Friday, May 31, 2013

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Glaze

Now that (I think) summer has finally arrived, I thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes:  Caprese Salad with Balsamic Glaze.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.  

It's a great summer salad:  cherry or grape tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and a sweet/tart balsamic glaze.  Very simple, very elegant and always delicious.  It makes a great side salad or a meatless meal.


Caprese Salad

1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
1 fresh ball Mozzarella
5 large Basil leaves
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Water

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, and balsamic vinegar.  Stir together and heat over low until in comes to a boil.  Let boil for 30 seconds and remove from heat.  Let cool.  This will make enough glaze for 3 or 4 salads.

Wash and  prep the tomatoes by cutting each cherry tomato in half.  Place in a medium-sized bowl.  Next, prep your mozzarella by cutting the ball into small bite-size pieces.  Add to the bowl with the tomatoes.  Now, shred the basil and add to the tomatoes and mozzarella.  Use your discretion on the basil - you can always add more if you like.

Once balsamic glaze is cool to touch, drizzle over the salad and toss to combine.  A little of the glaze goes a long way.  Sprinkle with black cracked pepper before serving.  Delicious!

To save the extra glaze - place in sealed container (like an old small jar) and it should keep for 3-4 weeks on the shelf.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Next Best Thing Since Robert Redford

Robert Redford . . . . I'm too young to really know who this guy is.  American actor, native Californian, heart throb to many (just not me).  You can read about him here.   He sure was popular though . . .and to have a dessert named after you . . .well, we can all hope for that someday!!

If you like desserts that are cool and decadent - this one is for you!  This is an old favorite from my mom's recipe box.  It has a crust, a cheesecake-y layer, a chocolate pudding layer, and whip cream layer.  How can you not love all that?? Oh, and by the way - it makes an 9x13 pan.  I cut the recipe in half when I made it this afternoon. 

I believe it may go by many other names . . .but it will always be Robert Redford for me :)

Robert Redford Dessert

Next Best Thing to Robert Redford Dessert

1st Layer
1 cup flour
2 tsp sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Combine all above ingredients as you would for a pie crust.  Press into a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Cool Completely.

2nd Layer
2-8oz pkgs cream cheese
1 and 1/3 cup powdered sugar
8 oz whipped cream
Combine all ingredients together in mixer bowl.  Beat slowly until all is soft and thoroughly incorporated.  Spread on top of cooled crust.

3rd Layer
3 small pkgs instant chocolate pudding
4 cups milk

In a clean bowl, combine pudding powder and milk.  Beat together for 2 minutes.  Let rest for 5 minutes and then pour over the 2nd layer.  Top with 8 oz whipped cream.  Suggested garnishes:  dust with cocoa powder or sprinkle with chocolate shavings or chopped nuts.
Keep refrigerated.
Please note:  the picture below is a 1/2 recipe, not a full recipe.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Frittata with Spinach, Bacon and Onion

Here's a quick meal for you - Frittata with Spinach, Bacon and Onion.  
God Bless the Incredible Edible Egg :) 

I can bring home the bacon.  And fry it up in a pan. . . . .(name that line!!)  Typically, I'm a big ambassador of baking bacon, but sometimes you want to fry it . . like in this wonderful, 1-pan meal.  And please ignore my stove that really needs to be scrubbed.  I vow to never buy another stove with a white glass-top.  EVER.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm  . . .couldn't resist another bacon shot.  If only this was a smello-blog.

While the bacon is cooking and teasing your taste-buds with their aromatic wonderfulness, beat two eggs in your favorite mug.  This is not my favorite mug.  But it was the only clean mug.  Rest are in the dishwasher.

Once the bacon is cooked to your fancy, remove it from the pan and drain it on a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  Do not remove the grease from the frying pan.

Now, add a large handful of fresh spinach to the hot pan.   Meanwhile, chop up your bacon.  As well, dice up some red onion.  Saute the spinach until wilted.


  Now add your beaten egg.

And thin sprinkle on your bacon and red onion.  I just love the sweetness of red onion in this dish.

