Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Salty Toffee Bark

I was going to post something savory until I realized that its getting painfully close to Christmas and it is my duty to supply you with as many potential cookie tray desserts as possible. Plus, at work today the office was gifted 3 enormous tins of treats—so I've been thinking about holiday treats pretty much all day.

I first came across this delicious creation while shopping with my family in Ellicott City, an amazing antique shopping destination in Maryland. A lady that owned one of the stores there offered us some delightful looking toffee and staying true to our policy of never refusing dessert, we gave it a try. It was incredible! Granted, anything sweet AND salty is pretty much heaven in my book, but these just really yummy.

I asked her for the recipe and she scratched it down on a sticky note for me. Luckily it didn't disappear into the bottomless hole that is my purse because I still have it today! I hope that it makes it on to a few of your cookie trays this year!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Momma's Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie can be a bit intimidating and time consuming. Chopping all those vegetables and fussing with a from-scratch pie crust could end up taking you half the day. And while I don't mean to lessen the greatness of such recipes, I would like to present you something much easier but nonetheless JUST as delicious. Allow me to present Momma's chicken pot pie.



Momma's Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 8

Ingredients:
  • 1 box refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust
  • 1/3 cup salted butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp. instant bouillon seasoning – chicken flavored, granular style (If you haven't worked with bouillon before, don't let this ingredient freak you out—it's very easy to work with and available in every grocery store)
  • 1 ½ cup boiling water
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 large can chicken, drained
  • 1 can Veg-All vegetables, drained

Before you begin, dissolve 1 ½ tsp bouillon in 1 ½ cup boiling water. Let it sit. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Take your pie crust out of the refrigerator to thaw for about 20 minutes or according to the instructions on the box. Then chop your onion into small pieces. 



In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and saute for one minute. 


Next we will make the roux! It will look a little scary at first, but don't worry, it will all turn out beautifully! Stir on flour , salt and pepper until well blended. (Mixture will be thick and gummy) 


Gradually stir in bouillon mixture. Then add your milk. Keep stirring! Cook, stirring constantly until thick and bubbly. It will thicken up in a few minutes. It may take a little while, so be patient! In this picture, it's almost there....



And in this one, it's just about there!



Grab your trusty cans of veg-all and chicken (be sure they're drained!) and stir until combined. Remove from heat.


By this time, your pie crusts should be thawed and pliable. Take one crust out of the plastic and place it in the bottom of your pie plate. Spoon your filling into pie crust and smooth it out. I won't judge you if you cannot resist licking the spoon at this point!

Then place the second pie crust on top and flute the edges using your thumb and index finger.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Be sure to check it with 5 or 10 minutes to go to make sure the crust isn't getting overly brown. If it is, cover the edges with foil or a pie shield. 

Serve with a leafy green salad. And there you have it, comfort food at its finest! (AND its EASIEST!)



 Chicken pot pie makes for a happy Lover!



Monday, December 5, 2011

White Chocolate Gooey Graham Cracker Bars

When I brought these in to work today, one of my coworkers said it was one of the best things he had even eaten in his life. 

When he asked me what they were, I didn't know quite what to tell him—as you can see by the awkwardly long name that I gave them. They're not quite blondies—they're really more of a cakey bar oozing with gooey white chocolatey deliciousness. And they give off a little bit of a s'more vibe as well. 

Call them what you may, but MAKE them. They are glorious.


One of the reasons that I love this recipe so much is that it is not an exact science. You don't have to worry about leveling off your flour or measuring much of anything at all! Just layer away and everything will turn out peachy. Promise.

White Chocolate Gooey Graham Cracker Bars
Adapted from Picky Palate

Ingredients:
  • 1 box of classic yellow or white cake mix (Duncan Hines is my favorite)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups of mini marshmallows (I used a little less than half of the bag)
  • graham crackers
  • a bag of white chocolate chips
  • a can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
Start by dumping the cake mix in a large bowl. Crack your egg in the bowl and add the stick of softened butter. (If you forgot to soften your butter on the counter, stick it in the microwave with the paper on for 5-10 seconds) Mix it up with a spoon at first and then use your hands to make it into a nice ball of dough.



