Monday, June 25, 2012

Nutella Bars

I feel like I've been running ninety to nothing for several months now, and the disturbing thing for me is that I don't feel like I have it all together like when I was younger.

Like last year when I was only forty. 

Moving, projects, life, a brush with death, and, oh yeah, launching my photography business last month have really worn me down.  (Live in the area and have a senior?  I would love to do their portraits.  Pick me!  Pick me!)

So hubby and I decided to get away for a few days to the ginormous town of Excel, Alabama, and spend some much needed quiet time at Beulah Camp, where I was without the internet for four whole days.

It's okay.  I'm fine.  Really.

FYI:  It actually does a soul good to be without the internet for a few days.

Atticus Finch will always hold a special place in my heart. 

And since Excel is really close to Monroeville, we took a little excursion over there to check out that historic little town.  Monroeville is home to Pulitzer prize winning author Harper Lee, and the town was used as a model for the fictional town, Maycomb, in her book To Kill A Mockingbird.  Both Richard and I were under the impression that the entire movie was shot there, but our bubbles were busted when we were told that it was actually filmed in Hollywood.  They did, however, use the Monroe County courthouse as a model for the courthouse set that they constructed in Hollywood for the movie.

Well bummer.

We still had fun being all tourist-y, plus we had a really good lunch at the Courthouse grill.

This is a picture of me for my dad.  My dad just recently discovered my blog.  Hi Dad!

I did manage to find some time to experiment in the kitchen recently, though. These bars are a version of the the Brown Sugar-Biscoff bars I did a while back.  They have a gooey middle and kind of a crackly top, like lemon bars.  I had to restrain myself.

Here are my notes:

-My daughter said they should be sweeter.  I disagree.  I liked them the way they were.  But if you'd like a sweeter bar, I suggest increasing the sugar in the filling by 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

-These were puffed and set at about 25 minutes in my oven, which is much less time than the Biscoff bars took in the oven in my old house.  Start checking them at about 23 minutes.

Nutella Bars

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine crust ingredients on low to medium speed just until mixture is evenly mixed and moist.  (It will start clumping together.) Dump into an 8 x 8 inch baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Press mixture onto bottom of pan in an even layer. (Use wet fingers if mixture sticks to skin.)  Prick 6-8 times with a fork, then bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown around edges.

Meanwhile, beat the ingredients for the filling on medium speed until smooth.  When crust is done, pour mixture evenly over crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until middle is puffed and just set.  Cool completely on wire rack before cutting into bars. 

*Increase sugar in filling by 1/4 to 1/2 cup for a sweeter bar.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Italian-ish Squash Casserole

My week so far has been good.  Except for a tiny, little, near-death experience, it has been good.

And I will *not* be embarrassed one bit for calling an ambulance to come get me because I thought I was having a heart attack yesterday.  Every person who thinks they are dying should definitely call an ambulance.  That's just the right thing to do.

I am, however, utterly and completely MORTIFIED at my attire and lack of proper hygiene.  (In my defense, I was just about to go outside to have a hot and sweaty work day.  And tell me why should I shower for that?)

But when my heart suddenly started pounding out of my chest and I was gasping for air and the room was spinning and growing darker by the second, raggedy clothing and the extra layer of plaque on my teeth seemed completely irrelevant.

It didn't hit me until ten minutes later when the ambulance crew arrived and my heart had settled down and my breathing had returned to almost normal, that complete strangers were there to take me out of my home and out into the world where other strangers and possibly people that I actually knew would be seeing me face to face.  Did I really want to do this?

But somehow an "U-hm, nevermind. I'm okay now, guys." just didn't seem appropriate.  It was too late.  I was committed even though I had on the grungiest pair of yoga pants ever and a baby blue bass t-shirt that my husband had bought back in the eighties.  (In my defense, it's really soft and comfy.  Probably because it's threadbare.)

Plus, I was beyond scared.   I don't want to make light of that.

Even though I'm making light of that.  It's the way I deal with my own afflictions. 

So I had some kind of scary, weird episode with my heart.  It wasn't a heart attack and I will be following up with my doctor *for reals* next week.  And I will be showering even before I go mow now and shopping for much nicer yoga pants to wear around the house.  The kind that I would be proud to wear in public if the need arises.  Which I hope it won't.  But you never know.

So enough about my health problems.  Let's talk about squash.  I love it. I bought two big boxes of it last week to put up in the freezer.  And I was all happy and stuff because my hubby is always saying how much he likes those "old-fashioned vegetables" like the kind he ate as a child when he and his family had a great, big garden, so I was all "Babe, I have squash!"  And he was like "Squash is okay, but it's not my favorite."  It turns out snap beans rank much higher on his list.  Still, I wanted to make a squash recipe that would really knock his socks off, but yet be comforting and remind him of his childhood, so I made some slight changes to a regular old squash casserole.  And you know what he said to me?  He said, "Lorie darling [he calls me Lorie darling sometimes], the next time we have a get together anywhere, you should bring this."


Here are my notes:

-I used about 8 heaping cups of chopped squash, which sounds like a lot but I was able to fit it all in a 9 x 9-inch square casserole dish.  It was two really large squash and one medium.

-I am loving Progresso's Italian flavored panko crumbs. 

-I used fresh Parmesan cheese which I shredded myself. 

-If I had thought about it at the time, I might have added in some chopped fresh basil. But I didn't think about it.  Plus, my basil plants are struggling. :(

Italian-ish Squash Casserole

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
8 heaping cups chopped yellow squash
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
1 cup Italian style panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 9 inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the squash and onion, and cook until squash is crisp-tender. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the Parmesan and mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour into casserole dish.  Stir together the panko crumbs and 3 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle on the squash.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly. 

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Baked Sourdough Panzanella Caprese

The tomatoes are rolling in.  Big, fat, juicy, slicing tomatoes.  The kind you put between two slices of Sunbeam white bread with some mayonnaise and salt and pepper.  Then you need three napkins because the juice rolls down your arm.

But no sandwich today.  I was watching an episode of Giada the other day (I just love her recipes!) and she made a dish I just had to try.  The original recipe is here, but I made individual portions in rectangle ramekins and didn't measure.  This was heaven to me and I could eat it every day for lunch.  Here are my notes and how to do it.  No recipe needed.

First, butter a pan, dish, ramekin, whatever, and lay a single layer of tomatoes sliced about 1/4 inch thick in the bottom. 

Next, drizzle with some balsamic vinegar.  You don't have to drown it, just enough to give it some flavor.  I would salt and pepper to taste at this point, but I forgot to do that when I made it.

Place a single layer of fresh mozzarella slices on the tomatoes.  About a 1/4 inch thick or so.

Add some chopped garlic and some chopped fresh basil.  Drizzle with some good extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Place a slice (or slices, depending on your pan size) of sourdough bread on top.  Drizzle with olive oil again.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.  I baked mine for 25 minutes, then stuck it under the broiler until golden brown.

I let it set for about 10 minutes before I dug in.  Note:  mine had a lot of water in the bottom after I baked it from the type of slicing tomatoes I used.  No problem here, though.  I just tipped my ramekin and poured it off.  Different types of tomatoes will give off more or less juice.  It was still delicious.

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