Now, I'm not a master of flipping eggs in the pan.  My hubby is, I am not.  And I don't like runny eggs.  I like my eggs nice and firm.  Hence, I like to put a lid on pan to steam the eggs through.  That way, the top gets cooked too . . .and no runny eggs.

However, you can try to flip it.  After all, you'll never get it right unless you try.  Not too shabby, if I do say so myself ;)

And then plate this baby up and garnish with some sour cream and fresh cracked black pepper.  Ooo-lah-lah . . .fancy eggs!

Frittata with Spinach, Bacon and Onion

2 Eggs
2-3 Strips of Bacon
1 Cup Fresh Spinach Leaves
1/4 Cup Red Onion, diced
Sour Cream (optional)

Step 1:  Cook the bacon in a frying pan.  Remove the bacon from the pan once it is cooked through.  Drain on paper towels.  Do not discard the grease.

Step 2:  Add the Spinach to the pan and saute until wilted.  Meanwhile, chop the bacon and dice up the onion.

Step 3:  Beat two eggs and pour them into the fry pan (and over the wilted spinach).  Then, sprinkle the bacon and onion over the top of the egg.

Step 4:  Let the egg cook until firm all the way through.  

Step 5:  Remove from the pan and garnish with sour cream.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that spring is finally here to stay!  It was 65 degrees out the other day - so I ran all over my house to open up the windows and let the fresh air in so it could swirl around and infect us with uplifted spirits general joy.  And air the place out. . .who am I kidding?  

With the windows open and the sun shining in - I reached way back in my memory to pull out a recipe I hadn't used in a long time:  Peanut Butter Crispy Bars. 

So easy.  So delicious.  I could barely wait to devour.  But I did.  And only barely enough to let them set up properly.  Please disregard my ugly hand.  I was too impatient to plate this baby.

This is a no-bake recipe, which is great for the summer.  I just love, love, love these!  You can use any kind of unsweetened cereal.  My hubby insisted on using crispy rice cereal this time.  I actually prefer a blend of bran flakes and puffed wheat.  But hey, they are delicious regardless!

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

6 Cups Cereal of Choice (must be unsweetened - suggestions:  corn flakes, rice cereal, puffed wheat)
2 Cups Peanut Butter
1 Cup Honey or Corn Syrup (I used Honey)
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Frosting (optional)
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Butterscotch Chips
2 TB Milk

Step 1:  Grease a 9x13-inch cake pan.  Set aside.

Step 2:  In a saucepan over low heat, combine the Honey, Salt, Sugar, Vanilla and Peanut Butter.  Heat over medium low, stirring to make sure it doesn't burn, until all ingredients are well combined and the sugar has melted into the other ingredients.  Remove from heat.

Step 3:  Measure out the cereal into a large bowl.  Pour the peanut mixture over the cereal and stir to combine really well.  Do this while the mixture is still warm . .. once the peanut butter goo starts to cool off, it's harder to stir in the cereal.

Step 4:  Spread the mixture into the cake pan and press down so it is firmly compacted into the pan.

And for the frosting . . .

Step 5:  In a microwavable bowl, add the Chocolate Chips, Butterscotch Chips and Milk.  Microwave for 30 seconds and then stir.  If it is not completely melted yet, microwave for another 10 seconds and then stir. It shouldn't take too long to get this all melted together - and you do not want to overcook it!  If it still isn't smooth, microwave for another 10 seconds and then stir.  Once all melted together and smooth, pour over the bars and spread evenly.  Let set before cutting and eating.

I've eaten these many times without the frosting.  In fact, don't be afraid to eat them without.  They truly are delicious with or without the frosting!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Candied Bacon

I'm not gonna lie.  I've been very busy.  And when I haven't been busy, I've been very lazy.  True story.

On top of all the usual hockey-related and church-related activities and work, we've had some other craptastic news piled onto us with a sick family member.

And if that wasn't enough . .. my hubby came home one night and said, "Can we make candied bacon for not-tomorrow, but the day after?"