Take half of the dough and press it into the bottom of a well greased 8x8 inch baking dish. (I lined mine with foil to reduce the mess, but you can go without if you'd like) Oh that reminds me, these little pretties produce almost NO mess. I was so pleased to only have one bowl to clean. 



But on with the layering. Top the dough with a layer of graham crackers, breaking them apart to roughly fit the pan. No need to be perfect here. Then top with a bag of white chocolate chips. And then your mini marshmallows.




From there, take the other half of your dough and break it apart into little nuggets. Scatter them over the top of your marshmallows and gently press them together so that they cover the majority of them. Don't worry about getting it smooth and lovely. That won't matter because you're about to pour on the sweetened condensed milk.


Ahhh sweetened condensed milk. Gradon loves the stuff. I think I remember catching him drinking it one time. Drizzle drizzle drizzle it until it seeps into the little cracks and covers most of the dough. The original recipe called for only about ¼ of a can but I used about ¾ of it. So you can use your judgement there. I love sweetened condensed milk because it has the amazing power of holding everything together. 


Ok now it's time to pop these in the oven. You preheated to 350 right? Bake these for 23-30 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is. Mine came out at about 25 minutes. You really need to start watching them around 20 to make sure they don't burn. Mine were almost a little too crispy on the top.

And keep in mind that if you overbake, the sweetened condensed milk with get all soaked up and refuse to ooze out the sides to your liking. And then the world would end.

Enjoy these!

Also wanted to share a couple of pictures from our recent holiday outings. Lover and I ventured out to the UVA Grounds to see "The Lighting of the Lawn," which is a pretty big deal around here. The Rotunda looked amazing all lit up! The rest are from an ugly sweater party where Gradon is participating in a heated "minute to win it" contest. Oh, and almost forgot our very first Christmas tree! :) 

Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Pie That Will Make You Cry

There's a joke in my family that once you eat a big holiday meal, it's often necessary to "go and cry." The joke roots from a story of my Uncle Bobby who once ate so much that he had to drag himself to his bed and just cry it out until his stomach felt better.

I often feel this way after Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception. We usually have a pretty rigid menu on Thanksgiving because we're so attached to the tried and true dishes, but mom went all out this year and got all adventurous on us, making italian sausage stuffing and a pear harvest salad—everything was absolutely incredible! 


So following suit, I decided to make my first pecan pie ever! I'm generally not a huge pie person (where's the icing??) but pecan pie has just enough sugar to keep my sweet tooth satisfied. 



And if you're turned off by big nuts, keep reading because these ones are little enough to give a nice crunch without being overpowering. I spotted this recipe on Pioneer Woman and am absolutely in love with it. It was beyond delicious. And so easy. Especially if you use refrigerated pie crust. 
 
Are you sold yet? Because you need to make this pie for Christmas. 

Pecan Pie (AKA The Pie that will
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:
  • 1 whole Unbaked Pie Crust
  • 1 cup White Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup Corn Syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 1/3 cup Melted Butter (salted)
  • 3 whole Eggs Beaten
  • 1 cup Chopped Pecans
First, take your refrigerated pie crust out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes. And preheat your oven to 350. Next, Chop your pecans nice and small. You don't need to pulverize them, but chop them up good. Mix sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl. When your pie crust is pliable, flute it nicely in a pie pan. 


Pour chopped pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.



From there, pour syrup mixture over the top. 


Within just a few seconds, the little nuts will rise to the top like magic. You'll see these cute little bubbles rising and popping at the surface too. Wait until it looks like this before you pop it in the oven. You may want to cover the edges with a little foil or a pie shield.


Bake pie at 350ยบ for 25-30 minutes. Remove foil/pie shield then continue baking for 15-20 minutes, being careful not to burn the crust or pecans.

