Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chocolate-Cream Cheese-Peanut Butter Bars

OK. The pressure is on. Word has gotten out amongst the people I know that I am posting pictures about food :) And do you know what the number one question is??? How come you don't bring any of this to work?? We should really go back to Food Fridays...I'm just sayin'...

Over Christmas, I got a little over zealous with the recipe collecting. That is one of my favorite times to browse through cookbooks and since all my cookbooks were burned up in our fire, I felt like I had to do some catching up. So in a huge pile of recipes I found this little gem from Betty Crocker and decided to try it out on a bunch of railroaders. Now, the men out numbered the women at this get-together by about 3 to 1, so maybe the feedback on this one is a bit skewed, but I loved these and will make them again and again, I'm sure.

The first step is to mix up a peanut butter cookie dough. Since this was from Betty Crocker, they recommended the BC Peanut Butter Cookie Mix. Of course. So I used that. It was wonderful, but you could substitute any peanut butter cookie recipe here.
You need to make about six cookies and press the rest of the dough into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan.

Caution here: the six cookies are NOT to eat!

Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes.
While that is cooling, microwave 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips with 1/4 cup butter. DO NOT just throw this in the microwave and wait. Cook for 30 seconds and stir. Cook for another 30 seconds and stir. After that, cook for 15 seconds if needed and stir. Patience is a virtue that will prevent you from ending up with burned chocolate. Because no one wants that.
Spread this mixture over the cooked cookie crust and put in the fridge for about half an hour. Just enough time to log in and beat Krokopatra in your Wizard 101 game. Somebody help me.

NOTE: Now is a good time to get the cream cheese out of the fridge!
Once the evil villan is defeated, get your cream cheese, powdered sugar, peanut butter and whipping cream into a bowl.
Turn your mixer on medium speed and mix well.
Do you notice what is NOT in the picture at this point??? Normally turning on the mixer brings The Boy from any corner of the house. He is not here...sigh...Grandma has the kids today :)
Spread this on top of the chocolate layer.
Those extra cookies that you were not supposed to eat? Crumble those up. I started using a fork and quickly changed over to fingers.
Sprinkle this over the cream cheese layer, munching on any pieces that are too big and mess up the uniformity of the sprinkles. What can I say? I like symmetry. Pop this into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes so the mixture can set up.
The recipe says to cut these into 36 squares. This makes REALLY small squares, so I cut them into 24 pieces. Turns out, there was a reason for the small pieces. This are rich, rich, rich. Wonderful, but did I mention they are kind of rich? 24 squares is probably the smallest number you would want.

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These are wonderful. I think they could even be frozen for a change of pace. I used semi-sweet chips, but milk chocolate would be a good substitute.

If you love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, these are a must. Try them. They will make you happy.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Chocolate-Cream Cheese-Peanut Butter Bars
Cookie Base and Topping
1 pouch peanut butter cookie mix
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup crunchy or creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom only of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie base and topping ingredients until soft dough forms. Shape 6 (1-inch) balls of dough. On ungreased cookie sheet, place balls 2 inches apart; flatten in crisscross pattern with fork.
2. Press remaining dough in pan. Bake cookies and base 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Reserve cookies for topping.
3. In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and butter uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and stirred smooth. Spread evenly over bars. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
4. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar and whipping cream with electric mixer on low speed until blended. Beat on high speed about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Spread over chocolate layer.
5. Crush reserved cookies; sprinkle over cream cheese layer. Press in lightly. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. For bars, cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spinach Pasta Toss

So we went back to school. And it's been rough. One of our May graduates died suddenly, giving us our third student death since May. Pray for us.

If it's not one thing, it's another. My computer crashed yesterday and I had to reformat. Feeling pretty secure that 99% of my school files were backed up on the server, I didn't panic too much. However, apparently 17 seconds after my computer crashed, our server followed suit. So everything I have done since May is gone. Since I have created two new classes since then, I am struggling to catch back up.

And, for some reason, I agreed to take back the head coach position for our cross country team. I gave it up a couple years ago when The Boy came, but they couldn't find anyone to do it.


I need a nap :) Or a drink.

So, needless to say, I haven't been doing much in the way of cooking, cleaning or in general, anything not school related. Well, I take that back. The Girl and I have been obsessively playing Wizard 101. Have you tried that?!?

But thanks to Kraft, I am back on track for Try It Tuesday! Have you signed up for their magazine yet? Go there now.

Boil 1 cup water with 2 cups pasta and an undrained can of Italian tomatoes. Cover and let that simmer for about 10 minutes. You can use this time to start a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher AND mix a drink. I'll post that one later...
The recipe calls for 9 ounces of spinach. My package was only 6, and I only used about 2/3 of it. Too much and my kids won't eat it. But add in half of what you are going to and recover.
Put it back on the burner on low until the spinach is wilted.
Stir it up, add the rest of your spinach and wilt that down.
Although the recipe did not call for it, I added in about a cup of leftover baked chicken. Because we don't eat meatless dishes in my house.
Sprinkle with Italian blend cheese and serve.
This was yummy, and except for a couple procedural problems, I will definitely put this on my rotation. I really liked the pasta cooked IN the tomatoes, it gave it an extra flavor boost.

