Smoked Almond Toffee Mini Milk Chocolate Kisses

Ever since I tried smoked almonds a few months ago I’ve been planning on making some kind of cookies with them. So here we are.

D&D_266016 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup smoked almonds, chopped
8 ozs toffee pieces
5 ozs mini milk chocolate kisses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In bowl of stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and blend well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add almonds, toffee, and kisses.

Scoop dough onto baking sheet with a couple inches in between. Sprinkle with a little Maldon salt if you’re in the mood. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, turning the pans half way through.

Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Source: Mod Meals on Mendenhall & cute firefighter guys never hurt. Recipe modified by, um, me.

2 Feb 2018

Pull-Apart Cheesy Garlic Bread

This is the third version I’ve made since this past fall, but only the first version I’ve been relatively happy with. There might be still more work to be done, but I will keep at it like the trooper that I am. D&D_1643

Things I’ve learned:
-You need a sturdy bread. A round is okay, but I like a Chicago Italian loaf the best so far. A white bread (version #2, I used White Mountain Bread round) and it was just too soft. You can’t really pull-apart the bread. Sort of defeats the purpose.
-Roast the head of garlic. Great flavor and compliments the minced garlic. Yes.
-Melt the butter in a pot and add all flavorings. Keep on low to infuse the butter with lots of flavor.
-Use sliced cheese in the lower part of the cross-hatched of bread. Use grated cheese above.
-Add lemon zest and lemon juice.
-Fresh herbs – your choice but I like chives, parsley, and finely minced rosemary.
-Red pepper flakes are a must, even if it’s just a tiny pinch.
-Make the cross-hatch pattern large – it’s easier to stuff than a tight cross-hatch pattern.

Loaf of Chicago Italian Bread
Head of garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 Tbs minced parsley
1 tsp finely minced rosemary
I Tbs Dijon mustard
1/3 pound provolone, sliced kind of thick
1/3 pound colby, grated on large holes of box grater
minced chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut top 1/2 inch of head of garlic to expose cloves. Place on piece of foil, pour olive oil on garlic, wrap tightly in foil and bake about 40 minutes, until garlic head is soft. Remove and set aside. Leave oven on.

Melt butter over medium low heat in saucepan, add in minced garlic, salt, red pepper, black pepper, zest and juice from lemon. Add in parsley, rosemary, and Dijon mustard. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place bread on foil and make a large cross-hatch pattern, slicing most of the way, but not all the way through. Brush tops and sides with butter. Slide provolone in crevices, then squish roasted garlic in with the provolone, and then stuff the colby as well. Spread remaining butter with herbs into crevices and on top.

Bake until cheese melts, 18 – 20 minutes. Top with chives and serve.

15 January 2018

Roasted Stuffed Acorn Squash

I have never cooked an acorn squash – or any winter squash for that matter. Therefore this was a completely new experience for me. It did not hurt that I make rice just about every week and make mushrooms pretty much every week too. Rice, mushrooms, shallots, lemon – just my kind of go to lunch.

I would rather take lunch to work than to go out for it (or breakfast). I think I make pretty good food and I make what I like and that works for me. Why go out and buy something if you are happy with the things you make. And for me, I like to mix things up a bit. Sometimes it is toasted bread with mushrooms and some cheese,  or rice with mushrooms and artichoke hearts. I always have cheese and butter at work – and always always a fresh lemon. I also have a salt and pepper grinders – makes a difference.

I guess that is where my lunch hacks come from. Take something you have and turn it into something new with just what you have, appliance wise, at the office. In my case – toaster, toaster oven, and a microwave. Looking forward to the new office where will have a warming oven. Hoping it gets hot enough to make cookies (350 degrees). That will just smell great.

D&D_24931 acorn squash, cut in half stem to root and scoop out seeds/strings
1/2 cup grain, jasmine rice, cooked, finished w/lemon juice/zest
1 cup vegetables, cooked (crimini mushrooms, shallots, garlic, lemon juice/zest)
1/2 cup extra sharp white cheddar
Additional filling ingredients as desired, dried fruits, nuts, etc.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (convection).

Place the squash halves cut-side-down in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to fill the pan by about 1/4 inch. Cover the dish loosely with foil and place the dish in the middle of the oven.

Roast the squash until easily pierced by a paring knife, 30 to 50 minutes. Exact roasting time will depend on the size of your squash.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the filling. Mix filling ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper and any other spice you would like. Or add some dried fruits (I’m thinking cranberry here) or nuts.

Flip the cooked squash halves so they form bowls. Rub the inside with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide the filling between the halves — mound the filling on top.

Cover the pan with the foil and bake the halves for another 15 to 20 minutes until both are hot and bubbly. Top with extra cheese and serve immediately.

15 minutes at 375 convection, turn 15 more – done.

This was pretty cool. Will be trying more winter squashes. Such a new thing for me. I kind of like the speckled look of the acorn squash. Looks like stars.