Note that the baking time for this pie varies quite a bit. You'll need to keep an eye on it. When you think it's done, shake it around a bit. It should not be overly jiggly!

Allow the pie to cool for several hours or overnight. This is not the kind of pie that tastes awesome very warm. You will definitely want some time to chill it in the fridge. 

















And for your viewing pleasure, a few photos from Thanksgiving... 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blissful Baking Beginnings. And Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

There came a point in my life when I realized that I wasn't like other people. Maybe it was when one of my friends pointed out that polishing off an entire carton of caramel swirl ice cream in two days wasn't normal. Or when I found myself spending hours reading food blogs. Or perhaps when I started wanting cookbooks more than clothes. That was a big day for me. 

Somewhere along the way I realized that I I loved food far more than most. Sometimes I wonder why I couldn't have been passionate about something else—like running for example. People tell me that they love running all the time—what's with that? But I've decided to embrace this love because it brings joy to me as well as to people that I love.

Most mornings I wake up feeling like I'm the luckiest girl in the world! I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland in an amazing family. My dad is probably the best man that ever lived. And my mom is infitinely talented. I owe her a lot because she taught me to never be afraid to try new things. Like starting this blog for example! I have one sister, Brooke—and it's always been just me and her. We're alike in a lot of ways, but she's always been a little more adventurous, and I love that about her. 



I grew up with a really awesome core group of girlfriends—they're cute little country girls and I absolutely cherish them. 



And my husband—marrying him was the best decision of my life. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love him. So much so that I call him Lover. We fell in love at BYU, had a fairytale wedding and spent our first year of marriage in Utah where we graduated together. We ended up in Charlottesville, Virginia where he's attending medical school. We're loving this city more and more every day!



I graduated from Brigham Young University in 2011 where I studied communications and now do marketing for a real estate company called CBRE. I spend my free time shopping at antique stores, baking, doing pilates, pouring over cook books, going to church, surfing the blogosphere and exploring fun restaurants in Charlottesville with my husband.

I will always have a picture to accompany my recipes. I cannot guarantee it will be a gorgeous one, but I will have one! I'm a visual person, and have never had the guts to try a recipe that I can't visualize. I will be posting lots of fresh bread, decadent brownies, sweet frostings, creamy cheesecake, cheesy pasta—and once in a while, something healthy and low calorie!


This blog will serve several purposes—it will be a record of my life and an online recipe book—but will also my creative outlet. I love sharing my favorite recipes with all of you! 
Welcome to Blissful Baking! And now for my first recipe! Mini Cherry Cheesecakes!

These babies are tried and true. A one-bowl-wonder! Perfect for bridal or baby showers, pot lucks, you name it. They look gorgeous and taste delicious, and you don't have to slave in the kitchen all day! I guarantee that if you try these, they will be going into your rotation. 


(Photo above courtesy of my talented friend Erin Ferry. You need to check her out!)

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes 

Ingredients:
  • 18 foil cupcake liners 
  • 3/4 cup sugar  
  • 18 vanilla wafers  
  • 2 packages cream cheese, softened (you can go 1/3 less fat if you want, but never fat free!) 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice  
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 can cherries
Now this is so easy you won't even believe it. Preheat oven to 375. Line a cupcake pan with foil liners. Place a nilla wafer in each one. (Note: the wafer will not fill the entire liner, and that's okay)

Combine ALL ingredients in a large bowl and beat on medium for a few minutes with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Pour into foil liners until about 3/4 full.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, keeping a very close eye on them! You do NOT want them to get even the least bit brown. You want to preserve their beautiful pure color and delicate creaminess. Remove from oven and let cool. (I usually stick them in the fridge shortly after) Chill for a couple of hours or overnight.

Top with each with a spoonful of cherries. I usually do three. Go light on the syrup.Stick them back in the fridge until ready to serve. Cheesecake always tastes best cold! Yum. Enjoy! And visit Blissful Baking again soon!