Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Roasted Strawberry Blondie Bars Balsamico

Rome wasn't built in a day, was it?

Someone really needs to remind me of this because I have been in crack-the-whip mode around here and I think I may be about to drive my husband to the point where he announces that he can no longer live with "the lady and all her crazy."

So, I had to force myself to chill out on Sunday.  I did not turn on the computer, none of us watched TV,  and I tried really hard not to think about my two-page list of tasks I would like to accomplish on this five acres before noon on such and such date. (Because the universe may explode if those particular tasks are not completed, you know.)  I even prepared most of my Sunday meal on Saturday so I wouldn't be in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove for too long.

And Sunday was nice.  Really nice.  Kind of like an old fashioned Sabbath except that I had to run to Dollar General to pick up some graduation cards, and spending money on the Sabbath probably wouldn't have gone over too well in the bible days.  But it was a start.

I think I'll try really hard on every Sunday to just relax, chill, visit, talk, and rest.  No TV.  No Computer.  No thinking about my lists.  (This will be a challenge.  My mind is notorious for wandering.)  I think somewhere I read that it was perfectly okay to do this once a week.  And I'm just gonna roll with that. 

One of the things I made on Saturday were these bars, because isn't it a sin or something not to have dessert after Sunday dinner?  I'm thinking yeah.  The bars themselves are chewy with chunks of strawberries baked in them. The balsamic vinegar is subtle, so no worries about an overwhelming vinegar taste in your blondies. It gives the bars a slight twang in a really good way.  I love the way the fruit is slightly tart with the sweet frosting. A really nice change from a brownie or traditional blondie.

So to recap, Sundays I shall be found resting and enjoying life and the people around me.

And hopefully I can keep my ox out of the ditch.

Here are my notes:

-I think the sliced almonds made this.  Be sure to toast them. It makes all the difference in the world.

-These were really delicious chilled in the fridge and easier to eat by hand.  Out of the fridge, they are a great dessert bar to be eaten with a fork.

-I didn't test with mascarpone cheese, I tested with cream cheese, which was delicious, but I really envision this with mascarpone cheese.

-I lined the pan with parchment paper sprayed well, and let the edges overhang to form handles so I could easily lift the bars out when they were cool.  I also made a second batch where I didn't line it with parchment paper, so it will work either way.  The parchment paper just makes it a little easier.

Roasted Strawberry Blondie Bars Balsamico

1 pound strawberries, chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup of butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mascarpone frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3 ounces mascarpone or cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss strawberries in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons sugar; transfer berries and liquid to a large baking sheet and spread in a single layer.  Roast for 40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.  

Meanwhile, spray an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line with parchment paper, letting about 4 to 5 inches overhang on two opposite sides to form handles so the bars can be lifted out later.  Spray parchment with nonstick cooking spray.  Whisk together the melted butter and dark brown sugar in a bowl.  Add the egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon almond extract and whisk until smooth.

Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined.  When strawberries are done, stir them in along with the syrup just until evenly distributed.   Spread in pan evenly. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. 

While bars are cooling, make the frosting.  Beat 1/4 cup butter, the mascarpone or cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract until light and fluffy.  Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Remove cooled bars from pan by picking up the edges of the parchment paper and sliding to a cutting board.  Spread the frosting evenly over the top, then sprinkle with the almonds.  Keep refrigerated.

Pin It!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spicy Thai Chicken and Rice Bowls

Sometimes something hits me square in the face and I can't seem to get it off my mind for a while.  I watched an episode of the Waltons last week that did just that and I've thought about it ever since.

Yes, I watch the Waltons occasionally.  So what?

Anyway, in this particular episode (and I am going to shorten the whole story so we won't be here all day), Jason is in what I call a coming of age struggle, where he wants to be included in "manly" activities, and be thought of as more of an adult and less of a kid.  He clashes with his father a bit over this, but eventually his father puts him in charge of watching over a controlled fire and being responsible for putting it out.  Jason is elated with this task and he carefully watches it and puts it out thoroughly.  Behind the scenes, though, one of his father's old army buddies who has come to visit carelessly throws down a cigarette and starts another fire in the same area where Jason had just put out his fire. 

There's a big scramble to put out the fire before serious damage is done, and Jason gets blamed for it and of course he questions himself and thinks he's responsible.  He feels awful for letting his father down and foolish about the whole incident.  The army buddy knows he was the cause of it, but lets Jason take the blame anyway.  But good ol' John Boy figures out what happened and he lets Jason know that it wasn't his fault, but it was the army buddy who had caused the fire.  Jason and John Boy keep this to themselves, though,  and don't tell anyone.  They know how much their father thinks of his friend and they don't want to ruin his good opinion of him.

At the very end of the episode, their father discovers the truth about who started the fire, and he makes a point to tell the whole family that it wasn't Jason who started the fire, but his friend.

And this--this is what got me and caused a lump in my throat--Jason looks at his father and says, "We knew that Daddy, John Boy and me."

His father looks surprised and asks "Why didn't you speak up, son?"

