Monthly Archives: July 2013

Apple Pie Bars

July 30, 2013

It seems like I’ve been making these scrumptious bars all summer long.  Why then, has it taken me until now to share them with all of you?  Why, indeed!  To understand my hold out, we have to travel back in time a bit.

Growing up, it just wasn’t summer without my aunt’s apple pie bars.  They were always there for trips to the lake, days in the pool, and backyard barbeque adventures.  Flaky and sweet, with the perfect hint of tart- they satisfied everyone after a long day in the sun.


I’ve long since lost my copy of my aunt’s recipe, but I’ve never lost that nostalgia that came along with them.  And so I made it my mission this summer to embark on recreating my favorite summer time dessert.  This isn’t her exact recipe- I’m sure if she sees this, she’ll send it to me- which would be fantastic- but, I think these are pretty close.  I’ve added a tiny twist that occurred out of pure serendipity.

Rustic to the eye, crowd-pleasing, and ready for action in an hour’s time, here are

Jenny’s Cinnamon Pecan Apple Pie Bars
For the Crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup shortening  (Note: You can use butter here, but the shortening really helps with the flakiness)
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk ( Note: Keep the separate egg white for later on!)
2/3 cup milk
1 to 1 1/2 cups crushed Special K Cinnamon Pecan Cereal  (Note: You can substitute crushed corn flakes)

Combine all of the ingredients except for the crushed cereal.  You can do this by either using the tools God gave you, like I do (otherwise known as your hands), or a food processor.  Take half, form it into a big round, and flour up either a super huge cutting board, or your counter top.  I opted for counter top.  Roll out the dough until it is about 1/8th and will fill the bottom of a GREASED 10 1/2 by 15 1/2 cookie sheet.  You know, the big ones that have a little lip on all sides.  (I think Ina Garten calls these a Jelly Roll Pan?  I don’t know- a big ass cookie sheet is what I call it.  Very technical.)  Once it’s rolled out and covering the bottom of your greased sheet, you’ll sprinkle the crushed cereal onto it.  Here’s where my fortunate moment of serendipity occurred.  I don’t keep straight up corn flakes in my pantry.  I never really use them, so I was stuck with a bit of a problem to solve.  Enter the Special K Cinnamon Pecan cereal.  I always have it on hand because I love it for breakfast, and I figured.. cinnamon and pecans, yep, that will work with apples.  So I went for it- and let me tell you, it just added an extra little pop of delightful.  If that doesn’t sound like your thing- no worries, go ahead and forge onward with the cornflakes. 





Now- for the filling!

6 tart apples (peeled, cored, sliced- I like Granny Smiths, but use your fave)
1 cup of white granulated sugar
1tbsp cinnamon


Toss it all together, and spread it over the crust.  






Next, take out that other half of the dough, and roll it out.  Now- I always have a problem with my second ball of dough.  Somehow my second half is always less dough than my first half, and it’s never quite enough to cover the whole thing.  No worries, you can fake it and make everyone think you did this fancy version on purpose.  Or- patchwork piece it together.  Your call- remember, there will be icing, and these babies will be cut.  Make it easy on yourself.

For me, the easy version was to roll out my dough, and then use a pizza cutter to cut it into thin strips.  Once I had my dough in thin strips, I created a loose basket weave type top for my bars that essentially made little squares.  Perfect, since I cut them anyway.  Once the top layer is on your apples, whip up that left over egg white with a fork, and brush it over the top layer.  This will create a beautiful golden color on your crust as it bakes. 




Pop it into the oven at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.  I’ve seen other recipes that say 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then 350 for the next 40 minutes.  That’s obnoxious.  Just put it in at 400 for 35 minutes.  They turn out perfect, I promise.

While they are baking, you can mix up your icing.  If you ask me, it’s not finished until it has icing, and this one is super easy.  Everyone likes their own thickness and consistency, and unfortunately, for you… I am like my mother in the sense that, I tend to throw some powdered sugar in a bowl and add water or sugar until I’m at the drizzling consistency that I want for whatever item I’m baking at the time.  But, a good rule of thumb for starting out is 1 tbsp of water with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla per cup of powdered sugar.  Like I said- it’s not an exact science to get it just the way you want it. 


