Monday, September 29, 2014

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

I first saw these crispy little pieces of peanut butter heaven on a TV show called Unique Sweets. The show highlights different dessert items from all over the country. This was from a place in NY called Baked. They're sort of like an amped up version of a rice krispie treat. SO good, and really simple to make too!
 My friend, Sean, was hanging out with me one afternoon as I was making them and so I asked him if he would mind being a taste tester for me. Of course, he did and he loved them! Actually, I think "obscenely delicious" was the phrase he used. I must say I have to agree with him! They're really THAT good! They're more crunchy than the usual rice krispie treat, and then they have this SINFUL layer of creamy rich peanut butter, almost like fudge. Then, as if that's not enough, there's a layer of chocolate icing, sort of like a ganache on the top. It all definitely falls into the category of "how can this not be good?"  REALLY rich and decadent, but SO addictive at the same time.
 I didn't make them exactly as the original recipe directed. I just fiddled a little bit with the amounts of each ingredient, but the technique was all the same. The original recipe was for an 8x8 square pan and I wanted to use a 9x13 pan, so I just changed a few things. I think it worked pretty well!!! 
Make these for your next party! I betcha everyone will devour them!


4 cups crisped rice cereal
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


12 oz bag milk chocolate chips
16 oz jar creamy peanut butter


12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips 
1 stick (8 tbs) butter
1 tsp corn syrup

For the crispy layer:
Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside. Lightly spray a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 9x13 baking pan.
Into a small saucepan, pour 1/2 cup water. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, 235F. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, and then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let it cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.

For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and heat, stirring with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crispy layer. Put the pan in the refrigerator until the top layer hardens, about an hour.

For the chocolate icing:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and heat, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer. Put the pan in the refrigerator until the topping hardens, about an hour.

Cut into 24 even squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.

Instead of spraying a paper towel and greasing the pan, I sprayed the pan with nonstick spray, then lined it with parchment paper, letting some hang over the sides, then sprayed it again. Then after it was chilled it was easy to just lift the whole batch out of the pan in one piece, using the parchment paper as a sling. I always use this method whenever I make any kind of bars because it's easy to make perfect cuts with a big knife, and it doesn't ruin the pan. Simple, right?
I sliced them into 24 bars, just as I would do with brownies, but you could easily stretch them a little further by cutting them into smaller squares. They're rich enough that a smaller serving would still work.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lemon Icebox Pie

 Here's an easy throw together dessert that only uses a few ingredients and is AMAZINGLY delicious. I recently had the gang over for dinner, and I decided to make this for my good friend, Lea, who loves anything and everything lemon. Not only was it a snap to make, but it was also convenient because it's a total do-ahead. I made it the night before the event, but I could have easily made it two or even three days in advance. If I were going to do that, I would just cover it, and then add the whipped cream and berries or any other garnish just before serving it. It's light and fluffy and sweet and tangy and fresh and rich, all at the same time.
 Now, I know it's called an icebox pie, which means there's supposed to be no baking involved. I like to bake the crust because it adds a sort of toasty flavor, but you really don't have to. You can make the crust as directed and then instead of baking it, just let it chill in the fridge for a while before you pour in the filling. Then it would TRULY be an icebox pie! Easy! So if you don't consider yourself to be a baker, then this is the dessert for you.
If you can mix up a few ingredients, you can make it!

1 pkg golden Oreos
1 tbs sugar
4 tbs melted butter

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 lemons, juiced
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Heat oven to 350F.
Place Oreos and sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until the cookies are crushed to crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until well combined. Press buttered crumbs evenly and firmly into a deep Pyrex pie plate. Bake crust for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven. 
Let it cool.
Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients with a mixer until smooth. Pour into cooled crust and smooth out the top. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Garnish with fresh lemon slices, berries, whipped cream, and/or fresh mint leaves.

