved in watching videos that the next thing I know it's 3 hours later. Ah, well. I guess there are worse things I could do.
 One of my favorite Youtube discoveries was a channel called Whippoorwill Holler, hosted by Miss Lori and her husband Mr. Brown. (And yes, that's what she calls him, which I love. ) They share all kinds of simple homemade old fashioned recipes. Lots of canning and preserving, lots of pies and baking. How awesome is that? Clearly, Miss Lori and I are kindred spirits. I've tried several of her recipes and I've loved every single one of them.
 So when I saw that she was making these peanut butter bars, I immediately added peanut butter to my next grocery list. They're easy to make and they turned out perfectly. Very gooey, very peanutty, and just exactly what you want in a peanut butter bar. YUM.
 I immediately called my Kristin, because her motto is "the peanut butterier the better." This one definitely lives up to that!
 So, thanx, Miss Lori, for another great recipe. I'll look forward to your next video!




Bars:
1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter 
1 1/2 cups peanut butter 
1 1/2 c sugar 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1 1/2 tsp salt 
1 tbs pure vanilla extract
4 eggs 
2 cups flour 

Glaze:
1/4 c. peanut butter 
2 to 3 tbs. milk 
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup confectioners sugar



For the bars:
Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9x13 pan. Line with parchment, if desired. 
Melt butter and peanut butter together, either on the stove top or in the microwave. Stir together until well combined. Set aside. 
In large mixing bowl, stir together the sugars, salt, and vanilla extract. Stir in eggs one at a time. Add flour and stir until well incorporated. Add melted peanut butter mixture until well combined.  Pour into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or until set in the center and lightly golden around the edges. 
Meanwhile, make the glaze.

For the glaze:
In a small bowl, microwave the peanut butter and about 2 tbs of the milk, just to soften. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla and confectioners sugar. Whisk until well incorporated and smooth. If it's too thick, add the last tbs of milk. Spread the glaze over the bars while they're still warm in the pan. Cool completely or chill before cutting into squares. 



Tips:
I like to spray my pan, and then line it with parchment with enough extra to hang over the edges. Then you can use the parchment as a sling to lift the whole batch out of the pan in one go.
I added a little extra confectioners sugar to the glaze, just because I wanted it a little sweeter, and I also added a little pinch of salt. Speaking of salt, that's what will definitely make your bars taste peanutty. Just that little bit of saltiness changes the entire game. Be sure to include it!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Skillet Pineapple BBQ Chicken


 So, summer has come to a close, but you're not quite ready to let go of summer flavors, right? SAME! I still want some sweet saucey smokey BBQ, but I think all the grilling and cookouts are done for the year. So what do we do? Well, we could do oven BBQ chicken or ribs, but it's still kinda hot out for the oven. We could do slow cooker pulled pork, but that'll take all day. The next best thing? The skillet on the stove top!
 The recipe is super easy, really quick, and super delicious when you want a quick chicken dinner and a quick BBQ sauce. When I tell you that this recipe comes together in a snap, I'm not even kidding. Honestly, you can have dinner on the table in less than a half hour. This is my tweaked version of a recipe for strawberry chicken that I found on Taste of Home. I didn't have strawberries, but I had fresh pineapple, so I went with it. I've done pineapple with BBQ before, so I knew it would work. It turned out SO good! TBH, I've never met a pineapple anything that I didn't love, (yes, even pizza. Oh stop.), so I knew I'd love adding pineapple to the BBQ sauce. Oh, one thing... the original recipe turned out to be VERY sweet, which I'm fine with, but still, I decided to cut back a little on the sweet ingredients and add a little lemon juice to brighten up the whole party. Much better, I think! That's the beauty of a recipe! You make it the way YOU like it!
 So, if you're still thinking of BBQ, try this one. SO easy, and SO good. Serve it with some potato salad and baked beans, and summer is still here!



a couple glugs of oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 tbs butter
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup BBQ sauce
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs EACH of honey, brown sugar, and lemon juice
1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped

 Add oil to a large heavy skillet. Over medium heat, brown chicken pieces on both sides, until chicken almost cooked through, but not all the way. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add chopped onions and butter to pan. Saute a minute or two until the onions soften. Add all remaining ingredients to pan. Stir well to combine. Nestle chicken pieces back into the sauce in skillet. Reduce heat to low. Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened.



