June 30, 2015

Tex-Mex Cobb Salad

In an effort to balance the tremendous sweet tooth I possess, I was happy to find this salad on Foodie with Family. It's a great combination of flavors, and I've made a riff of it several times already this summer. It's fun to make a nice spread on a plate like she did, but it works just as well to toss everything into a salad bowl if need be.

This will continue to be a repeat, although I love it much more than my husband who protests many of the ingredients and had a rather boring salad. (Ignore the really poor quality photo. Check out the original post for pretty photos.)

Tex-Mex Cobb Salad
1 fresh ear of corn cut from the cob, or 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 heart of romaine lettuce, cored, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup fully cooked (canned or homemade) black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup black olives, drained
1 cup pulled pork or chicken
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup cheese
1 avocado, cubed and sprinkled with lime juice to prevent browning
1 fresh lime, cut into wedges
1 cup Fritos

Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat, and let it get hot enough for water to skip over the surface when sprinkled on the pan. Add the corn and a generous pinch of salt, and stir. Let the corn dry fry in the pan for three minutes, or until the corn is fragrant, has released some liquid and has some golden brown spots. Transfer the corn to a plate to cool.

On a large serving platter, arrange the romaine lettuce. Arrange the remaining ingredients on top of the lettuce in strips. Scatter lime wedges over the salad, and serve with Fritos. Makes 4 entree-sized salads.

Dark Chocolate Key Lime Truffles

I've mentioned before how key lime pie became a favorite for me and my husband while on vacation in Florida. Not that we (I) ate a giant key lime pie milkshake for breakfast one morning (shortly after eating Dunkin' Donuts. How were we supposed to know we'd find milkshakes that morning at a fruit stand?)

So this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction obviously caught my eye because not only was it key lime, but it also involved truffles and dark chocolate rather than the white that is usually associated with key lime. These little gems are good. There's a bit of a process that Sally uses, which results in truly creamy truffles. I didn't snap any pictures because I wasn't completely in love at first and then ate them all without pictures. Worth a repeat adventure, although no promises on photos then either.

Dark Chocolate Key Lime Truffles
3/4 cup heavy cream
zest of 2 limes
14 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
18 oz. bittersweet chocolate
4 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 green candy melts

Heat the cream and lime zest in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir it until the mixture barely comes to a boil. Remove from heat, and allow the lime flavor infuse into the cream for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the chopped white chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl. Add the lime juice and butter to the bowl. Do not stir yet. Set aside.

After 30 minutes, place the lime-infused cream back over heat until it barely begins simmering again. Remove from heat, and strain it through a mesh sieve into the white chocolate to remove the zest. Gently begin stirring the white chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula in one direction. Do not forcefully stir it. Use gentle, circular motions. Once all of the white chocolate is completely smooth, cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed on the top of the ganache filling. Let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour, and then transfer to the refrigerator for 5-6 more hours or overnight.

After chilling, the ganache filling will be smooth and a little soft, but still manageable.Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside. Make sure you have enough room in your refrigerator for the baking sheets because the truffles must chill after being rolled in the next step.

Measure 1 teaspoon of ganache filling, and roll between your hands into a ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet.(Keep wiping your hands on a paper towel or rinsing/drying them because clean hands work best for rolling the sticky stuff.)  Repeat rolling remaining truffles. Refrigerate the truffles as you melt the chocolate coating.

Place the bittersweet chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. Melt in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring after each increment until completely melted and smooth. Let the warm chocolate sit for 5 minutes to slightly cool before dipping.

Remove truffles from the refrigerator, and begin dipping into the chocolate. Place the dipped truffles back onto the baking sheets.  Melt the white chocolate and candy melts (if using) together using 30-second intervals. Using a fork or a squeeze bottle, drizzle over the truffles. Allow truffles to set at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill for 30 minutes. Store in the refrigerator during warmer months, but serve at room temperature. Makes about 60 small truffles.

June 26, 2015

Twix Brownies

These brownies from Bake at 350 looked to be darn near perfect, although they have no peanut butter. The layers of goodness intrigued me, so they went on the to-do list for the booyah we're going to tomorrow. My tastes have changed since I was a little girl who turned down Twix because of the cookie bar. I've learned to like a lot more chocolate and candies through the years, although I still can't handle crunch or crisp.

These brownies are amazing! They might be one of my favorite brownies, ever, which is quite the statement. They are worth every bit of work. 

I had never used the caramel bits before, but I'm quite happy to have a partial bag left to play with. I could see these little guys being fun for lots of baking projects.

Twix Brownies
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 eggs
1 cup  flour
17 (store-bought) shortbread cookies
Caramel Layer
1 (11 oz.) bag + 1/3 cup caramel bits
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9x13” pan.

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in sugars, and heat while stirring until hot to touch, but not bubbling. Remove pan from heat, and whisk in cocoa powder, vanilla, salt and baking powder. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Stir in flour.

Spread evenly in prepared pan, and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, make caramel. Over medium-low heat, melt caramel bits and evaporated milk together, stirring frequently.

After 25 minutes, remove brownies from oven, and top with the cookies, pressing down slightly. Some brownie will still remain visible. Pour caramel sauce evenly over cookies. Return to oven, and bake for 5 more minutes.

Remove brownies from the oven, place on a wire rack and let cool completely in pan.

Once cooled, make the ganache by heating the cream to a simmer. Pour cream over chocolate chips, and let stand 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, slowly stir chocolate and cream until combined and thickened. Pour over  cooled brownies, using an offset spatula to smooth. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting. (I found they cut best after some time in the freezer to peel off the foil.)

Store brownies in refrigerator. Cut into 24 bars using a sturdy knife with up/down motions.