You can use any kind of cookies for the crust, graham crackers, anything you like. Or you can simply purchase a ready made graham cracker crust.
If you'd like an extra burst of lemony flavor, add some extra lemon zest! 
Another fabulous idea would be to do a lemon swirl:
Pour the filling into the crust as directed, then put a few dollops of purchased or home made lemon curd here and there on top of the filling. Then use a knife to swirl the curd through the filling and chill as usual. Easy!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Joey's Pepperoni and Cheese Chicken Salad

 I was recently texting with my friend, Lea, about chicken salad. (Yes, many of our texts are about food!) Anyway, she mentioned that she loves my chicken salad. I told her that, come to think of it, I never really make it the same way. Sometimes I'll add lemon and basil, sometimes I'll add diced celery, diced pickles, and chopped scallions. This time, I decided to try something new, and I added a few extra flavors, just to see where it would go. I figured since I love pepperoni and cheese with mustard, why not throw it into a chicken salad? I LOVE how it turned out! The sharpness of the cheddar cheese, the spice of the pepperoni, and the sweet crunch of the red bell pepper all balance perfectly! And since I'm currently choosing to restrict carbs from my diet, this one is right up my alley. I rolled it up with a little shredded lettuce in a low carb wrap and boom, lunch was ready!
Hope you'll give this one a try!

rotisserie chicken
diced red bell pepper
sharp cheddar cheese
sliced pepperoni
brown mustard

Pull all the meat from the chicken bones and dice or shred it into small pieces. Finely dice the bell pepper, pepperoni and cheddar cheese. Add about 3/4 cup mayonnaise and 3 or 4 tbs mustard (or to taste). Stir all together. Season with S&P. That's it!

The amounts of the ingredients are all to taste. If you like a lot of something, add a lot!
This is a great way to use up leftover chicken. You could also use poached chicken breasts, if you like.
Be sure to add the bell pepper. You really need that crunch of freshness to cut through the heaviness of the cheese, mayo, and pepperoni.
You can use shredded cheddar, if you like, but I went with small dice instead, just as I would do when serving pepperoni and cheese.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

7 Up Biscuits

 Here's a quick and easy biscuit recipe which was posted on FB by my friend Lauren. I'm not even sure whose recipe it is, but like I always say, since she's the one who gave it to me, she's the one who gets the credit! They're super easy to make and all you need is just 4 simple ingredients. Perfect! And surprisingly, they don't taste sweet like the 7 Up. They just taste like delicious biscuits to serve with any country gravy or dinner you happen to be whipping up. Make 'em for your next country breakfast or dinner and watch everyone devour them. Betcha there won't be any left!

4 cups Bisquick
1 cup sour cream
1 cup 7-up
1/2 cup melted butter

Mix Bisquick, sour cream and 7 up. Dough will be very soft - don't worry. Knead and fold dough until coated with your baking mix. Pat dough out and cut biscuits using a round biscuit / cookie cutter. Melt butter in bottom of cookie sheet pan or 9x13 casserole dish. Place biscuits on top of melted butter and bake @ 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until brown.

 Since they bake in a rectangular pan, I didn't see the point in using a round biscuit cutter. Then you'd have the scraps of biscuit dough that you'd have to reroll and cut, etc. I just figured I'd form the dough into a rectangle, cut it into squares and then fit them perfectly into the pan. Doesn't that make more sense??? Who's with me?? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Classic Fried Chicken

 If you know me, you know that I love to cook for my friends. I love to assemble a big group at my apt, plan a menu according to whatever theme we've chosen, and then show everyone how I made each thing. I also love it when everyone gets in on the cooking. It's always a good time!
 Recently, we decided to have a Southern Food night. It was awesome! In addition to my famous Baked Beans, we had Fried Confetti Corn, Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole (without the beef), and of course, Classic Fried Chicken. We added some 7 Up Biscuits along with The Best Carrots and Green Beans Ever and there, Ladies and Gentlemen, was a pretty amazing home cooked southern chicken dinner.
 To be quite honest, I had never cooked regular classic fried chicken. I know, I know, crazy, right? One would think that I would have cooked something so classic at some point in my life, but nope, never did! I must say, I think it was pretty slammin'! I did some searching to see which recipe I'd try, and (as you can imagine), I found a million versions. I went with Ree Drummond's recipe because that seemed to be pretty close to what I had in mind for a Classic Fried Chicken recipe. It was crispy and tender and fabulous and comforting and flavorful all at the same time. I think it'll probably be my go-to recipe the next time I decide to have another fried chicken night.
 Yes, of course, it's not the best idea to eat fried anything all the time, but everyone once in a while, a little comfort is a good thing!