And Jason answers, "Just knowing seemed enough."

The father looks proudly at Jason, puts his hand on his shoulders and says "The boy would have spoken up.  But the man didn't."

Wow.  I think that is one of the most profound scenes I've seen on television in a long, long time.  They sure don't make shows like they used to.

I want to be just like Jason when I grow up.  He's a character full of character.
And there is no easy transition from the Walton Mountain to Spicy Thai Chicken and Rice Bowls, but yes, I do have a recipe to share since this is a food blog and all.  I made this earlier in the week and the family just loved it, which surprised me a little.  I've had some red curry paste in my cabinet for a long time, and when I came across this recipe in one of my older Southern Living magazines, I decided give it a try.  I did change it up somewhat, but I think it turned out pretty tasty and healthy to boot.

Here are my notes:

-The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of curry paste, which would have been way too much for me.  If you like it spicier, then you could definitely put more than the 3 teaspoons that I did.

-I love the background flavor of the coconut milk.  In fact, next time I might use all coconut milk instead using part regular milk.

-I used chicken breasts than I thinly sliced, but the original recipe called for shredded chicken.

-I also have an abundance of peppers that I put up last year in my freezer, and since we are almost at garden time again, I needed to use them and this was a good dish to do so.

Spicy Thai Chicken and Rice Bowls

(Adapted from Southern Living)

Extra virgin olive oil to coat the pan
3 small chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, cut into thin strips
3/4 cup each red, green, and yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk  
1/2 cup light coconut milk
3 teaspoons red curry paste (or to taste)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
4-6 cups cooked brown rice

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until done, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the onion and all the bell peppers and cook until crisp-tender. 

Meanwhile, whisk the flour into the chicken broth until dissolved. Stir the chicken broth mixture into the chicken and veggie mixture, then stir in the milk, coconut milk, red curry paste, lime juice and ginger.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, 3-4 minutes or until mixture is thick and bubbly.  Serve chicken mixture over rice.

Pin It!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Layers of Love Torte

So in just a couple of weeks, my sister will be changing careers.  She will be quitting her stable job and leaving the company that she has been at forever, to become a full-time stay at home mom.  And I'm sure she has a range of emotions, from mostly excitement to maybe a little bit of sadness (although, sadness is very hard to detect in our conversations, I'll be honest).  But along with even good, positive change, sometimes come butterflies in the stomach, second guessing, and maybe even a little bit of fear. 

Fear of the unknown. 

Fear of failure. 

Fear of change.

Fear that it won't work the way you thought.  Maybe even fear that you won't like it.  Or that "it" won't like you back.

And I know this because I am having a positive change in my life too, but I still second guess, I still doubt, and I still sometimes want to barf up chunky pieces of my last snack from the sheer nerves that suddenly overtake me when I least expect it. 

But I know my sis, and I know that she is gonna make the best darn SAHM in the whole world.  And I am sooooo virtually celebrating this BIG, HUMONGOUS change in her life with her, this change that could quite possibly alter the course of the whole world.  (YES, I THINK REALLY BIG.  THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THINKING BIG.)

So I created this torte for her.  I wanted to call it a pie, but in my mind, when something is put in a springform pan, it cannot be called pie.  I'm a stickler like that.

It's three mousse-y, creamy layers of three of my favorite flavors--peanut butter, Nutella, and Biscoff.  In an Oreo cookie crust.  The end. 

Except to say, nice move, sis.

Here are my notes:

-I love thick crumb crusts.  I mean really thick.  So I used a whole pack of Oreos.  But if you don't like crust overkill, use your favorite crumb crust recipe.

-I just eyeballed the whipped cream when dividing it into thirds. 

-I gave this a good overnight chill before cutting.  It sliced nicely.  Then I froze the remainder.  And it was delicious frozen.  Who knew?

Layers of Love Torte

1 package Oreo cookies (not Double Stuf), finely crumbled or ground in a food processor or blender
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, divided
12 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature, divided
1/2 cup Biscoff spread
3 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a 9-inch springform pan on a baking sheet. 

Stir together the Oreo crumbs and the melted butter until just moistened.   Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. (They may not go all the way up the sides, but that’s okay.) Bake for 10 minutes, then cool completely on wire rack.

Beat 2 cups of the heavy cream with a wire whisk attachment until foamy.  Slowly add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks. Refrigerate until needed.   

In another bowl, beat 4 ounces cream cheese, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup Biscoff , and 1 tablespoon heavy cream until very smooth.  Fold in 1/3 of the whipped cream to the Biscoff mixture (eyeball it) and spread evenly in the bottom of the crust.

Rinse out bowl and beaters and beat another 4 ounces cream cheese, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup Nutella, and 1 tablespoon heavy cream until smooth.  Fold in another 1/3 of the whipped cream.  Spread evenly on Biscoff layer.  (I like to use an offset spatula.) 

Rinse bowl and beat the remaining cream cheese, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup peanut butter, and 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Fold in remaining whipped cream. Spread over Nutella layer.  Chill torte in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. 

Pin It!