Monday, June 24, 2013

Golden Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Here's a recipe that I found online. Actually, I think someone else found and pinned it or tweeted it or posted it on FB, I can't remember. I immediately wanted to try it because they had me at Oreo. Frankly, any recipe involving Oreos is fine by me. They're my very most favorite store bought cookie, and, well, lets just say it, I'm kind of a little bit addicted to them. Don't judge me....
 Anyway, you've probably tasted regular Oreos, but have you ever tried the golden ones? They're AWESOME. I love that they still taste like Oreos, even though they're not chocolate. Love 'em! If you haven't tried them, then here's the perfect excuse to go get some.
 At first,  I thought the cheese mixture wouldn't be sweet enough, but trust me, the caramel and cookies make up for it. They're easy to make and rich and just SO fabulous. You seriously need to try them.
 I doubled the entire recipe and baked it in a 9x13 pan and it turned out beautifully. Like I always say, more is more! Be sure to let it chill for several hours in the fridge so it'll firm up before you slice them, and keep them in the fridge until you're ready to serve. And as always with any Oreos, you definitely need an ice cold glass of milk to go along with it. Make 'em for your next party! Your family and friends will thank you!

28 Golden Oreos, divided 18 and 10
3 tablespoons, melted Butter
1 cup Caramel bits (or 24 wrapped caramels)
1 tablespoon water
2 pkgs (8 oz each) Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup Marshmallow Fluff
1 egg

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush 18 Golden Oreos (cream and all) in a large ziplock bag or a food processor, until they are very fine crumb.
Pour crumbs into a 9 inch square pan. Add 3 tablespoons melted butter and combine using the back of a spoon to mix and press firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes or until golden. Let cool 10-15 minutes.
While crust is cooling unwrap your caramels, or if using caramel bits, pour into a bowl and add the 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside.
Now coarsely chop the remaining 10 Oreos. Set those aside as well.
 Beat the softened cream cheese and marshmallow fluff with a hand mixer on medium speed. Beat until combined and smooth, scraping down the sides half way through.
Add the egg and beat for 30 more seconds on medium speed until incorporated.
Stir in the coarsely chopped Oreos.
Pour the batter into the prepared crust. Spread evenly into the pan. Now melt your caramels and water in the microwave for 60 seconds. Stir halfway through. When melted, drop by spoonfuls onto the batter.
Using a knife, swirl the caramel into the cream cheese batter. Don't go too deep or you'll mess up the crust.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until center is set. Cool for 20 minutes on wire rack and then transfer to the refrigerator until they firm up, or overnight. Cut into squares when completely chilled. Enjoy!

As always, whenever I'm making any kind of bars or squares, I like to line the pan with parchment paper, letting it hang over the edges a couple inches on each side. After it's baked and chilled, you use the paper like a sling to lift the entire batch out of the pan in one piece. Now you can place it on a cutting board, and (using a big sharp knife) you can make nice clean perfect cuts. It also saves your pan from being ruined if you try to cut the squares while it's still in the pan.
For the crust, I think it's easier to combine the butter with the Oreo crumbs before you put them in the pan, so I just threw the Oreos and the melted butter into a food processor and let it go until no large pieces remained.
For a little variation, obviously you could use regular Oreos instead of the golden ones.
I bet you could also do a slammin' peanut butter version of this recipe. Doesn't that sound good? You could use Nutter Butters (my other favorite sandwich cookie) instead of Oreos, and peanut butter instead of the caramel. I would thin it out and sweeten it a little, though.
Oh, btw, before you measure the Fluff, spray a rubber spatula and a measuring cup with nonstick spray. You'll find it'll be a lot easier to measure and it won't be as messy. Otherwise, it'll stick to everything and you'll have Fluff from one end of the kitchen to the other. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything.....

