Banana Split Brownies

May 21, 2013

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Banana Split Brownies! Sounds fantastic huh? The good news is they taste just as amazing as you might have imagined. Just picture this if you will…a fudgy banana brownie base, covered with a rich, banana infused chocolate ganache and then topped with gooey toasted marshmallows. That’s right! Three delicious layers!

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My husband loves banana anything, so he was over the moon with these brownies as that banana flavour really comes through. There is mashed banana in the brownie base and the chocolate ganache is made with cream that has been infused with banana flavour. You just can’t beat that chocolate banana combination. And no self-respecting banana split can be served without ice cream, so make sure you have some on hand when you bake a batch of these little devils. Are you drooling yet?

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Banana Split Brownies

recipe from: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

yield: 16 brownies

Ingredients:

For the Brownies:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup mashed overripe banana (about 1 medium banana)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (3 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (2 1/2 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder

For the Topping:

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped ripe banana (about 1 medium)
  • 7 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (55-62% cacao), finely chopped
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds (I didn’t use these, husband doesn’t care for nuts)

Directions:

For the brownies: Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line a 9-inch square metal baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides so you can lift the brownies out.  Butter and flour the foil.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it smells nutty and is golden in color, about 4-5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let the butter cool for 5 minutes.  Add the sugar and salt to the pan and whisk to combine.  Whisk in the eggs, banana and vanilla.  Finally, add the flour and cocoa powder and whisk until all ingredients are combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.

To make the topping: while the brownies are cooling, bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped banana.  Cover the pan and let steep for 1 hour.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Return the cream (with the banana still in the pan) to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Pour the cream through a strainer into the bowl with the chocolate.  Discard the banana in the strainer.  Let the chocolate/cream mixture stand for 1 minute then stir until smooth.  Pour the ganache over the brownies and spread evenly.

Preheat your oven’s broiler and set a rack about 6 inches from the heating element.  Distribute the marshmallows and almonds over the top of the ganache.  Put the pan under the broiler – watch it very carefully and turn the pan frequently – until the marshmallows are browned.

Remove the pan to a wire rack and let cool until the ganache is set, at least 1 1/2 hours.  Lift the brownies from the pan using the foil handles.  Cut the brownies using a wet knife, which will keep the marshmallows from sticking. Served with ice cream, these brownies are to die for!

Enjoy!

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Broccoli Salad

May 17, 2013

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As I was saying in my last post, cookout season has arrived. And thus far the humidity around here hasn’t reached its usual god-awful Virginia levels, so it is actually pleasant to be outside. But I know that heat and humidity is lurking just right around the corner. Soon I won’t want to be outside and definitely won’t want to be hovering over a hot stove. So I thought I’d share a really easy, summer time salad recipe today. You don’t need to go anywhere near a stove or oven to whip this dish together. Served cold and always refreshing, Broccoli Salad is in heavy rotation in this household all summer!

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My Mom originally gave me this recipe. But it wasn’t something we had for dinner when I was a kid. I don’t think she came across this one herself until I was off to college. When I was growing up the only raw vegetable dish I remember seeing was coleslaw. I guess I occasionally saw someone who was dieting eating raw carrots and celery sticks, but generally when vegetables were served for dinner, they were boiled until they were mushy. Now I know there are plenty of folks who love mushy vegetables and more power to them. I prefer a little texture to my vegetables. Perhaps it is a generational thing as most of the friends I have around my age prefer steamed veggies but say they remember mostly having mushy veggies served to them as kids. I have a great story about my Granddad and this Broccoli Salad along those lines. Many years ago I made a big bowl of this salad and took it to some gathering at my Mom’s house. My Granddad was chatting with my brother and said ‘ I don’t know who made this Broccoli dish, but I think they didn’t cook it quite long enough.” My brother just smiled and said, “Yes, it is a bit crunchy alright.”

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This salad is very easy to prepare. There is a bit of chopping involved, but since I got a food processor that really has not been an issue. I will say though that you have to be careful not to process the broccoli too much. You don’t want a broccoli paste, so just give it a few quick pulses. Now I know I said that you don’t have to turn on your stove to make this, but you may be thinking “hey…there’s bacon in here.” That’s true. I usually buy a bag of those real bacon bits and throw those in. Of course, you are welcome to fry up some bacon if you like. I just wanted you to know that there is a bit of a time-saving cheaters option that can be done here. And even though this salad doesn’t take long to prepare, folks will go wild for it! That broccoli is so fresh and crispy and the dressing is a lovely sweet and tangy combination. And, come on… it has bacon and cheese in it! You know it will be nothing short of addictive. A great salad to take to parties, pot lucks, picnics or for just a regular week night dinner. Give it a try!

