Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Copper Coins (Carrot Salad)


I bought some cute purple, yellow, and orange carrots from my local Farm Stand and thought they would be great for this salad.

While my son and I were picking out the carrots, he called them "ugly carrots" so the name kinda stuck for the rest of the week. It felt a little misrepresentative to be saying "Here's that yummy salad made with those ugly carrots!"

The adults at the meal enjoyed the salad. The tartness from the vinegar in sauce balances out other dishes really well. The kids passed.

Copper Coins (Carrot Salad)
recipe adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar
serves 4-6

1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and black pepper

Blanch the carrots in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, then place in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain.

In a blender, combine all the remaining ingredients. Process until smooth, tasting for salt and pepper.

Combine the drained carrots with the dressing and toss. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Homemade Samoa Bars

Those Girl Scouts seem to be everywhere these days hawking their cookies. Outside the grocery store, the home improvement store, and the YMCA. I even saw a cute girl in a Thin Mint costume outside a gas station yesterday.  Hope she meets her sales goals and gets that tshirt. She was workin' it.

My family can gobble down a box of our favorite, Samoas, in a single afternoon. That can be an expensive habit! So when my parents were visiting, my husband suggested my mom and I whip up our own version of those delicious nuggets.

With all the cooling steps, expect these bars to take a bit longer than a normal dessert. But they do not disappoint! Everyone in the family ate them up. They were even good with decaf coffee later in the night. And with my morning coffee the next day. A portion of these bars even made it into the freezer, so we were able to enjoy them later in the week (OK, they didn't last that long in the freezer!)

Homemade Samoa Bars
recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman and Baking Bites

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 whole egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups  flour
1 cup chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and flour and mix until combined. Spread on cookie sheet with an offset spatula until thin. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle on chocolate chips. Return to oven for 1 minute. Remove from oven and spread chocolate thinly over the cookie layer.

Let cool. When crust has cooled completely and the chocolate is set, flip the whole crust upside down and return to the pan. The chocolate will be on the bottom of the crust.

10 oz shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz  caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
1/2 cup dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Using a double boiler (a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water works great), melt the caramels, salt and milk together until smooth. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut.

Put dollops of the topping all over the shortbread base. Using the spatula, spread topping into an even layer. It will cool pretty quickly, so move fast. If the topping is still too sticky, use your fingers dipped in water to smooth it out. Let topping set until cooled.

When cooled, cut into 30 bars with a large knife or a pizza cutter. (I skipped this step and some of the chocolate flaked off after it was cut)

Once bars are cut, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on High in the microwave in 15-30 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Cool slightly (so the chocolate doesn't melt the bag!) then spoon the chocolate into a piping bag or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle bars with chocolate to finish.

Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Citrus Teriyaki Chicken (Freezer Friendly)

Citrus Teriyaki Chicken with Oven Fried Potato Wedges
Just when you think you've run out of recipes for chicken breast, you find another! During my last  Chicken Freezer Meal Afternoon, I went hunting for more chicken recipes that adapted well to the freezer and found this one!

This had a nice orange flavor, not too overwhelming. This recipe added some variety to my freezer marniated chicken, and was easy to put together on the cooking day.

The leftover chicken breasts made some orangey chicken salad a few days later!

Citrus Teriyaki Chicken
recipe adapted from $5 Dinners

4 - 4oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1/2 cup wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon minced garlic
dash red pepper flakes

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients (except chicken) together. Add chicken to marinade and cover. Can freeze at this point. Refrigerate for several hours to allow chicken to marinate.
Separate chicken from marinade. Grill or saute chicken over med-high heat for about 10 min on each side until no longer pink.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

It's too freakin hot down here in Florida nine months of the year to justifiy running the oven to bake potatoes, thus I love the idea of making a big batch of baked potatoes in my slow cooker. My microwave does an OK job of one or two spuds at a time, but the texture is a little weird.

I've seen a few recipes for baked potatoes in the slow cooker out there that suggest that you wrap the potatoes in foil, but I didn't feel it was necessary. Keep it simple, folks!

I baked (or slow cooked them, technically) these a day in advance to make the Hashbrown Casserole during the holidays, and I was satisfied with the texture. I had been previously buying packages of frozen potatoes to make this casserole, and this technique makes it just as easy to use the "real thing." I just let the cooked potatoes cool, then peeled and chopped 'em up pretty small for my casserole.

Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes
technique adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

Wash, scrub, and dry any number of potatoes that you need (or as many that will fit in your slow cooker). Prick each potato with a fork a few times. Place into slow cooker and cook on Low for 10 hours or High for 6 hours or until desired tenderness.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Homemade Alfredo Sauce

I ate myself silly with this concoction. After the kids were tucked into bed, I beached myself on the couch and didn't move all night. Ahhhh...carb coma. The next day, I forced myself to the gym because some of that cream and pasta was going to stick around on my thighs (let alone my arteries!)

I threw some grilled chicken and broccoli on with the pasta (I used ziti instead of the normal fettuccine) to hopefully balance out the food groups. If it had this sauce on it, I devoured it. My sons just ate pasta, and passed on the sauce. Party poopers! The leftovers the next day reheated really well.

Alfredo Sauce
recipe adapted from
Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter
1 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper (or black pepper works fine, too)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For serving:
Your choice of pasta, cooked al dente

Melt butter in the skillet. Saute garlic until fragrant but not browned, approximately 1 minute. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Slowly add milk and half-and-half, stirring until thickened, smooth and creamy. Stir in Parmesan cheese; stir until cheese is melted. Serve over cooked pasta.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Otis Spunkmeyer's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Another week, another new cookie recipe. Cookie testing is a rough life.

When I finally got to baking the cookies, I was able to break in my cookie scoop that I bought myself as a late Christmas gift. Wahoo! Now there are three cookie scoops in my possession - overkill, I know - but it's great to have a range to choose from. This recipe has a 1-3 hour refrigerate waiting time, but I made this dough the day before baking the cookies, so it was at least a 16 hour chill time.

These made fat, chewy cookies. There were no complaints in my house. I thought this was a standard recipe, although (and I hate to admit this) I like that this recipe calls for shortening for a portion of the fat. Butter is expensive, people. So if I'm running low on the Paula Deen miracle cream, I "cheat" and use vegetable shortening as a substitute. Not every week, not every batch of dough, but sometimes it'll be a couple of days until the next grocery store run, so I improvise.

Otis Spunkmeyer's Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe adapted from The Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup vegetable Shortening (butter flavor is recommended but not essential)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips (one 10-12 oz package)
1 cup chopped walnuts (4 oz package - optional)

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and combine. Set aside. Melt butter/shortening in a microwave until the butter is more of a paste (usually about 45-60 seconds). Add butter mixture to a mixer bowl with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat well. Add each egg separately, beating until creamy. Add flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, while beating. Add chocolate chips (and nuts, if using) and stir until just combined. Refrigerate for 1-3 hours in covered bowl.

Pre-heat oven to 375°F 15 minutes prior to first batch. Drop onto a parchment paper lined, (or use silicone baking sheets) room-temperature, cookie sheets in large rounded tablespoonful size (or small ice-cream scooper). Bake 10-12 minutes checking every two minutes after 8 minutes for golden brown appearance. (Mine were perfect after 9 minutes)