Monday, June 17, 2013

Savory Pork Stew

 I usually save the stew recipes for the colder weather, but sometimes you just need a little comfort. I recently made this for my sister Reen when she wasn't feeling her best, because, well, that's just how I do. I guess I get that from my Mom. Whenever someone isn't feeling well, or if someone needs a smile, my first thought is "what should I cook?" It's like giving someone a big warm hug. Whether it's Corn and Cheese Chowder or Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup, something savory and hearty always makes you feel better and fills up your belly. It's really easy to make too! My Mom used to always say "Just put it in a pot and let it cook." She was right, you know. You basically just thrown everything in the pot and let it cook, and before you know it you have a big batch of wonderful, ready to give someone a smile. This recipe is not mine, but it's definitely a keeper. I found it on Serve it with some crusty bread and you're good to go.
I'm sure your family will love it!

olive or vegetable oil
2 pounds cubed pork stew meat
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch, or as needed
1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
8 red potatoes, halved or quartered

1 (11oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 (10.75 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/4 cups milk
1 (14 oz) can beef broth
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

 Heat oven to 350F.
 Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sprinkle pork on all sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and lightly coat with cornstarch. Place pork in the pot and cook until lightly browned but not done. Add onions and peppers to the pot and let them saute until they soften. Add potatoes and corn.
 In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, cream of mushroom soup, milk, broth, and Italian seasoning. Pour into the pot and give everything a good stir. Cover. Place pot in the oven and cook for about an hour or until the meat is tender.

-I think I'll add carrots and peas the next time I make this. Switch the veggies up however you like!
-If you want to add more than 2 lbs of pork (say, if you're making a bigger batch), you could always brown the pork in batches, and then adding everything back to the pot when it's all browned.
-I suppose you could dredge the pork in flour instead of cornstarch (which is how my Mom always made beef stew) but I've haven't tried it yet with this recipe.
-You can make this in a crock pot. Just cook it on high for 5-6 hour or on low for 10-12 hours, and don't add the milk until the last hour of cooking. 
-You could easily add a tsp of dried thyme instead of Italian season. It won't be exactly the same, but it'll still work beautifully!

Monday, June 10, 2013

ATK's Ultimate Baked Ziti

Here's another recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I love their recipes because they've already done all the research and worked out the kinks of each new recipe. In this case, the goal was to make the ultimate baked ziti, and by ultimate, I mean CHEESIEST! Seriously, I think this is the cheesiest baked ziti I've ever tasted. It's awesome! I made it for AJ and Kelsie when they came over for dinner one night, and it was a big hit! Serve it with a salad, some garlic bread and tall glass of iced tea, and there's your fabulous Sunday dinner!

2 tbs olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28oz can tomato sauce
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

1 lb cut ziti
3/4 tsp corn starch
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more
1 lb whole milk cottage cheese
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella, plus more

Heat oven to 350F.

Place garlic and olive oil in a cold pan. Slowly saute over medium heat, but don't brown. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, and oregano. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, boil the ziti in 4 qts of salted water for 5 minutes.
drain. Set aside.

 In a large bowl, whisk corn starch together with the cream. Pour it into a large pot over medium heat until it thickens. Meanwhile. in a large bowl, whisk the eggs, Parmesan cheese, and cottage cheese. Remove pot from the burner and add the cheese mixture to the thickened cream, along with mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of the cooked tomato sauce.
Now add the partially cooked ziti and stir until well coated. Pour pasta into a 9x13 pan, then pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top. Sprinkle the top with more mozzarella and more Parmesan. Cover with foil. Bake at for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes.

Instead of using heavy cream, you can use whole milk, but increase corn starch to 2 tsp.
At first, it may seem like there is too much sauce, but use all of it anyway. In fact, I would probably add a little more than just the one cup to the cheese mixture. The pasta will continue to absorb the liquid as it bakes, and you don't want it to come out too dry.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fresh Orange Sherbet

 Whenever we get our first really big heatwave, I'm always inspired to make something cool and refreshing. To be honest, I couldn't decide if I wanted a creamy rich ice cream or a frozen fruit sorbet. So I decided to make a cross between the two! Basically, if ice cream and fruit sorbet had a baby, it would be sherbet. It's creamier than a sorbet, but just as fruity and fresh. Perfect for a hot day! This is a slightly tweaked version of an Alton Brown recipe. I also saw it on Its SO delicious you MUST try it!
Have you bought an ice cream maker yet???
What are you waiting for???

1 cup sugar
2 cups fresh orange juice
grated zest from 1 orange
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk

In a medium bowl, stir all ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved. Place the bowl in the fridge until completely chilled.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process until it is the consistency of soft serve ice cream, about 20-30 minutes. Serve immediately or transfer to a lidded container and store in the freezer.

I like it best when it's not frozen solid. So I usually give it a minute in the microwave and then a quick stir before serving it.
If you'd prefer not to have bits of orange zest in your sherbet, simply use a hand blender to puree all the orange bits or whir the whole mixture up in a food processor or blender before chilling and freezing.