Source: thekitchen.com

Haystacks

I have no idea why my mother made these for Christmas. None whatsoever. Another thing that will never be explained, but somehow this came back into my memory this fall and I thought I would at least make it once as an adult and decide if it was as good as I remember. And to also see what the Boy would think of it. I am sure the MotH will not touch it with a ten foot pole. No surprise there really. **

This isn’t so much a recipe but a method really, but so many recipes included chocolate in the Haystacks and I can damn sure tell you that was not in my mom’s recipe. Peanut butter was not involved either. Can we say, ugh? Sometimes simple, really, is best.

D&D_2559This recipe uses nuts and I can see how some salted dry roasted or honey roasted peanuts would be good, but I think I am going to go with some chopped up pretzel bits. It is all about the salt, especially when you are dealing with something as cloying sweet as butterscotch morsels.

24 ounces butterscotch chips
5 ounces chow mein noodles – what to do w/the rest of them??
1½ cup chopped nuts (dry roasted peanuts, almonds, or cashews are a few good choices)
1 1/2 cups chopped pretzel pieces –  dipping sticks – what else can I do with them??

Melt butterscotch morsels gently in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not let bowl touch water or get water in chips – not good juju.

Combine noodles and nuts in a large bowl. Pour melted butterscotch over noodle/pretzel mixture and combine until everything is coated.

Drop heaping tablespoons onto parchment or wax paper and let cool. Serve or store in airtight containers.

Source She Wears Many Hats

** Strange thing, both the MotH and the Boy said I have done this before, and I honestly think they are both imagining things. Much as I *love* butterscotch, I really think I would remember it. That said, I know I have never done this with pretzel pieces.

And now I have more pretzels to play with – more chocolate dipping might be involved. But no chocolate in haystacks – um, ever.

Hummus Wrap

I just can not bring myself to purchase hummus. No matter what – I think it because I am too cheap. It is just so damn easy to make hummus at home and no what any banana-pants cookbook or chef says – canned garbanzo beans are really just fine. Buy the Publix brand and just make your life so much simpler.

Again, this is a recipe from my vegetarian 1990s and I still make it all the time. The thing about this recipe is balance. I think even the banana-pants (read: fancy) chefs would agree to that.

Hummus ~
2 lemons, zested & juiced
2 cloves of garlic
1-15 ozs. can garbanzo beans
1 Tbs tahini or there abouts
kosher salt
water
olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, whirl up the garlic cloves until minced. Rinse the garbanzo beans in a colander, getting rid of the canning liquid* and add to food processor. Pulse a couple of times. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and pulse again. Add tahini and adjust the thickness of the hummus with a little water if necessary. Then add a little bit of really good olive oil**, because it is just a lovely thing. Taste as you go along.

Then here is the important part: Put the hummus in the fridge. Yes, this takes advanced planning, but you need to make your hummus a day ahead at the least. Let the flavors mix and then let the hummus sit out and try again – cold hummus will tell you nothing. No cold food ever tastes at its best unless it is, maybe, ice cream, but I am not even sure about that. Does it need more lemon, more salt, some sumac, a little freshly ground black pepper? Or is it just spiffy the way it is?

The Rest of the Stuff ~
Sun-dried tomato tortilla, warmed
Red onion, sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil, soft, but keep them red, splash of vinegar – red wine, or course
Crimini mushrooms, sautéed until juices are dry and well salted and peppered
Spinach (from the salad bar at the Publix)#

So this turned into more of a project than I expected, but the outcome was just lovely. I made the hummus, onions, and, mushrooms ahead of time and they hung out in the fridge for a couple of days. Did keep munching on those onions though – they were really good. Kind of pickled onions that were just a little soft.

Take a warm tortilla and spread with homemade hummus down the middle. Add the red onions and mushrooms down the middle. Top with spinach. Then do your best to roll the tortilla. I am not good at this – at all, but it worked well enough that I will get better over time. I’m sure (nope).

D&D_2268

Next time: feta, sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, but well-drained), artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus, hearts of palm. All these are just questions really. I could just go on and on. I really think these will make great lunch hacks, but I must pack all the items in small containers and keep them separate until it is time for lunch. Read: need new “tupperware” containers and lots of them. And I must toast or heat the tortilla  – that seems to be necessary.

November 2017 – Idea for the wrap from Ree Drummond.

*Know this is a controversial thing, but we’ll get there. I just do not like the taste. Sorry, vegan Aquafaba. Eeww.

**California Olive Ranch – Everyday. I can now get this at my Publix – very happy!

#When you only need a little greens for a sandwich or two, the salad bar can be a very good thing. If I am making a couple of spinach quiches – then I buy bags, but otherwise the salad bar is your friend.