The only problems were minor ones. Make sure you stir as the spinach wilts, or your pasta and tomatoes will become part of your pan. Also, next time, I will probably tear up the spinach a bit. It all wanted to form a ball as I stirred it in.

Other than that, this was one of my favorite recipes of late. And it was sooooo quick and easy. Definitely give this one a try.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Spinach Pasta toss
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups multi-grain penne pasta, uncooked
1 cup water
1 pkg. (9 oz.) baby spinach leaves (7 cups)
1 cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Italian* Three Cheese Blend
Bring tomatoes, pasta and water to boil in large saucepan; stir. Cover; simmer on medium-low heat 10 min. or just until pasta is tender. Add 1/2 of spinach; simmer, covered, 2 min. or until wilted. Stir. Repeat with remaining spinach. Serve topped with cheese.

Frozen Strawberry Dessert

Since I've been so long gone, I'll give you another gem I got in a Taste of Home last fall. Now that I reflect on that, it seems odd that this recipe for a frozen dessert wouldn't be in the spring or summer issues, but oh well.

This was wonderful. It does have to freeze overnight, though, so don't try to squeeze it in and hope it will be solid enough to eat in four. It will not be. But the strawberry "soup" was good, too.

For the crust, mix together brown sugar and 1 cup of flour.
Add in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans.
Cut in 1/2 cup butter. Use your hands. It is easier.
You will get a crumbly mixture that may or may not appear to be completely mixed. That's okay, because when it cooks, it will all even out.
Bake at 350 until browned and let that cool.
When it is cool enough, take a fork and crumble it all up. This is a good time for a taste test. In truth, I could have eaten the entire crust all by itself. It is divine. Save about 1/2 cup back to use as a topping.
Now for the filling. Add a cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to 2 cups of frozen (thawed) strawberries.
Let that sit while you whip the whipping cream into a frenzy.
This will take a few minutes to get it good and thick.
At which time the naked (and filthy) Boy will hear the mixer and come to investigate.
And want to help.
Mmmmmm.....homeade whipped cream. I could eat this all by itself, too.
Fold the whipped cream into the strawberries. Gentle folding is important, because you are going for fluffy here. Again, let the boy help, but be careful.
He is very sneaky.
It will be all swirly when you get it folded in.
Pour the filling into the crumbled up crust.
Take that reserved topping, if you haven't eaten it, and sprinkle it on the top.
Freeze overnight or for 8 hours. Four is not enough.
I've made several frozen concoctions this summer, and I think this one might be my favorite. I think it would be wonderful with pineapple. Or peaches. Bananas anyone?

In reality, this was bit too sweet for me, so I think next time, I will cut back on some of the sugar in either the crust or filling. But my mom assures me it was perfect for her!

Click here for Printable Recipe
Frozen Strawberry Dessert
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup cold butter
½ cup chopped pecans
2 cups frozen, unsweetened strawberries, thawed
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped until thickened In a small bowl combine the flour and brown sugar; cut in the butter until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Press into ungreased 9 inch square baking pan. Bake at 250 for 14 – 16 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
Crumble the baked pecan mixture and set-aside ½ cup for topping. Sprinkle the remaining mixture into an 8 inch square dish.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice until blended. Fold in whipped cream. Spread evenly into dish. Sprinkle with reserved pecan mixture. Cover and freeze for 8 hours or overnight. Let stand a half hour at room temp before cutting. In the summer it might not take that long to defrost, but in kitchen that day, it took a half hour.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

When I was little, summer meant two things: Swimming Lessons and Bible School. We lived in the middle of nowhere, so this was really the only time I ever got to see anyone besides my family and the younger kids a half mile down the road.

Days of swimming lessons were the only time we ever got to go to the pool. All other swimming experiences involved muddy waters, inner tubes, rope swings, crawdad catching and fish nibbling my toes. Oh, and leeches. Not that I'm was a great time :)

Besides playing Red Rover, what stands out most vividly in my mind from Bible School is the snacks. Specifically, the Green Goddess dressing used for vegetable dip and the slices of bananas spread with peanut butter. Yuuummmmm.

I came across this recipe from a blog I follow called Sugar Plum. I love her. She travels around to cooking competitions and creates recipes that always sound incredible (no matter how off-the-wall the ingredients sound). I flashed back to Bible School and knew I had to try it immediately.

Use a mixer to combine the peanut butter, sugars, bananas and butter.
Keep mixing. You want all the banana chunks to blend in. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
Add flour and mix gently.
Add in the milk and mix gently.
Pour in to a greased pan and bake.
Bring this out and let it cool. It's hard, I know, but if you cut into this right away, it will crumble to pieces.
Slice and enjoy.
I am making this again. I think I might up the peanut butter a little bit and cut back on the chocolate chips. I like a lot of peanut butter.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium ripe mashed bananas
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided use
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoons turbinado sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together banana, peanut butter, 2 tablespoons butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes; beat in eggs and vanilla extract until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in milk and flour mixture until just combined; stir in chocolate chips
Pour batter into prepared pan; bake for 50 minutes. Remove pan from oven, melt additional tablespoon butter, brush evenly over the top, and top with turbinado sugar. Continue to bake an additional 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool for 20 minutes before running a knife around outside edges, removing, and transferring to a wire rack to cool an additional 30 minutes before slicing.