Tips:
Don't have fresh pineapple? Use canned! I would add some of the juice too, because why not?
Not a fan of pineapple? Try a different kind of fruit! Like I said, the original recipe used fresh strawberries, but I bet you could use black berries, blueberries, diced apples, supremed oranges, any kind of fruit you like! or just leave the fruit out altogether. All good!
This recipe would also be great with pork chops instead of chicken. I mean, I've never tried it, but dontcha think? I'll let you know if, actually WHEN I try it! How can that not be good? In fact, it would probably be good on anything! Shrimp anyone? Don't throw away that extra sauce!
Btw, if your grilling season has NOT ended, go ahead and make this sauce recipe in a small sauce pot, then brush it on anything you're grilling! 


Monday, September 7, 2020

Joey's BBQ Chicken and Baked Bean Casserole


Ok, sooo......just go with me on this one, k?
I had a crazy idea. I know. I know. That's not exactly new. But this was a GOOD one! If you know me, or at least if you follow my recipes, you know I can't just leave a recipe alone. I'm always trying to come up with different things to do with it. In this case, I wanted to try something new with baked beans. I have to say, I'm pretty famous for my Baked Beans, thank you very much. So I kept thinking "what else can I do with them?" I've done casseroles with ham and beans, rice and beans, and chili dogs. I've done maple beans, pineapple beans, and of course, you can't go wrong with Trisha Yearwood's Baked Bean Casserole. But then I thought, instead of always doing pork and beans, what if we do BBQ CHICKEN and beans instead? I thought, ooo I bet that would go great with some mac and cheese. (ok, here comes the crazy part) .... and then I thought.. what if I do a casserole that combines all three??? BBQ Chicken, baked beans, mac and cheese, all in one. That sounds pretty amazing, dontcha think?! I asked my nephew, Gregger, if that sounds like it would be good.... I won't tell you EXACTLY what he said, but suffice to say he was 100% on board, and immediately volunteered to be a taste tester. LOL
So, where to start? Well, I found a recipe for one of those Bubble Up Bakes. Do you know the ones I'm talking about? It's a casserole that uses canned biscuits. You cut them up, toss them with your casserole ingredients, then bake it. The biscuit pieces puff up and there you have it, Bubble Up Bake. Now, I've tried them before, even shared recipes for them. But my issue is that the biscuit pieces in the center never seem to bake all the way through, and you're left with big pockets of raw biscuit dough. (Cue the Price is Right loser music). Not exactly what I want in a casserole. So basically, I just used that recipe as a springboard for this recipe. Swapped the biscuits for pasta, added a few of my own tweaks, and here we are! Chicken, beans, pasta, cheese, all in one big hearty casserole. All you need is a fresh crisp salad and there's dinner! I must say, it's pretty awesome. I knew I definitely wanted it to be a pasta dish, but I didn't want to just toss some baked beans with pasta. So That's where the can of tomatoes comes in. Full disclosure, when I first made the sauce, I thought "wow, that is FAR too much sauce", but then when I mixed everything together, it turned out to be the right amount! The pasta really drinks it in! Btw, this recipe makes a GIANT casserole. What can I say? I can never seem to make a casserole that fits into a 9x13 casserole dish. I always start adding things, and then the next thing I know, I have the casserole that ate New Jersey. Sorry not sorry! Luckily, my sister gave me a GIANT casserole dish that always seems to accommodate my casseroles. Normally, I'd try to scale things back for the sake of posting the recipe, but this time I'm owning it. So, you can either cut the amounts back to fit your 9x13, split it into two casseroles (and freeze one), or use a giant dish that will feed an army. LOL Also, one more thing, there are a couple steps to the recipe, so I'm gonna ask you to multitask, but it's all pretty simple to do. I have complete faith in you. If you give this a go, let me know how you like it! And also, if you have any other ideas for baked beans, send 'em my way! I've love to give them a try!


