Peanut Butter Bacon Blondies

I heart bacon. I think I’ve mentioned that once or twice or thrice before. So, a recipe that features those delectable strips of smoky deliciousness always makes me stop and read. However, this recipe for Peanut Butter Bacon Blondies from the How Sweet It Is blog made me stop, read and say, “Holy crap, I gotta make those ASAP.” This recipe combines my beloved bacon with peanut butter, which is that coveted salty/sweet combination I can’t seem to get enough of.

I highly recommend you try it. In fact, tomorrow would be a particularly good day since it’s National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day.

I made these for the youngest spawn of He Who Must Be Fed, and he loved them. I think you might, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of butter, melted
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 6 sliced of bacon, fried and crumbled

BlondiesBatterPreheat your oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix together sugar and melted butter until smooth. Add in eggs and vanilla. This will give you a lovely, caramel-colored batter that I thought was really pretty.

Combine dry ingredients together, and mix into the batter. Fold in the bacon. Spread evenly in a 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until done.

BlondiesUnfrosted

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled

Cream butter and peanut butter. Add sugar gradually. Add vanilla. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you want. You may need more milk, depending on how thick or creamy you want your frosting.

Frost your blondies, then top with crumbled bacon.BlondiesFrosted

BlondiePiece

If you try these, let me know how they turned out. What a great way to celebrate National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, don’t you think?

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The very best chocolate chip cookies

One of the first things I remember baking as a young lass was chocolate chip cookies. Over the next couple of decades, I tried many, many different recipes in my quest for the perfect one because, let’s face it, everyone seems to have a version.

But then I found the ultimate recipe – in fact, that’s what it’s called, Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies. Where did I find such a treasure? The recipe was in one of those little recipe booklets that are usually stashed next to the trashy tabloids in the grocery store checkout line. This particular one was from Crisco.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Crisco® Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

HEAT your oven to 375ºF. With an electric mixer, combine shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl and beat until well blended. Beat in the egg. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into shortening mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls, about three inches apart onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies, or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

White chocolate and macadamia nut version

I’ve mentioned before that He Who Must Be Fed is a vanilla guy even though he loves these chocolate chip cookies. So I did two quick replacements in this recipe to make him deliriously happy: I replaced the chocolate chips with white chocolate chips and the pecans with chopped macadamia nuts.

WhiteChocolateCookiesHe loves me.

If you try this recipe, let me know if you love it as much as we do.

Full recipe disclosure: When I add the flour mixture, I use the mixer for only about 30 seconds, and then I mix by hand. The cookies seem to turn out better when I put a little of my own muscle into it.

Chicken Broccoli Supreme

I like casseroles in theory. Many have all or most of the food groups in them, and that’s a plus. You can make it all in one pan, which saves on dish washing. That’s another plus. There are usually leftovers, definitely a third plus. And, casseroles are great to make if you’re delivering dinner to friends.

However, I’m not a huge fan of casseroles in practice ‘cause so many of them end up like a giant jumble of mish-mashed stuff that ends up not being too tasty.

However, I found one that was delicious and definitely not a jumbled mish-mash. It also was delicious reheated, although you may not have leftovers. And, better yet, He Who Must Be Fed loved it. This recipe for Chicken Broccoli Supreme comes from the Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake blog.

Ingredients:

For the casserole

  • 1 lb. fresh broccoli, broken into pieces
  •  3 cups cooked chicken, broken into pieces
  •  1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 tubes Ritz crackers, crushed
  • 1 stick melted butter

For the sauce:

  • ⅓ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cups cornstarch, dissolved in ½ cup cold water
  • ⅓ cup chicken broth
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1½ cups of grated cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9×13 pan. Layer your cooked chicken into the pan. In the meantime fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Drop the broccoli into the water and boil for five minutes then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain the broccoli well then add it to the chicken layer.Chicken and Broccoli

In a separate saucepan over medium heat, combine 1/3 cup melted butter, cornstarch dissolved in water, chicken broth, salt and pepper and milk. Stir well until sauce thickens. Turn heat to low and add 1 ½ cups of the cheese. Whisk until the cheese is melted. Pour sauce over the chicken and broccoli. Then top with the remaining 1 ½ cups of grated cheddar cheese.

Melt the stick of butter. Crush your Ritz crackers. I put mine in a zippered plastic bag and took a meat tenderizer to it. CrushingRitzCrackersBe careful not to crush them too small. In a medium-sized bowl, add the crushed crackers to the melted butter, mixing well, then sprinkle the crumbs over the top.

Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

(I apologize for not having a good photo of the end product so you can see how delicious it looks. We ate it so fast there wasn’t time to get a photo.)

Full recipe disclosure: The first time I made this, I used chicken breasts that I cooked separately. The second time, I brought a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and used both the white and dark meat, which resulted in a much more tender and tasty casserole.

