Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Patty Cakes

These cookies are my BFF when I have a serious chocolate craving and no time for baking! They taste so supremely chocolatey and the oatmeal gives them a hearty texture. I had moderate expectations for this recipe when I found it years ago, and it truly blew me away with its perfection. These no bakes take barely 10 minutes from start to finish, and leave you with just one messy dish! A dream come true? I think yes.

These are great in any form, from warm to room temperature, and even chilled in the fridge. I've found that kids and adults alike adore them.

This recipe makes a LOT. Dropped by heaping tablespoons, I usually get about 28-30. Make them a bit smaller and you'll get 3 dozen easy. I usually half the recipe and get 14 pretty big cookies.  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Patty Cakes
Yield: 2-3 dozen cookies
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup peanut butter (not natural)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats

Add the first four ingredients (through the cocoa powder) to a saucepan. Mix until butter is melted and ingredients are well combined. Bring to a rolling boil and let boil for 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla until smooth. Then stir in the oats. 

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto wax paper and gently shape into hamburger patty-like shapes. Let cool a few minutes until set. EAT!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bacon Asparagus Bundles

I'm always looking for stand-out side dishes and these asparagus bundles are just that!

They're quick, easy and require only 5 ingredients—one of which is bacon. And they're just so dang cute all bundled up and perfectly portioned.

My bacon was just slightly crispy, but if you'd like it more well done, pop your bacon in the micro for a little while before you wrap them up.

Bacon Asparagus Bundles

  • 1 lb asparagus spears
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, or a Misto olive oil sprayer
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 6 slices bacon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly coat asparagus in olive oil. (I used my Misto, but you can just drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat) Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and salt.

Divide your asparagus into 6 relatively equal bundles and wrap with bacon. If you'd like your bacon extra crispy, nuke it in the microwave for a little while to firm it up a bit beforehand.

Place asparagus bundles on a grill pan and cook 12 minutes before cranking on the broiler for another 2-4 minutes. Watch it closely to prevent burning!

Transfer to a serving platter and enjoy!

Grades and I took advantage of the not so hot weather and went on a little hike over the weekend at Walnut Creek Park. It had a super cute beach too! We also hit up one of our new found favorite mexican restaurants, Guadalajara on Friday. We ate burritos and enchiladas and Gradon taught me basic spanish phrases. Then we headed home and watched 4 episodes of Mad Men. I don't know how it happened, but we got hooked!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Balsamic Roasted Red Potatoes

Gradon has a love affair with balsamic vinegar. I remember him taking me out to a nice italian restaurant back when we were dating and the waiter brought out some beautiful foccacia bread along with a little dish for oil and balsamic vinegar.

Where I come from, we go heavier on the oil, with a few drops of balsamic for flavor. But Gradon proceeded to flood the dish with vinegar until it was black. I remember watching him dunk that dense chunk of bread with pure balsamic vinegar—utterly drenching it. It really threw me for loop watching him down the bread like that.

The great thing about these potatoes is that they have enough balsamic vinegar to pack a punch, without overwhelming the palate. They're smothered in an array of spices as well as onion and garlic. 

These potatoes make for a delicious and pretty side dish. The edges crisp up and deliver a wonderful flavor. They taste fantastic and you will love them!

Balsamic Roasted Red Potatoes
Adapted from The Baking Beauties

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds small red potatoes, cut into eighths
  • 1 tablespoon yellow onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt (or garlic salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes, onion and garlic. Toss to combine. Add the thyme and rosemary, crushing it between your fingers to release the flavor. Add the nutmeg and toss well. Cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes or until potatoes are hot and getting browned a bit. They will also start to smell divine!

Transfer to a baking pan coated with your misto or nonstick cooking spray. I drizzled about ½ to 1 tbsp of olive oil on the baking pan for good measure. Bake your little beauties at 400 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are crisping and almost tender. Take them out of the oven and set them on the stove top for a moment, pouring the vinegar as evenly as you can over the potatoes. Add the salt and pepper, tossing well. Bake an additional 5-8 minutes until tender. 