2YA – Cheddar Pecan Crisps

Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting

So one of my friends had birthday a few weeks ago and we got her a small (6″, 3 layer) cake. Yellow cake with fudge frosting. It reminded me of my mom’s best cake. The one we all loved. But I haven’t tried to make it – yet. But I saw this and thought — okay, single layer – yes; frosting seems pretty simple – yes. I was going to try it and so a few days latter, I did. I am beyond pleased with it. MotH and the Boy both liked it though they are not big sweets fans. The office seemed to really like it too and that makes me happy. I will make this again. Really simple for a great tasting cake and frosting. Next time cupcakes??!!
D&D_2203
CAKE:
1 cup granulated sugar
8 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 2/3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream (8 ozs)

FROSTING:
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (2 ozs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9″ round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with a parchment round and spray again.

Beat together the sugar and butter until thoroughly combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes; the batter will lighten in color and become fluffy. Yes, very fluffy. Set your iPhone timer for this.

Add the vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, stirring to combine.

Starting and ending with the flour, alternately add the flour and sour cream to the mixture. Beat gently to combine after each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Do not overwork.

Pour batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula (a Get it Right ultimate spatula). Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes turning the pan half way through, until it’s golden brown on top, the edges are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or mostly clean

After 10 minutes, turn the cake out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.*

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the cocoa and vanilla yogurt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. It may look like it is seperating, but just hang in there. Add the butter mixture to the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl, beating until smooth. Quickly pour over the cooled cake, while the frosting is still warm. Smooth with an off-set spatula.**

* You can make the cake up to this point and wrap in plastic (as long as you are sure it is cool) and refrigerate for a day or two before frosting. I did it – and it worked really well.

** This is a very simple frosting, but it works really well. I am stunned at how simple this whole cake is to make. Really. This could surely be a weeknight cake.

D&D_2196I will say, I would eat this cake any day without frosting. It is that good. Like a snack cake – wonder what it would take to put it in a loaf pan and decorate with a little powdered sugar when it is finished and cool?

Guess I will be chatting with the bakers from King Arthur Flour again. I love that you can just chat and ask the questions you need answers to – a great service to the KAF customers.

Cheesy Artichoke Rice

I hate the way when you look up “cheesy rice” and you get “minute rice” and non-cheese cheese slices. Ugh. That is just not right. And that is also not cheese either.  Who does this?  I ran out of orzo and thought to make a rice recipe that would work for my lunches at work. I prefer home-made lunch to restaurants, with some exceptions.  You know, things I just don’t make (Indian food) and that I know other people do a much better job than me. But pasta dishes, rice dishes, when lots of cheese or mushrooms are involved – I think I got this. No, I know I do. D&D_2081

So my thoughts on this are:

I need lunch for tomorrow.
I have no vegetable or chicken stock (unreal!) and I’m not going to the grocery store at 8:30pm. Nope.
I have lots of rice.
I have quite the variety of cheeses.
I have scallions that are mostly okay.~
Always have onions and garlic.
Lemon zest

With all that in mind, I’m going to figure out what to make tonight and here is what I did.
2 cups H2O
1 cup long grain rice
lots of salt

Cook like you always make rice – if you need a tutorial this is how it goes: Thank you The Kitchn.

Once you remove it from the heat, add 3 Tbs of unsalted butter while it steams on the back burner — important: lid on, heat off.

Unsalted butter
Olive oil
Small yellow onion, diced
3 good sized cloves of garlic, minced
artichoke hearts, drained & quartered (not marinated)
~ the scallions were past there “best buy” date at this point – too bad. But the onions and garlic made up for it.

In a saute pan, melt 2 Tbs unsalted butter and one small yellow onion diced and a good pinch of kosher salt. Saute on low-ish heat until soft. Then add three cloves (less or more as you prefer) minced and let them sit on the top of the onions  – you don’t want them to burn. Stir them in a bit and then remove from heat.

Now, here is where things get interesting – I opened a can of artichoke hearts and quartered them and added them to the onion mixture with a little glug of olive oil and let everything simmer until it was a cohesive mix of veg that was soft – that seems to be key.

D&D_iPhone_image1As mentioned – I have cheese options – so I pulled out all the cheese that had already been opened. Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego  – so the decision is which one or which combination to use. I used some Manchego because it is melty but it grates like a cheddar, but just a little softer and the Dog (Hood) really likes it. And then the Pecorino – for that salty flavor – a great sheep’s milk hard cheese. Not too different, really from Parmigiano, but not the same either. Manchego is another sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. So I guess this is the Spanish sheep milk cheese recipe.

I have to say cheese, for me, matters not if it from a cow, a goat, or a sheep. I just love cheese in a stupid sort of way. That is probably obvious by now.

But when I do it again, I will put some sharp cheddar in the mix. This time I added lemon zest at home and took that lemon to work for the juice for my lunch leftover hacks. Excellent.

I think that just might be the key to a great lunch hack at work. I always have a fresh lemon and a bit of grated Pecorino or Parmigiano in the fridge there – it really makes all the difference in the world. From boring leftovers to something special.