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Monday, August 30, 2010

crispy chocolate log


This past weekend, my husband was throwing his good friend a bachelor party.  When he asked me to make "those rice crispy chocolate things," I immediately said yes.  This is one of my favorite dessert snacks because it's so easy to make and tastes absolutely amazing.

I got this recipe back in high school.  Our Spanish teacher was also the cheerleading coach (and a rather unlikely one at that), so she would sell baked goods to her Spanish classes in order to raise money for the cheerleaders.  As a Spanish student, I gained probably 5 pounds that year, just due to my consumption of these crispy chocolate treats alone.  I managed to track down the parent who donated the goodies and persuade her to give me the recipe.

Start by lining a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  I've also used wax paper, but it doesn't work nearly as well.

Spray the paper heavily with cooking spray.


In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, drop in 1/4 cup of peanut butter (optional), 1/4 cup margarine or butter, and an entire bag of large marshmallows.


Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, until your marshmallows get nice and puffy.


Then stir it all down, making sure to mix the peanut butter and margarine in with the marshmallows.  YUM!


Mix into your marshmallows approximately 5 1/2 cups of crisp rice cereal until coated and then spread in your prepared pan.  I find the best method for spreading the marshmallowy mess is to run cold water over my hands before patting the mixture down - no stick!


And now I need to take a detour from the recipe to explain to you why I love these so much...it's the bowl.  There is no way possible to get all of the marshmallowy rice crispies out of the bowl and onto that pan.  There are only two possible solutions for this problem - either I just put the bowl in the sink as it is, or I eat what is left inside.

Can you guess which option I picked?


Unfortunately for me, my husband also had the same idea.  I had my back turned for one minute, and the next thing I know the entire contents of the bowl are gone...and his face is covered in marshmallow.

Men.

Now on to the part of the recipe that really makes these goodies shine.  Mix 3/4 cup butterscotch chips and 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips in a microwave-safe mixing bowl.


Microwave on high 2-3 minutes (stopping at least every minute to stir), until the chips are melted.  Do not let these cook for the full 2-3 minutes without stirring or you'll get burnt chocolate...and nobody wants that.


Spread the melted chocolate over the top of the rice crispy mixture, getting it as close to the edges as you can.  After you're done with that, you'll want to lick the chocolate bowl (I made sure he didn't steal that one!).


Pick up the parchment paper on one of the long ends, and start to roll into a log.


Keep rolling...


...until it looks like this!

Once it's rolled, position it so that it is seam side down and then chill for at least one hour to allow the chocolate to set.


Finally, cut into slices and enjoy!


This is one of those easy-to-make recipes that is perfect to individually wrap and then put in lunch boxes or take on road trips.  I encourage you to serve them chilled...there's just something wonderful about biting into a chewy rice crispy layer before hitting the cool candy bar center.

In order to make these lower fat, try cutting the margarine down by half and cutting down or completely omitting the peanut butter.  It won't turn these into health food, but it will leave you with a much lighter dessert without compromising the flavor.

Crispy Chocolate Log
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 bag large marshmallows
5 1/2 cups crisped rice cereal
1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cups butterscotch chips

Line a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper and spray heavily with cooking spray; set aside.

In a microwave-safe mixing bowl, combine margarine, peanut butter, and marshmallows.  Microwave on high 2-3 minutes until margarine is melted and marshmallows have expanded.  Stir to combine.  Add crisped rice cereal, stirring until thoroughly coated.  Spread evenly into pan.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate and butterscotch chips.  Microwave on high 2-3 minutes (stirring at least every minute) until melted; stir.  Spread evenly over top of crisped rice mixture.

Lift up a long end of the parchment paper, and roll dessert like a jelly roll until it forms a log.  Arrange so that the seam is down, and then chill for at least one hour, or until chocolate center is set.  Cut into slices.  Makes 15 servings.

Nutrition (original version): 251 cal, 9g fat, 3g sat fat, 1g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 156mg sodium, 42g carbs, 0g fiber, 26g sugars, 3g protein, 4% vit A, 8% vit. C, 0% calcium, 7% iron.