1 lb cavatappi or other cut pasta
6 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1 onion, roughly chopped
flour, salt, and pepper for dredging
1 pkg boneless skinless chicken (3 or 4 breast halves)
1 28oz can baked beans
1 28z can tomato sauce
1 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs mustard
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
16 oz cheddar cheese
8 oz mozzarella cheese



Heat oven to 350ºF.
First, boil the pasta: Add a handful of salt to a pot of rapidly boiling water. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, but drain it a minute before reaching al dente. Drain well.
In the meantime, add the bacon to a cold skillet. Place it over medium heat. Gradually brown the bacon, making sure you render a good amount of fat from it. When the bacon starts to crisp, add the chopped onion. Saute until the onions begin to soften. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. Yes, I know. Pasta boiling, bacon and onions cooking, yes, I'm asking you to multitask. I told you! What, you thought I was kidding? You can do this! Stay with me...
Place a bit of flour in a shallow bowl, enough to dredge the chicken. Add salt and pepper. Cut up chicken to small bite size pieces. Dredge in seasoned flour until evenly coated. Pat away excess flour (you can also use a ziplog bag to shake them for easier cleanup!).
Remove the bacon and onions from the pan and place in a very large mixing bowl, leaving the bacon fat in the pan. Add the chicken pieces to the pan. Lightly brown the chicken on all sides, adding an extra drizzle of oil when needed, but don't cook all the way though. Do this in batches, so as not to crowd the pan.
 While the chicken is cooking, add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the mixing bowl... the baked beans, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, brown sugar, mustard, liquid smoke (if using), salt, and pepper. Add the chicken to the bowl as you remove it from the saute pan. Add the drained pasta and half of the cheddar cheese to the bowl. Toss all until well coated. Pour into sprayed casserole dish(es), either one large casserole, or two small ones. (it definitely won't all fit in a 9x13, but like I always say, More is More!) Top with remaining cheddar cheese plus all of the mozzarella. Cover with foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until heated through. Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.



Tips:
Yes, Yes, I know there are several things going on at once. Just stay organized and you'll be fine. To save time, you could make each of the components ahead of time, say, the night before. And then when you get home from work, toss them all together, pour into your casserole dish, and bake. Actually, you can even do the whole thing the night before.... assemble it and all, then cover it and pop it in the fridge until you bake it the next day.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Fresh Strawberry Pie



  I was recently at the local produce market picking up some hot peppers, and I noticed that the strawberries looked absolutely delicious! When I walked into the market, I had no intentions of buying strawberries, but I just couldn't help it, they looked so good! Clearly there must be something I can do with them. And then I thought of a fresh sweet delicious old fashioned strawberry pie. PERFECT! And then it dawned on me... do I even have a recipe? Wait, have I ever even MADE a strawberry pie before?????  WHAT?? How can it be that I've gone this long without making a perfectly fabulous fresh strawberry pie? Well, that settles it. One strawberry pie, coming up!
 At first, I couldn't decide if I wanted to do crushed berries, sliced berries, or whole berries, so I figured, why not do all three? I made a filling with the crushed, stirred in the sliced, topped it with whole. Boom. It turned out just as good as I hoped it would be, and now I can add this pie to my ever growing list of favorite pies. Actually, I've literally never met a pie that I didn't like, but still!




1 deep dish pie shell, blind baked and cooled
4 lbs fresh ripe strawberries
1 cup sugar
1 tbs lemon juice
3/4 cup water
3 tbs corn starch


First, choose about 5 or 6 or your most perfect gorgeous strawberries. Set Aside.
Take half of the remaining strawberries and place them in a small sauce pot along with the sugar and lemon juice. Using a potato masher, mash the strawberries into small chunks. Heat over medium high heat until they just begin to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add the cornstarch to the water, and stir well. Add the cornstarch slurry to the strawberries. Let simmer, stirring constantly, until mixture becomes very thick. Let mixture cool slightly.
Slice remaining strawberries, and stir into the cooked strawberry mixture. Pour filling into your pre-baked pie shell. Arrange your selected choice strawberries over the top of the filling, either whole or sliced. Chill for several hours or overnight. Serve with freshly whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.



