Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Praline-Topped Blondies

Do I even need to explain why I wanted to try these. I mean just look at the title. Praline and Blondie in one? Um, yes please. I'm from the south, and down here, making pralines (pronounced prah-leens in the south) is an art form. I don't make them, but I sure can eat one! These blondies were super easy to make, and even easier to eat. Try them today!

  • Blondies:
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

  • Topping:
  • 3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with the cooking spray. Line the pan with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides; spray the parchment with the cooking spray.
2. Make the blondie: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and mix in the brown sugar and vanilla. One at a time, mix in the eggs. Mix in the flour mixture until just combined (do NOT overmix). 
4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 25 to 28 minutes. Cool completely in the pan.
5. Make the praline topping: In a small saucepan, heat the brown sugar and butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbling, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, 1 tablespoon of water, and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread over the cooled blondies and sprinkle with the pecans. Let the topping set, 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Holding both sides of the paper overhang, lift the blondies out of the pan, transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares.

Store the blondies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

My lil man's 2nd birthday party is coming up, and we chose the theme Milk and Cookies. I loved it the second I heard of it. So cute, right? I have been searching for some good cookies recipes to use, and this one has been bookmarked in my favorites for a while. I decided I might as well try it...and I wasn't disappointed. It is definitely one of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had. The only thing with mine was that they took about 20 minutes to cook, not 14. After the first 14, they still looked raw in the middle and weren't golden at all. I don't know why they took so long. But, they were still delish! Definitely a must try! 

2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions.  Preheat oven 325°.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.  With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined.  Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined.  Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Roll a scant half-cup of dough into a ball.  Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into two equal halves.  Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving ample room between each ball.  Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (approximately 11-14 minutes).  Do not overbake.
4. Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Three Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Meaty Tomato Sauce

Before we get to the recipe, I have some exciting news. Well, it's exciting to me. Ok, so, I enter an insane amount of giveaways on different blogs, thinking the odds are so outrageous that I'm never going to win. Last week, I entered a giveaway on I {heart} Naptime. This was one giveaway that I really wanted to win. It was for a Light Scoop. Something that I could benefit from greatly. So, I just went about my way, and said that's what I wanted for my birthday if I didn't win. Low and behold...I WON!!!! I am so freakin excited that I actually let out a baby! I cannot wait to get it. This Light Scoop is going to help me get WAY better pictures of my food and crafts inside at night, which is when I do most of my crafting and cooking and baking. YAY!!!!

Ok, back to normal programming...

I discovered Pioneer Woman a few months ago. Where have I been? She has some amazing stuff! We made this for dinner for Valentine's Day. I already had something picked out, but when I came across this, I scratched the idea and went with these shells. Not a decision I regretted. They were totally yummy, and I recommend trying them...tonight! This isn't a sissy pasta meal. My hubby even loved it. He asked for thirds. So, that's a winner in my book!

Just a few things:
There was a TON of ricotta mixture left over, and I STUFFED the shells. I had boiled more pasta just to make sure. I had enough ricotta to make a small extra dish, and still had at least half the ricotta left over. I would suggest halving the ricotta mixture.

I didn't have, nor was I able to find Romano cheese. So, I just used Parmesan in place of it. I also used dried basil. 

On her blog, she said that breakfast sausage would be fine, and that's what I used. Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage. And it turned out great. I love how this recipe is versatile in the fact that you can use any kind of meat really. Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, hamburger, ground turkey, ground chicken, etc. 

8 ounces, weight jumbo pasta shells
30 ounces, weight whole milk ricotta cheese
8 ounces, weight Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
½ cups grated Romano cheese
1 whole egg
12 leaves basil, chiffonade
2 Tbsp minced parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ whole medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ lb. Italian sausage
½ cup red wine
1 whole 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 whole 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp minced parsley

Cook pasta shells for half the cooking time; make sure not to overcook. Drain and rinse in cool water. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add Italian sausage and brown, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Pour in red wine and let it cook for a minute or two.
Pour in cans of crushed tomatoes and stir. Add sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for seasonings; can add crushed red peppers if you like a little heat.
In a separate bowl, mix ricotta, half the Parmesan, Romano, egg, salt and pepper, basil, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Stir until combined.
To assemble, coat the bottom of a baking dish with sauce. Fill each half-cooked shell with the cheese mixture. Place face down on the sauce. Repeat with shells until cheese mixture is gone. Top shells with remaining sauce. Sprinkle on extra Parmesan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
Serve with crusty French bread.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pretzels with Sweet Spicy Mustard

Is Spring ever gonna come?? Beautiful weather these past couple of days, but now chilly and wet again. Blah. This gloomy, rainy weather reminds me of when I made these cute little pretzels. 
I made them for the Super Bowl. Just a little snack food for during the game. Nothing too complicated or fussy. 

Do they taste like a pretzel? Not really. 
Do they look like a pretzel? Yep. 
And they're tiny, too! Well, about the size of my palm. 

They have the buttery taste of a crescent roll, and then dipped in the mustard...yum!!

Now, you're supposed to use the seamless crescent sheet. My local stores don't sell this, or I just haven't seen it yet. So, I used regular crescent dough, and kinda smushed the seams together. Kinda. I probably could've done a better job, but I was rushing. I would suggest if you use this to roll it out with a rolling pin.

Super easy, and really yummy! Better on the 1st day though.

¼ cup spicy brown mustard
¼ cup apricot preserves
1 can (8 oz) refrigerated seamless crescent dough sheet
1 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted
Kosher salt

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray large cookie sheet with cooking spray. In small bowl, mix mustard and apricot preserves; set aside.

2. Unroll dough on work surface; press into 12x8-inch rectangle. Cut crosswise into 16 (8-inch) strips; roll each into 11-inch rope. To shape pretzel, shape rope into a circle, overlapping dough about 2 inches from each end, leaving ends free. Take 1 end in each hand; twist once at point where dough overlaps. Lift ends over opposite side of circle. Brush each with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt. Place on cookie sheet.

3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm with mustard mixture.