You see, he had an apprentice at work who was graduating from the program and he wanted to celebrate by bringing in candied bacon.  Really, it's not a bad idea at all.

Until you have to start chasing around a toddler in addition to chauffeuring around a teenager and sick family members.  Then it becomes a rush job with the potential to be a burden.  

However, we managed to escape the burden.  And hubby helped make it.  Which is a HUGE help. 

This was rather easy and simple...assuming you like bacon.  And what's not to love about bacon?  Please note, I made both candied bacon and chocolate covered bacon.  I used a 1/2 pound of bacon for each variety.

Candied Bacon

1/2 LB Bacon, thick cut
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar

Step 1:
Prepare the pans in order to cook the bacon. Do you know the easiest way to cook bacon?  Bake it.  Get it:  BAKE-ON  :)  I love a good pun.  All silliness aside, it truly is the easiest way.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil.  Place oven safe baking racks on the lined baking sheet.  Place bacon on top of the racks.  This allows for the grease to drip away from the bacon as it cooks.  

Step 2:
For each slice of bacon,  take a big pinch of brown sugar and rub it onto the raw bacon.  Only do this to one side of the bacon.  Make sure it's nice and coated.  Repeat this for each slice of bacon to be candied.  

Step 3:
Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes.  Mmmmmmm . .. smells delicious.

Step 4:
Remove from the oven and flip each piece of bacon over.  Carefully sprinkle brown sugar on this side of the  bacon.  Disburse/spread the sugar evenly with a spatula as needed.  Return to oven for additional 5-10 minutes.

Step 5:
Remove from oven.  Let cool.  Resist to eat it while hot.  You will burn yourself if you do.  Yes, I am speaking from experience. 

Chocolate Coated Bacon

1/2 LB Bacon, thick cut
1/2 LB Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Step 1:
Prepare and cook your bacon however you prefer to (I like to bake it).  You will need your bacon to be CRISPY for this treat!  Drain thoroughly on paper towels and let cool.

Step 2:
In a microwave safe bowl, pour in the chocolate chips.  Place in microwave and cook on high for twenty seconds.  Remove and stir.  Return to the microwave and cook again for twenty seconds.  Stir.  Caution: you want to be very careful with melting your chocolate.  You just barely want it melted.  This is why you microwave for small amounts of time and stir.  It may look lumpy when you take it out, but once you stir it - it will smooth out.  It should take very long to melt it.

Step 3:
Dip the cooled bacon into the chocolate and place on wax paper to set.  Once the chocolate has hardened, enjoy!

Storage:  Place both the candied and the chocolate coated bacon in the fridge for storage.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Foodie Penpal Reveal Day #2

Happy Foodie Penpal Day!

If you've been reading anything about the Midwest lately - you may have realized that we are being bombarded with snow this spring.  And - it's making everyone a little grouchy.  I think we are approaching 6 months of snow.  Uff da.

But wanna know what makes my day brighter?

Receiving fun packages in the mail!  Even if I have to lug them back to the house through the snow laden driveway.  

This month my Food Penpal Package arrived from Athens, GA.

As you can see - there is some yummy stuff in there:

1.  Banana Bread Mix from Trader Joe's - I've only ever baked banana bread from scratch.  However, I am excited to try this out - because it's something I would never buy. . .and it's always good to try out new things.  Furthermore, I've never ate a banana bread I didn't like.  Ever.  True Story.

2.  Mountain Trail Mix - Nuts, chocolate candies, raisins oh-my!  I'm not sure who tore into it first:  my daughter or my hubby.

3.  Clover Blossom Honey - YUM.  I loves me some honey.  Especially on waffles.  With bacon.  Would it be wrong to have that for dinner twice in three days?  

4.  Dried Mango Strips - now this is something  I've truly never had.  I do like mango.  In fact, my son and I just devoured one the other week (the little monkey thought it was the best fruit he had ever eaten).  So, I'm very curious to try this dried version.  

Curious about the Foodie Penpal Program?  Head over to The Lean Green Bean for more details!