Potato Soup with Shrimp

I know we’re halfway through February, and I haven’t mentioned this before, but did you know February is Potato Lover’s Month? (Bet you didn’t.) To commemorate this momentous culinary occasion, I am offering up a great soup recipe: Potato Soup with Shrimp from the Food Network.

It’s delicious, easy to make and will help you celebrate Potato Lover’s Month with a bang, which I’m sure is on your culinary must-do list, right?

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced about the same size as the onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups milk (I used 2 percent)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups salted water
  • 1 pound medium shrimp

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the onion and carrots until both are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, milk and dissolved bouillon cubes. Cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft. You’ll want to test one to make sure it’s soft. Add the half and half, salt and pepper.

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring two cups lightly salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp all at once and stir well. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp. As soon as they all turn pink – it’ll take 2 to 3 minutes — turn off the heat and drain. The shrimp should be slightly under cooked. When they are cool, peel them, and chop them into big hunks. Add the shrimp to the soup and stir well.

If you want to get a little funky, you can add bacon bits or grated cheese on top, but we loved it just the way it was.ShrimpSoup

Chicken caprese

I’m always looking for non-beef recipes because it seems like there’s a new article every day, warning us about the perils of eating too much red meat. So, when I saw this chicken caprese recipe from the Novice Chef Blog, I knew it was going to be a winner in our house.  Chicken. Fresh mozzarella. Balsamic vinegar. Fresh basil. What’s not to love? It’s also one of those easy-peasy recipes you can make when you get home from work.

Plus, it’s a pretty dish to make for your valentine. (Guys, did you remember that today is Valentine’s Day? If not, you better make a quick run to the store or prepare to sleep on the couch tonight.)

ChickenCapreseIngredients

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ½ pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 10 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced in ¼-inch slices
  • 4 tablespoons white wine, divided
  • balsamic vinegar, to taste

Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add chicken, cover pan and cook for about 10 minutes. Flip chicken breasts and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked thoroughly, about another 10 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and continue sautéing until tomato skins starts to soften/wrinkle, about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of wine. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Set aside.

Once chicken has cooked through, add remaining two tablespoons of wine and deglaze the plan because there will be some delicious chicken-y bits at the bottom of your pan, and you don’t want to waste them. Turn the chicken breasts once so they are coated with this sauce. Then top each breast with two slices of mozzarella. Pour tomato mixture on top. Cover pan with lid once more and let the mozzarella melt, about 1-2 minutes.CapreseInThePan

Lastly, drizzle with a splash of balsamic vinegar and serve immediately over spaghetti or whatever pasta you prefer.

CapreseDone

We loved this. I hope you do, too.

The perfect side dish — Winter Bread Salad

I have a food confession: I’m not always good at coming up with good side dishes. Do you have that problem, too? I want something more than just potatoes. I like potatoes, and they’re versatile, but sometimes – insert here my sincere apologies to potato lovers everywhere – they can be kind of boring.

Well, the Food Network Magazine  came to my rescue this month with a Winter Bread Salad, which is freakin’ delicious, a great change of pace from boring potatoes and a great side dish.

 Ingredients:

  • 5 cups chopped stale bread
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 halved and seeded Italian frying peppers
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup grated or shredded parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Toss your chopped bread – I used ciabatta – with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for five minutes.

WinterBreadSaladIngredientsOn a separate baking sheet, toss the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the cherry tomatoes – I halved them – the garlic and the peppers. Bake in the same 450-degree oven for seven minutes. Remove from oven and let cool – I didn’t, and I have the scars to prove it – then chop the garlic, peppers and tomatoes if you didn’t already half them.

Toss your veggies with the bread and add the basil, Parmesan, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

If you accessed the Food Network’s recipe, you’ll notice that it calls for ¼ cup chopped olives at the end. But I left those out.

If you try this, let me know how it came out for you and what you served it with.FinishedWinterBreadSalad

Italian knot cookies

I love a food challenge. So, when He Who Must Be Fed raved about the Italian knot cookies his grandmother used to make, I knew I had to make them just to show him that I could. I found a great recipe in the Erie (PA) Times-News newspaper and off I went.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon anise oil* 
  • 5 cups sifted flour
  • 7 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Position your oven rack so it’s the third from the bottom.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, with the salt, anise oil, flour and baking power. Mix until well blended.

Drop the cookies by rounded teaspoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Naked KnotCookiesBake for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will not get brown on the top, so don’t freak out. In fact, they’ll look a little pale when they come out of the oven, but, once they cool, you can add frosting or glaze to jazz them up.

Frosting:

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Milk, as needed.
  • Food coloring, optional

Mix the butter with powdered sugar. Add milk for the desired consistency. Add food coloring if you’d like.

Glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • Sprinkles

In a small bowl, stir together the ingredients until smooth. Dip the top of each cookie in the glaze then add some sprinkles to make them pretty.FinishedKnotCookies

*You can also make these with vanilla or lemon flavoring. But since He Who Must Be Fed prefers anise, that’s what I used.

Molto bello, don’t you agree?