Once your bars are done, and out of the oven, you can either wait to drizzle your icing, or just go for it and dive in.  I usually just dive in because I am not a patient person, especially when dessert is involved.  I take big spoonfuls and run the spoon back and forth to drizzle icing all over.  As the bars cool, the icing will harden up, and just be lovely.

 


Cut into servings as desired.  They are great just like this, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  They are also fantastic when warmed up for breakfast.  Be warned though- while it looks like a large tray of these, they’ll go quick!

Until next time,
Happy Eating
J

In my oven tonight: Crab Stuffed Tilapia- stay tuned for the recipe!

Pinterest Palooza!

July 23, 2013

Oh my!  Has it really been two weeks since a post?  Sorry about that.  I have so many things to share with you all, but every time I sit down to write, it seems I am distracted by something: an itchy dog, a leaking tub, a too humid basement that decided to grow mold (EWWW!), name changes, laundry, and now, a Royal Baby!  So many distractions!  While I’m working through this writer’s block though, I thought I’d share some of the recipes and kitchen fun that I’ve been diggin’ on Pinterest lately.

  Recipe Tea Towels

1. I nearly died when I saw these on http://blog.spoonflower.com/ The thought of having my mum’s hand written recipes blown – up onto adorable kitchen towels was perfect. Any way to always have her presence in my kitchen, is always a win with me.  Wouldn’t they make amazing gifts too?  I mean, how fun would these be for a bridal shower??  I keep stalling on making these… now that it’s summer, perhaps the time has come!

2. Oh.my.word.  This was so easy and so yummy.  I really enjoy Baked From a Box because well, who doesn’t like recipes that start with a box of cake mix?  For this fudge, I used star shaped confetti sprinkles- how fun!  Undoubtedly, my new favorite birthday treat for friends, coworkers, and family!

 
3. I am IN LOVE with these sweet little decals from The Painted Hive.  My current canisters are clear squares, and I am so excited to spruce them up with these little babies.  Best of all- FREE PRINTABLE.  Swing by her site and scope out all of her awesome ideas- save yourself a few hours and a cup of tea though, because honestly, you’ll be there all night!
 

4. Made this chicken last night for dinner…and darling husband ate the leftovers FOR BREAKFAST!!  Insanely good…”put into weekly rotation” good.  Check out this recipe, along with others, at : Rock Recipes.

5. This food and wine pairing cheat sheet is now printed and inside my recipe book.  This way, I can feel fancy pants when people come over!  Print yours out!

 

 
6. Two words- Done, and Done.  This copycat recipe is spot on!  It’s possible that I’m currently drinking this in my PJ’s while getting Royal Baby updates.  You’ll never know for sure… Swing by Kelly Elizabeth’s  for more neat stuff. 
 
7. Three Beans in a Pod will be the reason I learn how to knit and crochet.  I will learn just so I can make these for EVERY ONE I know.  I love them.  They make me want hot chocolate.  In July.  When it’s 95 degrees.   Her whole blog is pretty fab.  I may have to take up knitting…

Then again, maybe one project at a time.

Enjoy, and until next time,

Happy Eating!
J
 

Empanadas!

July 10, 2013

Close to two years ago, during a stint where I missed the delicious empanadas of our hometown haunt, I went out and bought a food processor.  I had decided that I would make my OWN empanadas.  I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere in there, I changed my mind and the empanadas never happened.  Something about ingredients and dough and time consuming..yadda yadda yadda.

Or, it could have been that I was, in fact, secretly terrified of my new food processor.  I had never owned or operated a food processor prior to my “HEY LET’S BUY A FOOD PROCESSOR AND MAKE EMPANADAS!” idea.  Quite honestly, it was a little intimidating.

And so it sat, unopened, in my kitchen cabinet for about 2 years.  Until about a week ago when I decided, once again, that “babe, I should really make those empanadas”.  Maybe it’s something that happens to me in the summer with not teaching, but magically, new projects that were previously daunting take on new and exciting life.  The food processor no longer seemed like an intimidating challenge, but rather, an opportunity to master something new!  To say the least, I was pumped… and let me tell you, it may have taken 2 years, but they were WORTH IT. 

So, without further hesitation, here are my Shredded Pork Empanadas!

Dough Recipe from Cherry On My Sundae.  She has filling for her empanadas too, but I made my own.  USE her dough recipe though.  It was killer.  White wine- who knew?!

Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt (I assume- the recipe says salt, but skips how much- I used a tbsp. It was fine.)
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon white vinegar
In your food processor, combine 2 cups flour with 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp salt.  Pulse 3-4 times.  Add in your chunks of cold butter, and pulse until your contents look like coarse sand.  (ahh, sand… makes me thinkg of the beach!  I feel like there should be seagulls.)  ANYWAY.  In a separate dish, wisk up your eggs with 1/4 cup of wine and the white vinegar.  I know, I know… you opened a whole bottle of wine for 1/4 cup??  Whatever will we do with the leftovers?  Might as well pour a glass while you’re mixing this dough.  Take your drunken egg mixture and add it into your food processor.  Mix until a sticky dough forms.  For real, I am not kidding, this dough is a stage 5 clinger.  Proceed with caution.  Scoop your dough out onto some plastic wrap, form it into a round blog as much as you can, cover with wrap, and stick into the fridge for an hour.  Hey, look- an hour… might as well have more of that wine.  Don’t want it to go to waste, after all!  At this point, I sat down for about 40 minutes and relaxed with my darling husband.  He had some of the wine too and proclaimed it suitable for the empanada dough.  (Good thing, since I already made the dough!)  

About 20 minutes before I took the dough out, I decided I should probably make the filling.  There are tons of options when it comes to fillings, but for these particular empanadas, we were in the mood for shredded pork.  I had made my crockpot shredded pork the day before, which made it nice and easy.  Another nice and easy protein- rotisserie chicken that you’ve picked off the bone and shredded a bit. 

Filling:
3 cups shredded pork
1 and 1/2 cups fresh salsa (store bought in the produce section)
3 to 5 tbsp taco sauce, depending on taste


Mix that all up and set it aside. Yeh, it was pretty easy.   I never claimed it would be elaborate or difficult.

20 minutes later…
Yay, the dough is ready!  Clear off some counter space and throw down some flour.  Unwrap your glorious dough.  Hell, better throw down a lot of flour.  Remember- still pretty sticky.  Throw a bit of flour on the top of the dough too.  I mean, really, can it hurt?  OH- and flour on your hands and rolling pin.  Then, roll out your dough until it’s about 1/8 of an inch thick.   I don’t generally keep a ruler in my kitchen, and I’m assuming you don’t either, so when it looks fairly thin, go for it.  I used the top of a mug to cut out my circles because I’m a classy lady, but if you happen to have a big biscuit cutter, you can use that.  If not, the mug worked pretty well!  Keep cutting out rounds until you need to reroll your dough.  I only rerolled twice because I didn’t want the dough to get too worked over. 

Then fill each round with a few spoonfuls of filling.  It kinda depends on the size of your circles, but cover about half of the circle and don’t mound it too high.  Remember, we have to seal these babies!  When you go to seal, fold the dough over top and then pick it up and pinch the edges with your fingers.  Finish them off by “crimping” them with the tines of a fork all the way around the outer edge.  (I’d flour the fork too… otherwise, it gets stuck and your crimping attempts become a battle.  Not that I know from experience or anything.  Awkward…)


Now you have 2 options.  You can fry them up for a few minutes each side in 1/2 inch of hot oil, or you can bake them.  I opted for baking them. 

When baking, place those puppies on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray, and then spray the tops of them.  Pop them into a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

And that’s it!  I served mine with Tostitos Queso dip.  Normally, I’d make homeamde queso blanco, but I didn’t feel like going to the store to grab more ingredients.  Hey, sometimes you just gotta use what you got!


All in all, they turned out fantastic, and I no longer feel intimidated by the food processor.  Double Success!

Until next time, 

Happy eating!
J

Hello again, and Lemon Dill Chicken

July 3, 2013

I’m not sure if I ever mentioned, but in case I haven’t, there’s something about me that you should know.  I’m a teacher.  I know, a lot of you are saying “What’s your point? Aside from your questionable grammar, and sometimes crude word choices, I fail to see how this matters in the grand scheme of cooking”.  Oh, but reader, it does matter… because with that great responsibility of being a teacher comes the understanding that there are times in my life where being a teacher will become all consuming.  This is particularly true if you teacher higher than 2nd grade, and even more so when at a Title 1 school (which I love and adore beyond any measure of words).  In teacher land, there is an all consuming period of time where all other identities, all other priorities, and all other creative aspirations are swept aside because you are a teacher.  You are no longer a wife, a friend, a sister, a writer, a fitness coach, or a chef… hell, you’re barely human through most of the time period.  And much like the wizarding world won’t utter “VOLDEMORT”, teachers won’t utter “Testing Season”.