2 cut-up fryer chickens in 16 pieces
4 1/4 cups cups buttermilk
5 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup milk
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

 Thoroughly rinse the chicken, then cover all the pieces with 4 cups buttermilk and soak in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours. When you're ready to fry the chicken, remove the bowl from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes, just to take off the chill.
 In the meantime, preheat the oven to 360 degrees F and mix up the breading. Place the flour, seasoned salt, paprika, pepper, thyme and cayenne (extra cayenne if you like heat) in a very large bowl. Stir together well.
 In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup buttermilk and the milk. Pour the milk mixture into the flour and, with a fork, gradually mix until there are little lumps throughout. This will adhere to the chicken and make for a crispier breading. If necessary, add a little more flour or milk to the bowl in order to make it slightly lumpy.
 Heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat until a thermometer reaches 365 degrees F. Lower the heat slightly, if necessary, to keep the oil from getting hotter.
Working in batches, thoroughly coat each chicken piece with the breading, pressing extra breading onto the chicken if necessary. Place the breaded pieces on a plate.
 Add the chicken to the oil 3 or 4 pieces at a time. Make sure they aren't sticking together, then cover the pan and fry for 5 to 7 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the chicken isn't getting too brown. Turn the pieces over, cover again, and cook 3 to 5 minutes more. All the while, monitor the temperature of the oil to make sure the chicken doesn't burn.
 Place the chicken on a baking sheet and continue frying the rest of the chicken. When all the chicken has been fried, remove the wings and legs to a plate and keep covered. These should be cooked all the way through by now but always check, if any pink juice or meat is visible. If so, return to the hot oil for another minute or so until fully cooked. Leave the thighs and breasts on the baking sheet.
 Bake the thighs and breasts for 15 minutes to finish the cooking process. Sometimes I'll cut into the thicker part of one of the larger pieces, just to make sure the chicken is cooked through. If any pink juice or meat is visible, the chicken needs to continue cooking in the oven.

 If you have no desire to cut up a whole chicken, by all means have your butcher do it, or just purchase chicken pieces. I like just the legs and thighs, so that's what I bought. Simple!
 I had originally planned to add hot sauce to the buttermilk (since I know that's also a classic thing to do when marinating the chicken), but I figured I didn't need to do that since the flour was already seasoned really well. But if you'd like to add the hot sauce, go for it!

Monday, September 1, 2014


 Have you ever heard of a Brookie? Well, as you might guess, a Brookie is a cross between a brownie and a cookie. I discovered them when I was browsing the interwebs for a mini cupcake type of bite-sized treat. Yes, of course, you can make them in a regular 9x13 brownie pan, but I've been on a miniature food kick lately and I just love how easy and portion controlled these cute little bites of heaven are. They're a quick throw-together, and they're the perfect little after school snack or even a great little replacement for your usual TV time cookies and milk. They also go perfectly in a lunch box for school or work. Make LOTS of them, and then keep 'em in the freezer until you want them. Then take out as many as you need! Easy right??? Give 'em a try!

1 batch tollhouse cookie dough
1 batch brownies

You can can either make each batch from scratch, or just do a brownie mix and store bought cookie dough.

Simply mix up the brownie batter and cookie dough according to your recipe or package directions. Spray mini muffin pans with baking spray. Divide the brownie batter evenly between 48 mini muffins. (My mini muffin tins have 24 each, so it's perfect for two pans). Top each muffin with cookie dough. Place in a 350F oven and bake about 20-22 minutes or until set. Cool completely before removing them from the pans, otherwise they might break when you try to remove them. Patience! I promise they'll be worth the wait!

Be sure to spray each cup with baking spray. You want to be able to get them out of the pan!
To make perfectly round little cookies sitting on top of the brownie, roll the cookie dough into balls and then place on top of each cup. Makes sense, right?
If you're using the store bought "break and bake" cookie dough, just cut each cube of cookie dough in half and roll it into a ball. You'll have exactly 48!
For a little extra decadence, top each cup with a few chocolate or other flavored chips before topping with the cookie dough. White chocolate? Peanut butter? Whatever you like! You could also put a little Rolo candy on top of each one before topping them with the cookie dough.
OH! Here's an idea...You could top each brownie cup with a mini Reese's cup or a few Reese's Pieces, and then use peanut butter cookie dough instead of chocolate chip cookie dough on top. I'm gonna have to try that!