Nutrition (reduced-fat version mentioned in post): 212 cal, 5g fat, 3g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 0g cholesterol, 124mg sodium, 41g carbs, 0g fiber, 26g sugars, 2g protein, 4% vit. A, 8% vit. C, 0% calcium, 6% iron.

This recipe is linked to Gooseberry Patch's Recipe Roundup: Kids' Goodies!
Also linked to This Week's Cravings: Thanksgiving Treats and Sweets!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

make-ahead meatballs


I love, love, love, love make-ahead meals!  There's something comforting about knowing that you've got the "emergency" meal in the freezer for those times when you run out of time...or ingredients!

I've featured a lot of meals that are suitable for making and freezing.  Like this hearty potato soup for example...perfect to freeze and then heat up on a chilly day.


Or these marinated turkey wraps.  Make the turkey in your slow cooker and then freeze it for later!  The wraps are also easy to assemble one day and eat the next.


And what freezes better than pasta sauce?  This kickin' pasta sauce is a 15-minute meal in itself, but it is also incredibly delicious to make-ahead and freeze for a day when all you feel like doing is boiling the noodles.


And, no, I wouldn't forget dessert.  Blueberry vanilla pie is an easy-to-fix impressive dessert.  Whip up the filling and assemble the pie.  Freeze and then cook when ready!


The meatballs I'm featuring today are as easy as it gets.  I usually like to have a gallon size Ziplock bag of meatballs sitting in my freezer.  It's easy to pull out as many servings as I'm going to need, microwave, and go!

To make, whisk together one egg and 1/2 cup milk (or milk substitute) in a medium bowl.


Add a cup of quick-cooking oats or soft bread crumbs.  I like to use oatmeal in order to add a bit of hidden fiber, but bread crumbs also work well.


Toss in some spices and herbs.  You can use whatever you like - modify to get the taste you want!

I always recommend throwing in the basics...salt and pepper.  I've also been known to add basil and oregano for an Italian flair, or cumin and chili powder for a Mexican taste.

Today...well, today I added nutmeg.  Surprisingly, a hint of nutmeg makes a great, versatile meatball that goes well in just about anything.


At this point, you may also want to add some diced onion or peppers...or maybe some chopped spinach.  Be creative with what you put in!

I kept mine basic and left out the veggies.

Mix everything in your bowl together and then crumble a pound of ground meat (I use ground turkey) over the top.  Stick your (clean!) hands right in that mess and mix it all together.

[Pretend I have pictures here of me doing this.  Sorry...my hands had raw meat all over them.]

Then, shape the meat into meatballs and place into greased baking dishes.  I put a little butter in between every few meatballs to enhance the flavor.  It's fun, but entirely unnecessary.



Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until they are cooked through.

If you want to freeze these, let them cool a bit and then freeze in a freezer-safe storage bag.  When it's time to eat them, simply microwave until heated!

We love these.  They are a great way to stretch a pound of meat.  Think of it - one pound of meat either makes 4 hamburgers or 28 meatballs!  At 4 meatballs a person, that's 7 servings!  They are also low in fat and a great way to sneak in fiber and veggies.

We eat these often smothered in BBQ or buffalo wing sauce and served over mashed potatoes.


We also like these served in a Swedish dill cream sauce with noodles (recipe for dill sauce below).


With make-ahead meatballs, you can't go wrong!

Make-Ahead Meatballs
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (or other liquid)
1 cup quick-cooking oats or soft bread crumbs
1 lb. ground meat
Salt, pepper, and other preferred spices
Onion, green pepper, spinach, or other preferred veggies

Whisk together egg and milk in a medium bowl.  Stir in oats, spices, and any veggies.  Crumble meat over the top and then use hands to mix in.  Form meat mixture into meatballs and place in greased baking dishes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.  Makes 28 meatballs.

Nutrition (calculated per meatball with ground turkey, oats, and no veggies): 40 cal, 2g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 21mg cholesterol, 103mg sodium, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 4g protein, 0% vit. A, 0% vit. C, 1% calcium, 2% iron.

