January 27, 2015

Oven-Baked Potato Wedges

I came across these wedges on Natasha's Kitchen, and I promptly made them for my family. These are quite tasty and easy, and I think they'll be a regular guest at our dinner table. The seasonings are great, and they're fairly healthy.

Of course, then I made a version of dip reminiscent of Granite City dip, which is oh so addictive. My rendition isn't a perfect match, but I think I'm moving in the right direction for an authentic recreation. The dip wasn't healthy, and the recipe isn't perfect yet, so only potatoes for now.

Oven-Baked Potato Wedges
4 russet potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Wash & cut potatoes into wedges by cutting lengthwise in half, and then slicing each half into 4 slices.

Place potatoes in a bowl of water with about 2 cups of ice cubes. Let them stand for 30 minutes, and then dry with paper towels.

Combine salt, garlic powder, paprika and pepper in a large ziplock bag. Add potatoes, and shake them to coat. Next add olive oil to the bag, and toss until potatoes are coated.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silipat. Place potatoes on the lined sheet, and bake at for 30-35 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through, browned and crispy.

If desired, combine parsley and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Toss potato wedges in the mixing bowl with parsley and cheese, and serve warm. (I skipped this since my husband deems Parmesan to be in the category of feet cheese.)

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

My husband walked into the kitchen while I was making the dulce de leche for these cupcakes, immediately noticed my pan of simmering water and questioned, "What are you doing? Is that can opened? Why are you boiling a can?" followed by, "It could explode!" He was quite dubious, but I told him I had done my research, and there should be no explosion provided I maintained the proper water level.

He remained a bit skeptical but made no further comments. After his reaction, given that he's a rather educated engineer, I was a bit more paranoid about maintaining the water level. Thankfully, my sweetened condensed milk became delicious dulce de leche without incident.

These cupcakes are pretty delicious. I'm not sold on the actual chocolate cupcake from Sweetopia because I had issues with them not rising beautifully and rather spilling over and seeming not baked quite enough but ending up a bit dry. I would repeat the concept but use another chocolate cupcake as the base. The frosting and dulce de leche filling were excellent!

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup milk
2 1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup dulce de leche (homemade or storebought)
3/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake tins with cupcake liners.

Sift cocoa into a medium bowl. Slowly stir in the boiling water until smooth, and then gradually whisk in milk. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl, and set aside.  In an electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in the vanilla.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture and reserved cocoa mixture a little at a time in alternate batches, starting and ending with the flour. Beat until just combined.

Divide batter into the cupcake liners, about 1/4 cup for each liner. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or longer - until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean. Time will vary according to your oven. Cool cupcakes in tins for 5 to 10 minutes, and then remove from pans to cool completely on wire racks.

Make a small hole in each cupcake (I used a cupcake corer) or use a bismark piping tip to fill cupcakes with dulce de leche.

To make frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Gradually add in powdered sugar. Beat in dulce de leche until smooth and creamy. Frosting may be too soft to pipe without chilling for 30 minutes or so in the refrigerator. Pipe on frosting, and chill until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature for best flavor, though, immediately prior to serving. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Note: I used an entire can of dulce de leche made from sweetened condensed milk for these cupcakes, divvying up the goods between the cupcakes and the frosting.

Lemon Chicken Skillet Dinner

So this Cooking Light recipe initially didn't impress me, but by the end of the meal I was thinking it was worth repeating. After eating the leftovers, I indeed gave it another go a week or so later. Perhaps I was ticked originally that it took a bit longer than the promised 30 minutes or that it required a second pan when it was billed as a one pan meal. Regardless, the veggies are good (although I left out the potatoes and added in wild rice the second time), but the lemony chicken is really what shines for me.

Lemon Chicken Skillet Dinner
12 oz. baby red potatoes, halved
1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 (6 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to 3/4-inch thickness
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
1 tsp. thyme, divided
4 oz. mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup whole milk
5 tsp. flour
1 3/4 cup chicken stock
8 very thin lemon slices
8 oz. trimmed green beans
1 tsp. dried parsley

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place potatoes in a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes.

Heat a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp. olive oil. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and 1/4 tsp. thyme. Place in pan, and cook 5 minutes or until browned. Flip chicken, and bake for 10 minutes or until done.

Remove chicken from pan, and place pan on medium-high heat with remaining oil. Add potatoes, cut side down, and mushrooms. Cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring once. Add remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and 3/4 tsp. thyme. Whisk the flour into the milk, and add that mixture along with the stock, lemon and beans. Bring to a boil, stirring until thickened slightly. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until beans are desired texture. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 4 servings.

January 13, 2015

Oreo Bars

I made these for New Year's up north at my in-laws' cabin. They were quite tasty, although the top layer was overly sweet for my liking. My version of this Cookies and Cups recipe below should alter these more to my taste. Definitely worth a repeat, though.

I actually bought a cake mix for this, and it was worth it.

Oreo Bars
1 box chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup butter, melted and divided
2 eggs, divided
8 oz. cream cheese
4 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. Cocoa powder
8 oz. Cool Whip
12 Double Stuf Oreos, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray, and set aside.

In bowl, stir together cake mix, 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 egg until smooth. Press mixture into the bottom of prepared pan.

Beat cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar together until smooth. Remove half the mixture from the bowl, and reserve for later. In the remaining cream cheese mixture, add cocoa powder, 1/4 cup melted butter and remaining egg. Beat until smooth.

Spread this mixture over top the cake layer. Bake for 30 minutes until just set. Allow to cool completely.

Stir half your chopped Oreos into the remaining cream cheese mixture. Then fold in Cool Whip until smooth. Spread this over your cooled base. Sprinkle with remaining chopped Oreos. Chill for at least an hour. Makes 12 (or more) servings.

Tagalong Bars

Apparently I didn't have enough recipes bookmarked for baking projects because I found this one at Crazy for Crust to bake for my husband to take to work instead of any of the dozens already flagged. Tomorrow is his 2nd anniversary, so he wanted treats. I settled on this new recipe and a tried-and-true one, Cookie Dough Brownies. (Of course, that's really not my favorite brownie recipe, so I used this one instead. That's my favorite, simple recipe for brownies.)

Tagalongs were always my favorite Girl Scout Cookie, although I came from more of a Thin Mint family. Trust me, I love Thin Mints as much as the next person (frozen, of course), but there's something about the peanut butter. Speaking of which, we are almost completely out of peanut butter in our house. Hell might be freezing over ...

P.S. I went to the store this afternoon. I bought peanut butter before we ran out. Hell apparently just had a touch of frost, not an actual freeze warning.

P.P.S. The flavors on these are pretty accurate. Quite tasty bars, although my husband says they can't stand up to the cookie dough brownies.

Tagalong Bars
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 + 1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup chocolate chips (Use milk for more authentic, but I used semi-sweet since I rarely have milk chocolate chips on hand.)
2 tsp. shortening

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 9 pan with foil.

Cream butter and 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Add 1 tsp. vanilla, and mix thoroughly. Mix in salt and flour until combined. It will take a few moments to turn from crumbly into an actual dough. Just keep mixing until it does. Press dough into the prepared pan. Bake 14-18 minutes, until the shortbread is no longer shiny or translucent. It won’t brown much, if at all. Let cool completely.

Mix peanut butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. Spread evenly over the top of the cooled shortbread.

Melt chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl. Spread over the top of the peanut butter layer. Allow chocolate to harden before cutting bars, but cut bars at room temperature to minimize smashing the peanut butter layer. Makes 9 x 9 pan of bars.