Salt River Bars

September 28, 2012

My husband loves salt. Wait, I don’t think that statement really conveys his feelings about salt adequately. He really LOVES salt. You know, he is a complete salt fiend. The kind of fellow who drives all of those top chefs mad by reaching for that salt shaker before he ever tastes one little bite of whatever it is that he is about to eat. I used to get a bit upset about it. I mean, I did take care to salt the item appropriately as I cooked it. But now, I know that whatever I do, it won’t be enough salt for him. I’ve accepted it. I know they say salt is bad for you, but he has low blood pressure and is very healthy and active. Perhaps he has eaten a large enough quantity that he is somewhat preserved and immune to its detrimental effects. Anyway, his love of salt was how I knew I’d instantly get his attention when I said that I was making Salt River Bars for dessert. As he grinned and his eyes took on a far-away look, I knew he was visualizing himself floating down his dream river of salt, munching on a delicious treat.

Now you don’t actually need a river of salt to make these bars, much to my husband’s dismay. They are incredibly easy to make. No oven required. And you get a treat that gives you that wonderful, often mentioned here, salty/sweet taste sensation. These bars also deliver with rich chocolate, gooey caramel, creamy peanut butter and a satisfying crunch. They’ve got it all going on! And just think, you can have all of this goodness for yourself, ready to devour in about 30 minutes or so. What are you waitin for? Get to it!

Salt River Bars

recipe from: Baker Girl

yield: 25 (1 1/2″) squares

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Club crackers
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • Coarse sea salt

Directions:

Line an 8×8-inch pan with foil, allowing the edges to hang over the side, and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Place 15 crackers in the bottom of the pan (3 rows of 5). For three layers, divide the peanut butter chips into thirds and sprinkle 1/3 over the crackers.
Melt butter and brown sugar in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbly and smooth and a creamy caramel color, about 4 minutes. Pour 1/3 of the caramel over the peanut butter chips and crackers, then add another layer of crackers, peanut butter chips, and caramel, then repeat again for the third layer, topping the last layer with crackers.
 Melt the chocolate chips and pour over the crackers, spreading evenly.
Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the top.Allow chocolate to set up in refrigerator (about 20 minutes), then lightly cut through the partially-set chocolate (to make it easier to cut after it cools completely). Place bars back into the fridge. Once cooled completely, gently remove bars by lifting out foil. Cut accordingly (they are pretty rich, so I cut them in smallish 1 1/2″ squares. I used a pizza cutter, not a wheel, but one of those rocking ones and it worked very well)
*If you want to make this in a 9×13-inch pan, add about a half more of everything in measurements.
Enjoy!
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Blueberry Banana Oat Bread

September 25, 2012

Yay! It is officially Autumn, my favourite time of the year. But last week, while it was still technically Summer, I bought some gorgeous Driscoll’s Blueberries. These berries were huge! Quite possibly approaching plum size, I kid you not! (well, perhaps I am exaggerating just a bit…). Anyway, I snatched them up right away and brought them home to make some as yet to be determined treat! I took the berries out of their little plastic carton, literally holding my breath, hoping that the outer berries hadn’t artfully arranged themselves as to obscur all of the moldy, yucky berries in the center of the package. Thankfully all of the berries in the carton were pristine, but I’m sure you’ve all experienced the disappointment of getting what you think is a great bunch of berries home to find that they are really a petri dish of various scary molds. I’ve always had great luck with Driscoll’s Berries, I usually buy their organic ones. They are always fresh and sweet. So that has become my brand of choice. And the folks at Driscoll’s have a great website which not only describes their business, but also provides some great berry recipes. It was there that I found this recipe for Blueberry Banana Oat Bread.

I’m always trying out different banana bread recipes and this was definitely a winner. The banana bread was very moist and had a great texture from the addition of the rolled oats. And those monster blueberries didn’t just look good, they were sweet and bursting with flavour!

A slice of this bread was great for breakfast as well as a welcome snack later in the day. And with all of those oats and berries, I’m sure it’s health benefits negate the calories! At least that’s what I’m telling myself…

Blueberry Banana Oat Bread

recipe from: Driscolls

yield: 1 loaf bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana, about 2 medium
  • 2/3 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cups canola oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups Driscoll’s Blueberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and dust lightly with flour.

Whisk buttermilk, eggs, banana, sugar and oil in a large bowl until well blended. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl. Stir flour mixture into buttermilk mixture, mixing just until combined.Gently fold in blueberries. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake about 1 hour, or until browned and a pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Enjoy!