Swedish Dill Cream Sauce
(adapted from Taste of Home 2006)
2 T. flour (gluten-free is okay)
1 cup milk, cream, or milk-substitute
1 cup beef broth
1 t. salt
1/2 t. dill seed

In a bowl, combine ingredients until blended.  Stir into a skillet.  Bring to a boil, cooking and stirring until thickened.  Serve over meatballs.

Linked up with Foodie Friday and Potluck Sunday!

Monday, August 23, 2010

homemade air freshener

"Don't you get fresh with me, ya hear!"

Oh, I love it when adults (especially grandparents) say that to little kids.  What does it mean exactly?  Does it mean we'd rather children get dirty with us?  Haha...who knows?

Today, I'm going to ask you to actually get fresh with me.  This kitchen craft project is too fun and too easy not to try.  I really wish I had discovered it earlier in life...like when I was a Resident Assistant in college and wasn't allowed to have candles...or all of those times when I haven't had the money to go on a shopping spree at Yankee Candle.

I digress.  Let me just say...you'll love this.


I was roaming around on Tasty Kitchen one day when I came across a recipe for homemade air freshener.  This intrigued me!  I love candles, but as we all know, you can't leave them burning unattended.  And there are some rooms in my home where I want a constant, unattended scent (ahem, the bathroom).  These gel air fresheners are the perfect solution.

To make these little beauties, you first need a heat-proof jars (I found mine for $0.99 each at Michael's), food coloring colors of your choice, and essential oil.  You can find inexpensive essential oils of various scents at craft stores like Michael's and Hobby Lobby.  I chose a raspberry vanilla scented oil...it smells delightful!


Into each jar, drop a few drops (I repeat...a few...it doesn't take more than 2 or 3) of food coloring.  Then, put in about 30 drops of essential oil, give or take.  The more essential oil you put in, the stronger the smell.


Now for the fun part.  Gather up 4 envelopes of unflavored gelatin, a tablespoon of salt, and 2 cups of cold water.

Why salt?  Salt (or vodka) apparently help to keep the gel from molding.  Interesting fact, isn't it!


Get one cup of water boiling on the stove.  When it begins to boil, whisk in the gelatin, stirring until it's all dissolved.


Then, pour in the other cup of cold water and the salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved.


Quickly pour the hot gelatin mixture in each of your jars, and then use a disposable stick or spoon to stir it into the oil and food coloring.


Let these gel overnight, and then voila!  Air freshener!


This project takes a total of five minutes to make, is highly economical, and each jar should last you about a month.  This would make a great back-to-school gift for any teacher!

To recap, here's the full ingredient list:
  • heatproof jars
  • food coloring
  • essential oil
  • 4 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 1 T. salt
  • 2 cups cold water

This recipe is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday , Tasty Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Table

Thursday, August 19, 2010

pork chops with blueberry balsamic glaze

Remember this guy?


Well, not only can he eat, but my cutie-pie of a husband can also cook.  And that's an understatement!

Every once in a while, I have trouble coming up with things to put on our weekly menu.  That's when he comes to the rescue.

He's Superman like that.

I told him that I couldn't figure out what to fix, and he started to get this mischievous little gleam in his eye (he gets those a lot).  He started rifling through recipe books, pulling out all the spices in the cabinet, and muttering to himself.  And then he smiled...

"I've got it!" he exclaimed.

"Well, which recipe did you pick?" I asked.

"I didn't.  I'm making up my own."

"Are you serious?"

"Yep.  We're gonna need some pork chops."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how this recipe came to be.


For this dish, you'll need some pork chops.  You'll also need minced garlic, a few spices of your choosing (he used sage and some Grill Mates Roasted Garlic and Herb), some pepper (he used a little of the white and a little of the red), balsamic vinegar, and some blueberry deliciousness! 

 
Heat up a couple of teaspoons of oil in a nonstick skillet and then put on the pork chops.


While the bottoms are browning, sprinkle some minced garlic on the top of each.


After a few minutes, flip the pork chops over to cook on the other side.  You want them to eventually cook all the way through.


Once the pork is cooked through, remove it to a plate and sprinkle your seasonings on it.  My husband would say, don't skip the pepper.  You want this dish to have a subtle hint of heat to it.  So, no matter what pepper you choose, just make sure you put it on!


