Saturday, September 27, 2008

September Daring Bakers Challenge: Lavash with Vegan toppings

I must admit, I was a little disappointed when I found out that we would be baking crackers this month, because I really love cakes and pastries and sweets in general. That being said, however, I was grateful that this month's challenge was less intense than the past few months'. September has been truly crazy for us, and I was glad these lavash could be made without spending an entire day on them and without getting every dish in my kitchen dirty. I made them to take to book club. And guess what...people ate them and liked them. I made two different kinds:

#1) Lavash with freshly ground black pepper, kosher salt, and cumin served with a chunky vegan salsa containing tomatoes, avocado, black beans, and corn


1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 ear corn, blanched and de-kerneled
3 scallions, sliced, white and light green parts only
1/4 bell pepper, chopped (I used orange)
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
a generous pinch of salt
juice from 1 lime

#2) Lavash with freshly ground black pepper, kosher salt, lemon zest, garlic powder, and dried oregano served with a non-vegan but very delicious tsatziki


1 cup chopped, peeled, seeded cucumber
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill weed
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
salt to taste

It was nice to have a snack with all-natural, wholesome ingredients and no strange preservatives or additives.
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Homemade Pear Sauce and Strawberry Cheesecake Bites

I feel like I haven't posted in forever, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy in the kitchen. Early autumn means harvest time, and I have been working like mad to can everything I can think of. To date, I have done 3 different kinds of jam (I desperately wanted to try plum jam, but I'm just about out of gas), tomatoes from my very own back yard, beautiful peach halves, and, as of last night, pear sauce. My husband came home while the pears were cooking on the stove top, and he said the house smelled like heaven. That is exactly what this delicious pear sauce tastes like: heaven in a jar.

Spiced Pear Sauce
adapted from some website :)

9 lbs bartlett pears
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Twist the stems off the pears, cut the fruit into quarters, and throw into a large stock pot. Add lemon juice and SOME water. I used 1 cup and my sauce is thinner than I would like. Maybe start with 1/2 cup of water instead. Cook until pears are very, very soft. Run mixture through a food mill. This will mulch up the pears, plus remove the skins and seeds, which is perfect if you are lazy like me. Return pears to pot, add sugar and cinnamon to taste, and bring to a boil. Pour smokin' hot pear sauce into smokin' hot, clean jars (I used pints), leaving 1/2" head space. Put on lids, and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

I had a little church potluck to attend this afternoon and had no idea what to take. As I was putting the shredded wheat away this morning, my eyes glanced at the side of the graham cracker box and I thought, "Hey, why not." I've seen this recipe on the side of the box all summer long as we've been making smores, and I thought today I'd give it a whirl. They were super easy to make and tasted really good. If you are a fan of cheesecake but don't like to go to all the trouble of making one, this easy dessert takes care of it in about 5 minutes.

Strawberry Cheesecake Bites

adapted from Nabisco Honey Grahams

2 packages graham crackers (about 16 crackers)
1 8-oz block cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cool whip
1 lb strawberries, chopped
1 Tablespoon sugar

Divide graham crackers into individual portions; set aside. Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Fold in cool whip. In a separate bowl, toss chopped strawberries with remaining Tablespoon of sugar. Set aside. I set everything out separately and let people make their own. You could also assemble them and place them on a serving tray.
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Salute to Summer S'more Brownies

I've updated this recipe and improved it (in my opinion, anyway!).  Click HERE for the updated version!

We went to the coast over labor day weekend and randomly decided to by a chimenea at a pottery shack on the side of the road. We have already used it to make s'mores 2 or 3 times since getting it home. In honor of the looming end of summer, I thought I'd make a brownie-s'more lovechild. Strangely, 2 people to whom I talked about these before I made them thought they didn't sound good at all, but trust me, they were out of this world. So good, and so messy!

S'more Brownies

8 sheets of graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 heaping cup mini marshmallows
3 oz milk chocolate chips or 2 1.5-oz Hershey bars, broken into pieces

Lightly spray the sides of an 8x8 baking dish with PAM and preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 2 Tablespoons sugar. Press firmly into the bottom of the prepared dish. In a medium bowl, combine softened butter, 1 cup sugar, and cocoa until smooth. Add eggs and stir. Add flour, vanilla and salt and stir until combined. Spread half of the brownie batter over the graham cracker crust, sprinkle marshmallows over the top, then spread the remaining brownie batter over the marshmallows. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips or broken Hershey bars over the top and return to oven for 3 more minutes. Remove from oven and spread melted chocolate with a spatula. Cool completely before serving.
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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies (no really, I mean it)

I know everyone claims that their chocolate chip cookies are the best, but I never thought that about mine until recently. My mom, my sisters, and I all tried in vain to find a truly fantastic recipe. I found one in college that I swear was perfect the first time I made it. It became the family staple, but too many times the cookies turned out more like chocolate chip biscuits. Then, one day, my friend Jill brought over a plate of delicious, chewy, buttery cookies. When we asked her for her secret recipe, she rather sheepishly told us that she follows the directions for the Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies on the back of the chocolate chip bag, but adds extra flour. It works like a charm.

Jill's Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened (I always use salted and they always taste delicious)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips (I use a little less)

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir to combine. Stir in chocolate chips. Use an ice cream scoop to shape dough into balls, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (the standard 12 cookies per sheet method). Bake for 10-12 minutes until just beginning to turn golden on the edges. Remove from oven, cool on sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes 2 to 2 1/2 dozen cookies.
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