Bacon Bourbon BBQ Chicken Kebabs

September 21, 2012

That’s right! Bacon Bourbon BBQ Chicken Kebabs! Could anymore deliciousness be squeezed into a recipe title?!! So, to break it down, what I’m talking about here are lovely little pieces of chicken skewered onto a stick, coated with a bacon paste ( oh be still by heart…there is such a thing as a bacon paste!), smothered with a boozy Bourbon BBQ sauce and then, thanks to the mad grilling skills of my husband, grilled to perfection. (if I had grilled them they would have been a bit more crispy and a lot darker shade). As if there could be anything other than “perfection” with the likes of the list of ingredients just described.

These kebabs are easy to prepare and you can make them up well in advance of when you plan to grill them. The bacon paste coating was also quite easy to make. You just throw bacon pieces into the food processor along with your spices and whirr it all up until you’ve got a paste. I must admit, though, the thought of  it was a bit weird. I’ve never really worked with meat pastes before, but if they all taste as good as bacon paste, I say bring ’em on! You can use any BBQ sauce that you like with this recipe as well. If you are short on time, just get a bottle of your favourite from the grocery store. I happened to have some of the Chipotle BBQ sauce left over from the Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork I made a little while ago, so I used that. You just add a bit of vinegar to your sauce if it needs a bit of a tangy zing and then pour in that booze! (Knob Creek for me) Easy peasy!

These kebabs are just delicious! The bacon paste not only keeps the chicken from drying out, but infuses it with a mouth-watering spicy flavour. And then that boozy BBQ sauce really gives them quite a kick. Smoke and Bourbon…deelish!

I know summer is drawing to a close (yay! yay! and super yay!), so you’ve gotta try to get these in your Fall grilling repertoire. You won’t regret it!

Bacon Bourbon BBQ Chicken Kebabs

recipe from: The Slow Roasted Italian

yield: 8- 10 kebabs

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces barbeque sauce, I used my homemade Chipotle BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey  (I prefer Knob Creek)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4-5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1”x1” pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • ¼ cup sweet paprika
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 6 slices bacon , cut into small pieces
  • 8-10 12-inch wooden skewers (soaked in water for an hour)
Directions:
In a medium bowl combine barbeque sauce, vinegar and whiskey. (My Chipotle BBQ sauce was vinegary enough, so I chose not to add any to mine. However, if you have a sweeter sauce you are using, you may want to add the vinegar)  Whisk to combine.  Set aside and allow flavors to meld.
Add bacon pieces  to the bowl of your food processor and blend until bacon becomes a paste.  Add salt, pepper, paprikas, and sugar.  Pulse until well combined.
Pat chicken with a paper towel to dry.  Add bacon paste mixture to chicken; mix with hands until chicken is completely coated. Place chicken on skewers.
Place kebabs on preheated grill.  Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes.  Brush cooked surface with barbecue sauce and cook each side (coated in sauce) for 1 additional minute.
Remove kebabs from grill.  Pour remaining barbeque sauce into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour into a serving container and serve barbecue sauce along side kebabs.
Enjoy!

Lemon Cranberry White Chocolate Scones

September 18, 2012

I love scones! Especially the home-made ones, which put those things that a certain ever-present coffee shop sells to shame!  Scones are very easy to make, so I don’t know why I even bother with the store-bought ones. Yet every once it a while, I’m tempted while getting my morning caffeine fix and I buy one. In a moment of doubt as I’m reaching for my cash, I even think back to the last baked good I purchased there and how it really wasn’t worth the calories, much less the money. But then I convince myself that it was probably just a fluke last time and that the one that’s in the display case today look fresh. It will be different this time. But it’s not. Sad to say, the scones are always sort of stale and sickeningly sweet. What a disappointment. I should have waited til I got home, or bundled up one of my good home-made scones to take along with me for the road. I guess hope springs eternal.

I promise you these Lemon Cranberry White Chocolate Scones will not disappoint. They are just chock-full of favourites of mine, namely cranberries and white chocolate. The lemon zest gives them a wonderful fresh zing as well. Slathered in butter, clotted cream and topped with strawberries…pure heaven!

One taste of these lovelies and you’ll be ruined for the coffee shop scones. They’ll still have you for their coffee elixirs, so you shouldn’t feel but so bad for them. And one day maybe I’ll learn.