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Broccoli Salad

recipe from: My Mom

yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 crowns broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 10-12 slices bacon, crumbled (about 3/4 cup of crumbled bacon)

For the dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Chop Broccoli (either in food processor, or old-fashioned way).  Place in large bowl. Add cheese, onion and crumbled bacon. Set aside.

In small bowl whisk together mayo, sugar and vinegar until smooth.

Pour dressing over the broccoli mixture and stir until thoroughly coated. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Enjoy!


Tipsy S’mores Bites

May 14, 2013

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Have those backyard cookouts fired up in your neck of the woods yet? They are in full swing around here and I found just the perfect little dessert to bring along to them. Tipsy S’mores Bites – Tiny bite sized s’mores infused with marshmallow vodka! Everyone loves S’mores and these little devils take it up a notch, primarily due to the addition of the booze, but they are not nearly as messy as an actual s’mores and you don’t have to work over the grill or fire pit to make them. They are ready to go. Just grab ’em and pop ’em right into your mouth!

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Of course this also means you can serve them inside if your party has gotten rained out. They are quite easy to make. In fact I usually make them over a couple of days. The first day I make the graham cracker cookie cups. Once your graham cracker crust is mixed up, fill each mini muffin well nearly to the top. Pat the filling down into the cup. And then use your fingers to shape the cup portion which will hold the chocolate. Or use a wine cork as I do. Once baked, you just fill them with that scrumptious boozy chocolate.

Making Graham Cracker cookie cups using my special wine cork shaping technique!

Making Graham Cracker cookie cups using my special wine cork shaping technique!

Now truth be told, you don’t really need a whole lot of that Marshmallow Vodka. My advice would be to try to get ahold of one of those little airplane bottles of the stuff. If you can’t find that, I suppose you could just use regular old vodka, or heaven forbid, eliminate the booze altogether. I will say that if you do buy a bigger bottle of the stuff, mixing it with root beer gives you something tasting real close to a good old-fashioned root beer float. Always a good thing in my book.

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Anyway, once the graham cracker cups and chocolate are finished, I store them in the fridge for 1-2 days. On the day I want to serve them, I whip up that marshmallow frosting and pipe it onto them. Then it is time for all the fun with the kitchen torch. Folks really do seem to love them. Have some ready for your next get together!

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Tipsy S’mores Bites

recipe inspired by: Teach Eat Love, My Baking Addiction, and Martha Stewart

yield: 36 mini s’mores cookie cups

Ingredients:

For the cookie cups:

  • 4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup butter
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • splash of milk (I used about 4 1/2 Tablespoons)

For the chocolate filling:

  • 6 ounces high quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/6 cup heavy cream (1.3 ounces, or 5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka

For the marshmallow topping:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Begin with the Graham Cracker Cookie Cups:

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar. Add milk a little at a time until the crumbs stick together just slightly. You don’t want a wet dough, so don’t add much more than a few tablespoons of milk. I ended up using about 4 1/2 Tablespoons. You are going to need to kind of “eye-ball” the amount because it will vary based on the brand of graham crackers and even the weather that you’re experiencing. The mixture will be crumbly but just moldable.
Scoop the crumbly graham cracker mixture into an ungreased mini muffin tin and pack each s’more down with your fingers, making a little indentation in the middle to hold the chocolate.  I used a small cookie scoop to fill the muffin wells, then patted the graham cracker crumb mixture flat. Finally I made a little well in the center of the graham crackers with the cork from a bottle of wine. Bake at 350° F for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack and then carefully remove each graham cracker cookie cup from the muffin tin to continue cooling on the rack.
Now for the tipsy marshmallow vodka infused chocolate filling:

 In a large pyrex measuring cup combine chocolate, butter and heavy cream. (You can use any microwave safe dish you prefer, but I like the pyrex measuring cup because it allows the melted chocolate to be easily poured into the cookie cups.) Place cup in microwave and heat for 20 seconds at a time until chocolate is melted. You do not want the chocolate boiling, just warmed enough to melt. Stir until you have a smooth mixture. Whisk in the vanilla and the Marshmallow Vodka. Pour the melted chocolate into the graham cracker cookie cups, filling to the top. You will likely have a bit of chocolate left over. Make sure you gather it all up and save it for later. Let me tell you, it is great re-warmed and  poured over ice cream!

Allow cookie cups to cool completely before adding the Marshmallow topping. I usually make the chocolate filled graham cracker cups the day prior to the day I need them and place them in the refrigerator to cool overnight. You just don’t want warm chocolate to melt your marshmallow frosting, so make sure they’re cool before you proceed.