But when you’re a teacher, testing season comes with the territory, and you soldier on.  That time frame runs from February to June if you happen to teach 5th grade, which I did during this past year.  And maybe its not this way for every teacher, but it is for most of us because we share the same sentiments about this time of year and the well being of our students.  You see, during testing season, the only thing that matters to me, for ALL hours of the day, are my ducklings. 

Enter the 3 and 1/2 month hiatus from this dear, sweet blog!  See, I told you my story mattered….
Now it’s not to say that I didn’t eat, I did- but this year’s “time that shall not be named” was particularly stressful, and so most of the meals that we ate were whatever we had the energy to throw together before falling asleep in our dinner plates.  (Darling Husband works for the schools too- making sure all the computers are functioning properly for all of test season. EW. I think I’ll take my job instead!)

My kitchen mojo was missing.  In fact, there was a 48 hour time period where I cried over smooshed panini sandwiches and a large clump of frozen chicken breasts in a completely irrational fashion.  It’s alarming what exhaustion can do to a person. 

BUT- At long last, testing season is over, summer break is stretching out before me, and I have returned to my happy balance in the kitchen.  It’s time to get cookin’ again!

To kick things off : Lemon Dill Chicken

Today’s recipe is an adaptation from Eating Well
Eating Well- Lemon Dill Chicken

I saw it on Pinterest and thought ‘Well, that sounds good’.  I will fully admit though, I am terrible at looking at a recipe before I dive on into it, and it turns out that I didn’t have a few of the ingredients on hand.  Meh- no biggie, I’ll wing it as usual and change it up.  The result?  My take on this delicious chicken.

1 to 1 and 1/2 pounds chicken breast
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil
Flour- some in shallow dish, + 2 tbsp
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp dill (if you have fresh in your garden, awesome!  Otherwise, use dried)

I started out with A LOT of chicken- 3 breasts that came from the Pamela Andersons of chickens.  ONE would have sufficiently fed Kevin and I.  That aside, here’s how it went:

I took each chicken breast and pounded them out with the flat side of a meat mallet. (I find that a frying pan works well in a pinch.)  Then since mine were so large and in charge, I cut them in half, which gave me 6 pieces of chicken that were about a half inch thick. 

Then, I dipped both sides of each piece into a flour, salt, and pepper mix that I had combined in a shallow dish with a fork.  Do yourself a favor- use a paper plate for easy clean up.  This step was not in the original version, but for me, the flour coat makes a nice barrier to lock in moisture for the chicken.  When making chicken in a skillet, it’s very easy to make it holy chicken by cooking the hell out of it- so this help eliminate that mishap.  Plus, it adds some nice color to the chicken.

Next, heat a large skillet and coat with oil twice around the pan.  Once it’s good and hot, add your chicken in, being sure not to overcrowd the pan- I had to do two batches.  Cook and brown the chicken for 3 minutes on each side and transfer to a plate.  Tent it with foil.

At this point in the original recipe, it called for sauteing some minced onion and garlic.  However, I didn’t feel like it, so I skipped it.

Moving on- I added a bit more oil to the pan (I assume butter would be fab here too) along with 2 tsp of flour.  I stirred it a bit, until it made that paste-like consistency, and then added in 1 cup of chicken stock.  (Word to the wise- if your smoke detector is sensitive like mine, and connected to ALL of the smoke detectors in the house- open a window prior to adding the stock.  It will smoke. You have been warned.)  Most people would recommend using a wisk at this part, as to avoid clumping when combining these ingredients.  However, I think wisks are a pain in the neck to clean, so just go ahead and use whatever tool you were using.  The clumps will break up, I swear, and there’s flour on the chicken anyway, so it’s fine.  Honest.  Follow that up with stirring in your dill and lemon juice.  Let everyone hang out and simmer in the pan for 3 to 4 minutes.

Finally, add your chicken back in and turn it to medium.  Let it continue to cook for about 5 more minutes.  Plate it up and hit the whole thing with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of dill.  Voila! 

This evening, I served it up with buttered noodles, but I could see us eating it with some wilted spinach or orzo as well.

Happy eating, and thanks for reading!
Jenny