Lemon Cranberry White Chocolate Scones

recipe adapted from: The Sweet Chick

yield: 8 scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I used Craisins)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • heavy cream to brush over tops of scones
  • Demerara sugar to sprinkle over scones

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place flour, sugar, and baking powder in bowl of food processor. Whirr a few times to combine. Add butter to flour mixture and process until mixture resembles coarse sand. Place flour/butter mixture in large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl mix egg and milk until blended.  Add to the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Don’t overmix. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, cranberries and white chocolate chips. Mix gently. The batter will be a dough like consistency.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal sized portions. Roll dough out into circles which area about an inch thick. With a knife or pizza cutter, cut each of the dough circles into four equal sized  triangles.
Separate the triangles and place on prepared cookie sheet. Brush the tops of each scone with cream and then sprinkle with Demerara sugar.
Bake at 425° F for 15 minutes or until tops are golden.
Enjoy!

Lemony Cornmeal Strawberry Shortcakes

September 14, 2012

I bet ya’ll knew I couldn’t stay away from that cornmeal for long huh? This time I made good old Strawberry Shortcakes, that perfect summer time dessert (actually the weather around here has been surprisingly pleasant, with very little humidity. However, I fear Virginia summers are not done with us yet and after lulling us into a false sense of security, may return for an encore performance ). Since cornmeal seemed to work very well in so many of my other culinary creations, (Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies, Blueberry Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes…) I thought adding a little cornmeal to the biscuit part of the Strawberry Shortcake would be delicious. And I wasn’t wrong. These biscuits were really tasty and had a distinct down-home style to them! Flaky and buttery, just like the traditional shortbread biscuit but with a bit of crunch and texture thanks to the cornmeal. The addition of the lemon zest gives it a wonderfully fresh zing as well. Layer on some fresh strawberries and top with whipped cream and you just can’t go wrong! Make some of these up for Summer’s last hurrah… you know those sneaky oppressive temps are lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce!  (I’m such a pessimist 🙂 )

Lemony Cornmeal Strawberry Shortcakes

recipe from: Baked Bree

yield: 10 -12 shortcakes (depending on what size you cut your biscuits to)

Ingredients:

For the strawberries:

  • 16 ounces fresh strawberries, quartered
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • juice from a half of a lemon

For the lemon cornmeal biscuits:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 6 Tablespoons cold butter cubed
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 2/3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream (to brush on top)
  • Demerara sugar

Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Directions:

Put the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest in the food processor. Pulse a couple of times to combine. Add the butter. Process until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

Whisk together the eggs and cream.

Pour the mixture into the top of the food processor and process until the dough just starts to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Handle dough as little as possible at this point. Roll out dough to 1/2″ – 3/4″ thickness.

Using a sharp 1 1/2″ – 2″ biscuit cutter, cut out as many biscuits as you can, taking care to push the cutter straight down to cut. Do not twist cutter or biscuits will not rise as well. Brush with a little cream.

Sprinkle with Demerara sugar.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 10-13 minutes or until the tops are just golden brown.

Meanwhile, toss the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice. Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes or until you are ready to serve.

Whip the cream and sugar until soft peaks form.

To assemble, cut the biscuit in half and layer with strawberries and whipped cream.

Enjoy!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

September 11, 2012

Here’s one for all of you salty/sweet loving folks out there and believe you me, I am a card-carrying member of your club. Not to mention, this little recipe gem has peanut butter (another favourite of mine) thrown in as well. The title really says it all: Chocolate…Peanut Butter…Pretzel Bars. Yuuuuum! How wonderfully decadent! In just one of these little squares you not only get your salty/sweet fix, but you also get a fabulous texture convergence of the crispy crunchy base and the silky smooth topping.

As if the sinfully delicious taste isn’t enough to inspire you to make these bars, I might add that they are very easy to put together. No oven time is required.  Which is definitely a plus when you live in Virginia in the summer. (speaking of which…it is now September and I am DONE with all of this heat and humidity. Could someone please pass that message along to whoever is in charge of the Virginia climate…) All you need is the good old microwave oven. And you’ll be totally finished and popping these bars into the fridge to chill before you even know you’ve started. However one taste of these delightful little bars will make folks believe you laboured over them all day. What are you waiting for…hop to it!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

recipe from: Craving Chronicles

yield: 9 medium-sized bars or 16 small bars

Ingredients:

Peanut Butter Base:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups pretzel crumbs, fine
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 heaping cup semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Line 8×8 pan with foil. Spray with baking spray.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt peanut butter and butter together in microwave (about 1 minute on HIGH). Stir in pretzel crumbs, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Spread evenly into prepared pan and refrigerate at least 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan or microwave-safe container, heat heavy cream to near boiling (1-2 minutes on HIGH, depending on your microwave). Pour over chocolate chips. Let sit for 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. (If needed, microwave on DEFROST 10 seconds at a time to finish melting.) Pour chocolate over chilled peanut butter base. Chill.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting. Lift foil to remove from pan, then slice into bars with a pizza cutter. Store in refrigerator.