Toasted Marshmallow Topping:

Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low-speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined.

Place frosting into pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip.  Pipe frosting onto each cooled chocolate filled graham cracker cup. Use a kitchen torch to lightly toast the frosting.
Enjoy!

White Wine Cake

May 10, 2013

IMG_3269I have a confession to make. I’m a total cake snob! I don’t know when it happened, but happened it did. I came to this realization the other day and I must say I was caught somewhat unaware. So let me set the scene for you. I was having one of those completely crazy days. Completely crazy but sort of tricky…you see it didn’t look like it was going to be crazy in the beginning. Everything seemed fine. My schedule was somewhat full, but not jammers by any means.  I got  going on my to-do list early and was very pleased when I arrived back home from the dog’s morning walk before most folks had set off for work. That was when the downward spiral began. After flitting here and there and all about the house with various chores, I noticed that I had come back from said walk with the bottom of one of my running sneakers coated with dog poo. Yup, stinky poo….which I had just proceeded to track all over the place. Right. I immediately set about cleaning that mess up and getting the day back on track but no, fate was not done with me yet. I continue to stumble around and kid you not every little thing that could go slightly askew did. Nothing major, but just persistent little annoyances. Finally, as I step out to run to the grocery store I find that the car battery was dead and the state registration was expired. Hmmm., I’m really behind now and I still have to whip up some sort of baked goods for a little get together tomorrow. I proceed to cross a bunch of stuff I thought could have been done off my list for the day to make sure I can focus on preparing the necessary baked goodies. I decide to take my husband’s car and head off to the grocery store, which was a hoot as usual. The weirdest stuff happens at the grocery stores around here…but that’s another story. That accomplished with little injury, I arrived home and opened the tailgate of the car to have a bottle of olive oil, which had become dislodged from its bag in transit, fall out onto the driveway and shatter. Hmmm…a slick, slippery, razor sharp mess. Nice! I limped into the house and poured myself a little glass of white wine and tried to regroup.

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That is when I remembered my Mom’s White Wine Cake recipe. It was delicious and really easy to make. I thought perhaps I should cancel out the time intensive, multi-stepped dessert I had planned to do that evening and make that wonderfully easy White Wine Cake instead…but I instantly despaired and thought, “No. That cake is made with box cake mix. I have to do something from scratch.” That was it. The moment of clarity when I recognized the ridiculous cake snobbery that had inexplicably taken hold of me somewhere along the way. Mom had always been lavished with rave reviews whenever she made that cake. Having eaten it before, I knew it was fantastic. Yet I seemed to somehow think it was below me because it was made with a box mix. A box mix which, I might point out, was very convenient, easy and along with a few additional ingredients baked up to be quite tasty! How foolheaded could I possibly be? Surely God put those cake mixes on this green earth to make life a little easier for us poor creatures.?!! Come to think of it, life is too short and way too action packed to turn up your nose at box cake mixes! So I decided right then and there to make it and you know what? Folks couldn’t stop raving about how much they loved that White Wine Cake. It was moist, buttery, white wine perfection! And the glaze you drench it in? Ambrosia I tell you! I could nearly drink it straight from the pan. Not to mention, when I finally got over myself and settled in to making it, I realized how much fun it was, especially after my trying day. It didn’t tax my brain at all. You know….it was a little wine for the cake…a couple glugs (or possibly glasses) for the cook…etc. etc. It was White Wine Cake therapy and it actually went a long way to improving my mood and outlook. Make this cake and soon. You won’t be disappointed, perhaps a little tispsy….but never disappointed!

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White Wine Cake

recipe from: My Mom

Ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 3 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 Cup water
  • 3/4 Cup Vegetable oil
  • 1/4 Cup white wine
  • 1/4 Cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 Cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup pecans-finely chopped

Glaze:

  • 1/4 Cup butter
  • 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/8 Cup water
  • 1/8 Cup wine (possibly more depending on your mood and the day you’ve had)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan and set aside.

Place all of the ingredients except for the pecans in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until blended.

Fold 1/4 cup of the pecans into the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup pecans in the bottom of the prepared cake pan and then pour batter over top of them.

Bake cake for 50-60 minutes. Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack.

While Cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. Melt butter, sugar and water over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add the wine, stirring to combine.

Remove cake from pan. Place baking sheet under wire rack. Using a pastry brush or marinate brush, cover cake with glaze. I usually do this in several passes, letting one application of glaze sink in and then going back over the cake with another, etc.

Enjoy!