Now for the glaze.  Here's where my man is a genius.  And no, you can't have him...he's mine.

He mixed equal parts of balsamic vinegar and my blueberry-lime jam (click over to see the recipe)! That's it!


Now, I recognize that you might not want to take the time to make blueberry-lime jam.  That's okay.  Just go buy yourself some blueberry jam from the store, splash in some lime juice, and mix it up with balsamic vinegar.

When you taste the glaze, you want to taste more blueberry than vinegar.  And just like the pepper, you don't want to forget the lime.  It adds an incredible dimension to the flavor.

Incredible.

Spread the glaze over the pork chops and sink your teeth into something delicious.


Maybe I loved this dish so much because I wasn't the one who had to make it.  Or maybe it was because the cook was so darn cute.  

I don't think so, though.  I think it was the taste. :-)

Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Glaze
2-4 pork chops
2 t. oil
1-2 t. minced garlic
herbs to taste (your choice)
pepper to taste (we recommend ground red pepper)
equal parts balsamic vinegar and blueberry-lime jam

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet.  Rub pork chops with minced garlic and then cook them in the oil.  After they are cooked, sprinkle the pork chops with herbs and pepper.  Remove to a plate.

For glaze, combine equal parts balsamic vinegar and blueberry-lime jam.  If blueberry-lime jam is unavailable, simply splash some lime juice into blueberry jam for the same effect.  Spread glaze over pork chops just before serving.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

cilantro lime tostadas


After making the chicken tortilla soup, I had a lot of leftover corn tortillas on my hands.  I decided it was time to make tostadas, and I dug into my Tasty Kitchen recipe box for the perfect recipe...the Pioneer Woman's Tequila Lime Chicken.

Ree doesn't turn her chicken into tostadas...she serves it topped with Monterey Jack and all the fixings you could want.  She also uses tequila in her marinade.

I didn't do any of those things.

What can I say?  I'm a rebel.

Instead, I made a marinade for my chicken out of 1/2 cup lime juice, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, a teaspoon of salt, an overflowing half cup of cilantro (possibly more...I just started dumping it in), 1/2 cup of white wine, and 5 tablespoons olive oil.


Oh yeah...and a jalapeno.  Can't forget that!


I blended this cacophony of ingredients together until the result was a neon green liquid that made my husband give me a very strange look.  His look got stranger when he saw me pour it into a gallon-sized Ziplock bag and throw 4 chicken breasts in with it.

It was a look that said, "We're eating that?"

Yep, dear...we sure are.


I let my chicken marinate overnight and then all the next day until it was dinner time.  Then, I tossed it on the grill!


Since the whole purpose of making this recipe was to use up corn tortillas, I turned a few of them into baked tostada shells.  Simply put them on a cookie sheet, spray them with cooking spray, and sprinkle a little bit of salt on top of them.  Bake them at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until they get nice and crispy.


Now time for the toppings - I pulled out lettuce, avocado, shredded cheddar, sauteed onions and green peppers, and of course the grilled chicken (cut into strips).


The end result was a great summertime meal.



Now my only question is this...how in the world are you supposed to eat tostadas without making a mess?  This is definitely not something you want to attempt to eat on a first date, especially if you pile them as high as I did.

When it was time for leftovers, I learned my lesson.  Instead of tostadas, we baked some homemade taco shells and had cilantro lime tacos!


Cilantro Lime Tostadas (or tacos...or whatever!)
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup white wine
heaping 1/2 cup cilantro
2 t. minced garlic
1 t. salt
1 jalapeno, sliced
5 T. olive oil
4 chicken breasts
corn tortillas and tostada toppings

Place the first 6 ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.  Slowly pour in the olive oil, blending it in.  Pour marinade in a large Ziplock bag and add chicken breasts, turning over a few times to coat.  Refrigerate overnight, and then grill.

For tostadas, place corn tortillas on a cookie sheet; spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 400 for 10 minutes or until crispy.  Top with strips of grilled chicken and toppings of your choice (lettuce, cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa, etc).
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