Happy Birthday to America this month! We feel so blessed to live in this great country and have the freedoms that we enjoy. Grades and I felt extra patriotic this year in spending the 4th in Charlottesville, the home of the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence. Cville residents love their TJ. 

It was so nice to have Wednesday off because Friday came so quickly! We spent a good chunk of it at the downtown mall, eating at Eppie's, tossing around a beach ball, fanning ourselves for relief from the oppressive heat, and enjoying all of the live music. See that guy playing the guitar, the harmonica, a drum AND tinkling a little tambourine with his foot? I was mesmerized. 

Other events of note this month include our attempt to fry an egg on the pavement. We've had some gnarly weather around here. Up in the 100s. So we figured it was a good time for that experiment. I don't know what we expected...a little sizzling perhaps? We waited for a few minutes with no change and said we'd check on it later. By that time, it had been run over by a car. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Ranch Panini

What do you do when all you have left in your fridge is some leftover meat, regular sandwich bread, a couple of chunks of random cheese, perhaps a few slivers of vegetables and some crusty condiment bottles?

You make a panini my friends! You know, the special fancy kind that you pay the big bucks for at Panera Bread. Only i'm willing to bet that yours will be even better! You can get super creative with paninis, so I'll just cover the basics here. I've been making a bunch for Lover lately on nights when I've been a little too lazy to make real dinner, and they have been very well received!

Here's one of my creations that came out particularly well. Grades LOVES ranch dressing more than any other condiment on the face of the earth, so this concoction served him quite well. 

Cheesy Chicken Ranch Panini

  • 2 pieces sandwich bread (I had whole wheat on hand)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 fairly thin chicken breast (cut in half, if needed)
  • dijon mustard
  • ranch dressing
  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • Monterey jack cheese
  • bacon and/or sausage (optional)
  • half-handful of red onion, sliced
Start by shredding the cheese by hand. Buy the nice blocks at the grocery store because they melt well! Not like the plasticky pre-shredded stuff. If you want, you can just cut the blocks into thin slices and it will turn out dandy. 

Sprinkle a thin piece of raw chicken with salt and pepper and fry it up with some butter in a skillet over medium heat until done. (If you have a huge breast on your hands, slice it in half before cooking) Slice it into strips and set aside. While you're at it, throw a half-handful of red onion slices in there and saute for a minute or so. 

I also fried up a little leftover sausage because I had it on hand. I imagine that crispy bacon would have made it even better! By all means, if you have any, throw it in the pan. Then set it aside for later.  

Take two pieces of bread and butter them generously. (soften your butter slightly in the micro, if needed) Then flip them over and coat them well with dijon mustard on one piece and ranch on the other. Don't be shy! Coat it on thick because it will turn into a dreamy sauce when heated. 

Place the bread slices buttered-side-down in a pan over low-medium heat. Pile on your chicken, (bacon and/or sausage, if using) cheese, and onions on one piece of bread. 

Top with other slice of bread and press it firmly with the top of a small saucepan. (Or use your handy panini maker if you're fortunate enough to possess one) Don't be afraid to squash it—that will help the flavors meld together. Then let it sit with the top covering it for a few minutes. (Check it after a bit to be sure the bread isn't burning.) 

When the bread browns nicely, flip it over and squash it again. You may need to add a little more butter to the pan. Keep the panini covered because it will help the cheese to melt faster. Let it cook for a few minutes on the other side, until browned. 

Cut in halves and serve with fresh fruit or whatever else your heart may desire!

Grades and I recently embarked on our first hike of the summer season! We climbed Humpback Rock, a favorite spot for the Cville locals. Let me tell you, although it was a short hike, we were sweating like pigs. It was harder than we thought! But the difficulty proved well worth it when we saw the magnificent view.