M&M Cookie Bars

May 7, 2013

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Want a tasty, crowd pleasing treat that doesn’t take much time or effort to make? Look no further, you’ve found it here with these M&M Cookie Bars. These wonderfully thick and chewy bars are simply delicious, buttery and chocolatey and every single bite is just bursting with M&M’s. And as I’ve mentioned, they are so easy to make I could almost do it in my sleep. (And perhaps I have…though that is an entirely different story) But really, in 45 minutes these little devils are done and dusted with the dishes washed up and everything!

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The great thing about using M&M’s in these bars, besides the fact that folks just plain love them, is that it makes the dessert very versatile. M&M’s come in so many varieties these days. You can find bags of them with colours customized for almost every holiday, they come in white chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter, pretzel filled, etc. etc. By changing which type of M&M you use, you’ll seem to have come up with a brand spanking new dessert every time. Minimal effort, maximum results. Gotta love that. Bake yourself the first of many batches today!

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M&M Cookie Bars

recipe from: What Megan’s Making

yield: 16 squares

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/8 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 12 Tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1 12oz bag M&M’s, divided ( I used mini M&M’s but regular sized will work fine as well)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position. Grease a 9×9″ pan and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter and sugars until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in 1 cup of M&M’s and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Sprinkle remaining M&M’s on top and press in slightly.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until the top of the bars is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan. Cool completely before cutting.

Enjoy!


BBQ Pulled Pork Taquitos

May 3, 2013

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Here it is, May 3rd and Cinco de Mayo is nearly upon us! But there is still time to make these outstanding BBQ Pulled Pork Taquitos before the big day and I assure you, you will be glad that you did! If you’ll recall, just a few weeks ago I broke out my slow cooker and made some mouth-watering pork carnitas which I used for Carnitas Tacos. Quite unbelievably,  I actually had a bit of that pork leftover and that is what went into these Taquitos.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I loved those tacos, but I can see firing up that crock pot again just to make these little devils. Not only are they absolutely dee-lish but they are also easy to prepare. No frying, these gems are baked. And where a lot of recipes I perused called for cream cheese, these little fellows are made with ranch dressing and BBQ sauce. Now you can pick whatever BBQ sauce happens to be your favourite. As you know, if you’ve been paying any mind to us around here, we like it pretty spicy, so I went with a Habañero Hot. But you can customize this recipe to your taste and do whatsoever you please, as far as the sauce goes anyway…sweet, mustardy, vinegary…you name it! I will say though if you are going to follow my lead, you might want to have a bunch of beer iced down and ready to go. (Actually, now that I think about it,  you should do that regardless of the sauce you pick 🙂

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One thing you should keep in mind is that it does take a while for the slow cooker to work its magic on that pork shoulder, so plan ahead. But once that pork is pulled and ready to go, these Taquitos assemble quickly and easily. You can make up a big tray of them earlier in the day and then just pop them into the oven 30 minutes or so before party guests arrive. Not that you need to have a party to serve these. My husband is already making plans to have the next batch I make all to his self! In fact, I haven’t tried this, but I think you could substitute in some chicken (perhaps rotisserie chicken if you are pressed for time) for the pork and these would still taste superb. So there you have it. I’ve given you a few great Cinco de Mayo recipes now, Carnitas Tacos, Salsa, Guacamole and BBQ Pulled Pork Taquitos. With food mostly covered, you should be well on your way to planning a rocking celebration in just a couple of days. Don’t forget the drinks…oh, and a hot Mariachi Band. Let me know how it goes!

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BBQ Pulled Pork Taquitos

recipe slightly adapted from: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Yield: 10-12 Taquitos

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup ranch dressing
  • 1/3 cup barbecue sauce  (I used Sticky Fingers Smokehouse’s Habañero Hot sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • dash of hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups shredded pulled pork (I used left-overs from the pork I made for Carnitas Tacos)
  • 1 cup shredded  cheese (I used Sargento’s Four Cheese Mexican Blend)
  • 10-12 (6-inch) corn or flour tortillas
  • ranch dressing and/or barbecue sauce, for serving

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together 1/4 cup of the ranch dressing, the barbecue sauce, paprika, chile powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, brown sugar, salt, red onion, scallions and cilantro. (If the mixture seems too dry, add the remaining ranch dressing.) Add the pork and cheese and stir until evenly distributed. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

Place 2 tortillas at a time on a microwave safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 25 seconds, or until the tortillas are soft and pliable. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the filling onto the lower third of each tortilla, and roll tightly. Place seam side-down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.

Spray the tops of the taquitos with cooking spray and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tortillas are crisp and golden. Serve with salsa and/or barbecue sauce.

Enjoy!


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