Enjoy!


Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork

September 7, 2012

Coffee-Chipotle rubbed Pulled Pork on home made Jalapeno Cheddar Rolls! Super yum!!! This is the fabulous creation with which I stuffed my tasty Jalapeno Cheddar Rolls that I was all a flutter about earlier this week. I certainly was pleased with those rolls and the addition of the pork barbecue elevated this sandwich to legendary status in my house! Once I had all of that tender, spicy pulled pork piled high on my roll, I drizzled a Chipotle Barbecue Sauce over the top. Let me tell you folks, it was BBQ Heaven! Truly stunning, if I must say so myself, though I really needn’t bother because the friends I served it to did manage to sing its praises as they gobbled it up.

The husband and I love a good pulled pork sandwich, preferably with a North Carolina style BBQ sauce (vinegar based). I had never actually tried to make this favourite dish of ours at home, preferring to leave all that hard work to the certified pit-masters. However, I thought perhaps I should attempt to raise my Southern cred a bit. I mean what self-respecting Southern cook can’t handle whipping up a little pulled pork?! So I started looking for a good recipe. I looked at lots of recipes and was definitely intrigued, especially by those that directed you to cook the pork submerged in root beer. (I love root beer!) But they almost always called for cooking it up in a slow cooker or crock pot, neither of which I own. (how is that possible?) Then I came across this recipe from Tracey at Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, which called for simply cooking the pork in your oven. For a long time, mind you, but no special equipment was necessary. The other interesting thing about the recipe was that all you added to the pan besides your coffee-chipotle rubbed pork butt was a bit of olive oil. What no root beer?!! I was afraid this pork was going to be tough and dry as old shoe leather. But Tracey has never steered me wrong with one of her posted recipes, so I popped that seasoned pork into the oven in the morning and by the time folks showed up that evening, dinner was ready to be served. And the house smelled amazing!

You can toss this pulled pork with some of the Chipotle BBQ sauce prior to serving if you wish. But I knew I had some dedicated North Carolina style BBQ fans coming over. So I served this spicy pulled pork “naked” and provided both the Chipotle BBQ sauce as well as some good old North Carolina sauce on the side. (Along with coleslaw, which I love to put on my BBQ sandwiches.) Turns out the Chipotle BBQ sauce was quite tangy, so much so that even the North Carolina diehards were eating it up. So overall, this recipe was easy to prepare, very easy to cook and really delicious! The only drawback was that we had very few leftovers! ( note to self: invite fewer folks next time I make this or get a much larger cut of pork)

Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork

Recipe very slightly adapted from: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Yield: about 12 servings (kind of depends on how much meat you pile on your roll!)

Ingredients:

  • 4 lb. boneless pork butt
  • canola oil

Coffee-Chipotle Rub:

  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground dark coffee
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon allspice

Chipotle Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons adobo sauce from can
  • 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice

Directions:

To make the rub: Stir all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Massage the spice rub onto the pork, coating each side thoroughly. Wrap the pork tightly with two layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. (You may have extra rub, save it in an airtight container for another time.)

To make the barbecue sauce: Add the oil to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. When shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If desired, you can puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. (I pureed mine because I had an onion-hater coming for dinner and was attempting to hide the offending vegetables presence.) The barbecue sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in your refrigerator for a week.

Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before you cook it. Preheat oven to 250 F.

Add 1 teaspoon of canola oil to a dutch oven, and place the pork in the pan, fat side up. Cook, uncovered, for about 8 hours (about 2 hours/lb if you want to use a bigger or smaller piece of meat), or until very tender.

Remove the pan from the oven and let stand for an hour. Transfer the meat to a cutting board, and use two forks to shred it. Toss with some of the barbecue sauce – how much is up to you. Or serve meat naked with sauce choices on the side.

Enjoy!


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