Oreo Brownies

Apparently I'm in the mood for brownies since I've bookmarked a couple brownie recipes over the past few weeks. These from Cookies and Cups caught my eye because my husband loves Oreos. Don't be fazed by my orange Oreos ... they might have been purchased on clearance and tossed in my freezer. (Don't judge me for my 50 cent Oreos. There's enough preservatives I'm sure they'd still be edible this upcoming Halloween.)

I wasn't expecting to be wowed by these, but I was. I've eaten two of the corner pieces already, even though they're for a party tomorrow. (It's OK, I have a second batch of brownies baking as well, so no one will notice a few missing.) They are definitely a repeat recipe!

Oreo Brownies
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 tsp. salt
11/2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
25 Oreo cookies coarsely chopped

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line 9x13 pan with foil, and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.

In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs. Mix on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add in salt and the cocoa powder, and mix on medium until combined, 30 seconds to a minute. Turn the mixer to low, and add in the flour until incorporated.

Spread half of the batter into pan. Top with the Oreos,  and spread the remaining batter on top. Bake 35-40 minutes until center is almost set. Cool completely before cutting. Makes 24 brownies.

June 25, 2015

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

One of the things I enjoy now is the chance to repay my mom for all the years of making amazing birthday treats that wowed me and my friends as children. Grown-up tastes are a bit more refined, perhaps, than a big ol' ice cream pail of dirt cake. (As I type that, I realize how much my 3-year-old son would love that idea!)

I've had this recipe from Cookies and Cups bookmarked for quite some time, and my mom's birthday is the perfect occasion for it since she's a lemon lover. I never could understand the idea of lemon meringue pie as a child, but now I've some around to it especially in this cheesecake form. (See above comment about refined tastes.) This is an impressive and delicious dessert. I could envision a key lime version being equally as tasty.

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake
2 1/2 cups biscoff cookie crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, melted 
32 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. lemon zest (3 large lemons)
Meringue Topping
6 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine all ingredients for crust in a bowl evenly. Press mixture into a 9" springform pan and up the sides, about one inch. Bake for 10 minutes, and allow to cool.

In bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar together until combined and smooth. Add in egg yolks, and beat until mixture is just combined, scraping sides as necessary.
Add in flour, sour cream and lemon zest, and mix until smooth.

Pour mixture over prepared crust. Bake for 75 minutes. Then turn off oven, and leave cheesecake in the warm oven with the door closed for 4 hours. Finally, remove it from oven, run a knife along the edges to loosen from pan, and chill for 6 hours, or overnight.

Whisk 6 reserved egg whites with sugar. Place over a double boiler, and stirring constantly, heat mixture until it reaches 140° on candy thermometer. Pour mixture immediately into bowl of stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, and beat for 10 minutes, until glossy and stiff peaks form.

Spread the meringue over chilled cheesecake, and with kitchen torch lightly brown the tops of the meringue. Makes one 9-inch cheesecake.

Oreo Chocolate Silk Pie

So this dessert was quite delicious, although I made a sloppy mess of my white chocolate layer. (The step that requires cooling the chocolate before adding it to the whipped cream is rather important.) My picture is poor at best, but there are some tantalizing photos at Bakers Royale, where I found this recipe. It's not a difficult recipe, and I was pleasantly surprised by the chocolate mousse layer. I could see the base of this recipe being a branching off point for other tasty concoctions (like a peanut butter layer perhaps).

Oreo Chocolate Silk Pie
Oreo Crust
20 Oreo cookies, finely crushed (about 2-1/4 cups)
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
Chocolate Layer
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed
Oreo Layer
3 oz. pure white chocolate, chopped
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup crushed Oreo cookies
White Chocolate Layer
3 oz. chopped white baking bar
1 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine Oreo cookies, sugar and butter for crust. Press crust into bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes, and let cool. 
In a small saucepan, cook and stir unsweetened chocolate over low heat until melted. Remove from heat, and cool. In a medium mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed about 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in melted chocolate and vanilla. Gradually add egg, 1/4 cup at a time, beating on high speed after each addition and scraping sides of bowl constantly. Spoon chocolate mixture into shell, spreading evenly. Cover and chill for 5 to 24 hours.

In a small saucepan, melt the white chocolate with 1/4 cup whipping cream. Cool completely. Whip remaining 3/4 cup whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add white chocolate mixture, and whip until stiff peaks form. Spread over chocolate layer, sprinkling with crushed Oreo cookies. Freeze at least 10 minutes to firm layer.

For the white chocolate layer, repeat the same process. Spread on top, and chill until serving.

June 16, 2015

Chocolate Mug Cake

Since it's been over two months since I blogged last, it's about time I post something spectacular here. Instead I'm posting this mug cup recipe from The Table for Two. It may not be an awe-inspiring layer cake, but it is pretty amazing to have a rather tasty cake ready to eat in a matter of minutes.

I've been a bit bogged down by life lately (and trying to eat a bit healthier), which is why my posts have been lacking. I'm hoping to get a bit more posted here until we disappear at the end of August for 3 weeks of camping and hiking in our national parks.

This is well worth the time to give it a try. I recommend using regular cocoa powder, as the dark cocoa powder I used doesn't really make the cake better. (I've done both ways.) The spoonful of peanut butter (or chocolate peanut butter) is a tasty addition, and you can get creative and drop in a truffle or something else to make it deliciously your own.

Chocolate Mug Cake
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. peanut butter (or chocolate peanut butter)

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large mug. In a separate small bowl, combine milk and oil. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients, and stir until combined. Add a dollop of peanut butter on top of the batter, and microwave 70 seconds. (You may need to adjust microwave time based on your microwave strength.) Let cool enough you don't scald your tongue, and dig in.