Tips:
To make your pie really glisten, reserve a little of the thickened strawberry filling, removing any chunks of berry. Use that gel to brush your decorative strawberries on top.
If you're making a regular 9" pie, (instead of a deep dish pie) just cut all the amounts by half.
For a little unexpected summer variation, add a little fresh basil to your pie filling. Seriously!
For an extra special treat, drizzle your whole pie with melted chocolate.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Creamy Grape Salad



  When I first saw this recipe, it reminded me of your good old fashioned Southern type of recipe. Lots of sweet juicy grapes in a sweet creamy dressing.. it sort of has that "down home country" thing goin' on. I'm not even sure whose recipe it is because I've seen this exact recipe on many sites. But here's the thing.. whenever I see the SAME recipe posted over and over on different websites, that usually means it's a great recipe that everyone makes the same way. I mean, I suppose everyone tweaks the amount of sugar, and that's fine, but still, it's the same recipe. That's good enough for me!
  So exactly what is a grape salad? Is it a side dish? Is it a dessert? Well, TBH, it can be anything you want it to be. When I first read it, I pictured it as a sweet cold side dish.. kind of like applesauce with pork chops, or cranberry sauce with turkey. But when I first TASTED it, I immediately got the fruit and yogurt with granola vibe. Perfect for a light summer breakfast or brunch. But then I read a few of the comments and tweaks on different sites... and many people said they like to chop up frozen Snickers or Milky Way bars and sprinkle them over the top. Or do the same with a candy toffee bar. Well, now we've taken it in a whole other direction! That clearly crosses over into dessert territory. So I guess it's up to you how ever you'd like to serve it.
 The point is that it's really tasty and everyone will love it! Personally, I'm not one to add candy bars to my fruit salad, but hey, you do you! For me, the kicker is the addition of the brown sugar and chopped pecans over the top. SO GOOD! The brown sugar makes it just sweet enough, and the pecans add just exactly the right amount of crunchy texture! It's the perfect bright and refreshing thing to bring to a summer family event. It's a great do ahead too, so make it the night before, and then serve it nicely chilled. I promise it'll be a big hit!




8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 lbs seedless red grapes
2 lbs seedless green grapes
3 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs chopped pecans

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla until blended. Add grapes and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans just before serving.




Tips:
ok, so, a few things...
It seems to me that this recipe makes quite a lot. If you don't need FOUR POUNDS of grapes., just cut the whole recipe in half. Then again,  I don't think leftovers would be a terrible thing in this particular case.
Speaking of cutting things in half, I wanted a smaller bite, so I decided to cut all the grapes in half. It's actually a pretty good idea, especially if you have little ones who might try to swallow a whole grape.
If you're not a fan of pecans, try any kind of chopped nuts. You could even do granola instead of nuts, if you're so inclined.
If you'd like to lighten it up a bit, try using plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. It works quite well! (especially if you're doing granola!) Another thing that works quite well is adding or substituting a different kind of fruit. How about pitted fresh cherries? (I've tried it.. they're fabulous) Or fresh blueberries and sliced strawberries? I bet it would also be great to add some diced apples to the grapes. Mmmm... Might need to try that next time!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Joey's Summer Squash Pie





  So I was looking for fun recipes to try with zucchini. During this time of year, I always like to find some new zucchini recipes, just because it's so abundant. Sooo.... what'll it be this time.....Do I wanna go sweet like zucchini bread? or savory as with an entree? And then I thought, ooooo how about a pie? YUM. So I googled, and immediately found a recipe from Taste of Home and it looked pretty awesome, so I thought I'd have a go.
 Well, the first thing I noticed is that it was kind of similar to a tomato pie recipe I've been making for years. In that pie recipe, you layer slices of tomatoes with fresh basil and scallions, then you spread a mixture of shredded cheese and mayonnaise over the top, and bake it. So this was basically the zucchini version of that recipe. I immediately thought "why have I never done this before?" I'm forever looking for new ways to reinvent old recipes, and I'm still completely amazed that I never tweaked that tomato pie.
 So, now, I'm reading the squash pie recipe, and I'm already deciding what changes to make. Not to the method, but mainly to the ingredients. Full disclosure, I always find summer squash to be a little bland unless you pump up the flavor a bit, so I added a few aromatics. (Basically I can never leave well enough alone!) Fresh herbs, onions, peppers, garlic.... it just seemed like this pie was calling for them!!
 Oh, and one more thing... with the tomato pie recipe, the one problem I always have is that the fresh tomatoes bring too much liquid to the party, and you end up with a soggy pie. So, recently, I started adding a little flour to the filling, just to help thicken it up a bit. It worked with the tomatoes, so I did that here too. And I must say those extra aromatics really boosted the flavor. It turned out great! At the very first bite, I thought "ooh that's REALLY good." Dontcha just love that feeling of getting something right on the very first try? Seriously delish! So if you happen to have a home garden that is overgrowing with a million zucchini, give this one a try. Serve it with a little side salad and there's your perfect brunch or light dinner. It's really just that good!





1 unbaked pie crust (ready made, or your own)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
olive oil
2 cups roughly diced zucchini
2 cups roughly diced yellow summer squash
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
a couple sprigs EACH fresh thyme, fresh basil, fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise



Heat oven to 350ºF.
Line deep dish pie plate with pie crust pastry. Crimp to make a decorative edge. Line pie shell with parchment paper. Fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment. Brush with beaten egg. Bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Meanwhile, make the filling.
  To a large skillet or wok, add a few big glugs of olive oil. When the oil is hot enough, add the zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and peppers. Saute over fairly high heat for a good 10 minutes, stirring often, until very tender. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper. At the last minute, add garlic, fresh herbs, and flour. Stir until well combined and cook for only another minute or two. Spoon into baked pastry shell. Top with tomato slices. Combine the cheese and mayonnaise; spread over the top Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand for a good 15 minutes before cutting.



Tips:
Like I said, I just couldn't leave this one alone. I had to add my own little spin. But just because I like certain things, doesn't mean you have to! Don't like peppers? Leave 'em out! Want to add eggplant? Go for it! Add any combination of veggies you want, or just do all one kind! It'll still be fabulous!
Also be sure to season everything well. It will probably need more salt than you think it will!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Lemon Basil Sugar Cookies


  Many years ago, after all of my siblings and I had grown up and moved out, I used to stop by my parents' house and visit with my Mom. Honestly, if I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times,... someone should have followed my Mom and written down everything she ever said. I can't even begin to express the amount of Life Lessons we all learned from her, and of course, this blog wouldn't exist if it hadn't been for her. She was the best at cooking with what she had on hand, and she could feed an army just as easily as she could feed 2 people. Whenever I visited with her, we talked about loads of topics, but of course the conversation would inevitably work its way back to food or cooking or recipes or "how did you make this?" or "do we have that old recipe written down anywhere?" or some similar variation.
 Once I was fixing her a cup of tea, and I noticed that she had a little plate of sugar cookies in a container off to the side of the kitchen counter. I asked her about them and she said she liked to make them "whenever she wanted a little something sweet." She described them as being "nothing crazy, 'no bells and whistles', just good old fashioned sugar cookies" and they made a small enough batch that it didn't take her all afternoon to make them. "Perfect with a cup of tea."
 For some reason, that conversation always stuck with me. How can you go wrong with a good old fashioned sugar cookie whenever you want "a little something sweet", right?
 Cut to many years later, and I happen upon this recipe on a blog called Albiongould.com. I IMMEDIATELY think of Mom and those cookies that she had with her cup of tea. A classic sugar cookie, only this time with a little refreshing lemon and basil. I guess we can call that a few small bells and whistles, but still nothing crazy. The recipe description even says that it's perfect with a cup of tea. Sounds pretty awesome to me. And since I happen to have an ever-growing window box of basil, I decided to give it a hair cut and make these cookies. They're just exactly what you want them to be. Sweet, lemony, crispy, chewy, basil-y. Pretty sure Mom would have loved them.
 So the next time you want "a little something sweet" without too many "bells and whistles," fix yourself a cup of tea and try this recipe.
As Mom would say "It's one of Life's simple pleasures."




2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter
2 tsp lemon extract
zest of two lemons
4-6 basil leaves (about 2 tbs when finely chopped)


Heat oven to 375ºF.
Soften the butter in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes on low. If it melts a bit, that’s ok. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg. Add the lemon extract and lemon zest. Mix in the flour and baking powder. Combine everything. When a dough has formed, mix in the finely chopped basil. Form 1 inch balls of dough in your hands. Roll each ball in sugar. Put twelve on a half sheet pan. Push down in the middle of each ball a little with your thumb. Bake for 9-10 minutes.




Tips:
If you like the "green freshness" that the basil brings to these cookies, also try it with chopped fresh mint or fresh thyme leaves. They go very well with lemon, and it's amazing how well the fresh herbs go in a sweet recipe!