Tuesday, June 28, 2016

For Lexi

Recently a young lady, who I care about very deeply, was hospitalized with a severe infection. She was in the hospital for many days, but what a trooper she was!  She showed everyone just what she was made of....strong and confident and full of joy.  Even when she didn't feel up to it, she showed us her inner beauty.  

When I entered her hospital room, every empty space was filled with flowers and gifts.  She touches people's lives and they openly share their love with her.  She is a gift and I'm so happy to have her as a part of my life.

I created these bars especially for Lexi....

Lexi’s Special Gooey Chocolate Caramel Bars
1 package chocolate cake mix
1 cup chunky peanut butter
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
12 ounces (1 package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 jar (12 ounces) caramel ice cream topping
1 cup peanut butter chips
½ cup chopped salted peanuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 13” x 9” baking pan with foil.  Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine cake mix, peanut butter, melted butter and eggs on low speed for one minute. Scrape down sides often while beating. Set aside 1 ½ cups cake mixture.

Place remaining cake mixture in bottom of 13” x 9” baking pan and press evenly on bottom of pan, using fingers. Set aside.

Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, butter and vanilla in microwave safe bowl. Heat on high for 2 minutes, remove and stir until chips are almost completely melted. Return to microwave, if necessary, for 30 second intervals until chips are almost completely melted.  Stir in coconut.  Pour chocolate mixture over cake crust and spread evenly.

Pour caramel topping evenly over chocolate and sprinkle peanut butter chips and peanuts (if using) evenly over caramel.

Sprinkle the remaining cake mixture (breaking it up with fingers) over the top.

Bake, in center of oven, for 25 to 30 minutes or until top cake pieces are firm to the touch.

Allow to cool in pan and then place in refrigerate to firm completely.  Remove from pan by lifting the foil and cut into 1 inch squares. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Rum Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

What's in a name?  The perfect dessert!  Rum and chocolate just sound decadent....add in pecan pie and top it off with the fact that I can pick this up in my hand, because it's a bar....makes this dessert wonderful for so many occasions!

And, if that wasn't enough....it's easy! Did I say easy?  I mean, really easy!

Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Rum Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup butter (1½ sticks), cubed and chilled
¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup light corn syrup

3 tablespoons spiced or dark rum
¼ cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate, semi-sweet or dark)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13” x 9” baking pan.

Combine crust ingredients with a pastry blender (or two forks) until crumbly.  Press into pan.  Bake crust for 15 to 17 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Whisk brown sugar, eggs, corn syrup, rum, butter, vanilla extract and salt until well blended.

Sprinkle pecans and chips evenly over the crust.  Carefully pour sugar mixture over pecans and chocolate chips.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until edges are set and bars are golden brown.  Center will still be “wiggly”.

Cool and cut into bars.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tex-Mex Apple Pies

Just to warn you....I'm about to say something that will astound you....I love to cook!  I know....that's hard to believe!

But, I really love the whole process of cooking!  Starting with just an idea of an ingredient, or a cooking technique and then creating a recipe around that idea.

Putting together the basics and then adding in seasonings, spices and herbs.  Experimenting with measurements and flavors.  

Some things work together and, trust me, some things don't!

Finishing with the end result....what kind of plate?  How should the food be displayed?  What kind of garnish?

Then, serving my food to someone.  The offering of my food to someone else fulfills such a basic need in me.  That simple gesture is so satisfying.

But, the very best part of the cooking process for me?  It's when someone recreates one of my recipes. Whether they follow the recipe exactly, or change it up and make it their own.  I cannot express, in words, how that warms my soul. How blessed I feel that someone would want to use their valuable time and make one of my recipes.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

And, that brings me to Tex-Mex Apple Pies.  I created this from what I had in the house at the time for the November, 2012 edition of Sylvia's Kitchen!

Tex-Mex Apple Pies

1 can (20 - 22 ounces) Apple Pie Filling, slightly mashed with a fork
½ cup of water*
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup of white sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
6 (8 inch) flour tortillas
Ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9 x 13” baking dish.

In a small saucepan, bring water, butter, sugars and cinnamon to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Wrap tortillas in a dampened paper towel and heat in microwave for 30 seconds, to make them pliable and easy to handle. (this step may not be necessary, if your tortillas are easily rolled)

Add ¼ cup of apples to the bottom third of tortilla, fold sides in toward apples and roll up the tortilla from the bottom.  Place in prepared pan, seam side down.  Continue for each tortilla.

I cut the basic recipe in half, used just two
tortillas and a smaller dish to feed two people
Pour the sugar mixture over the top of the prepared tortillas, sprinkle with ground cinnamon.  Let pan rest for 20 – 30 minutes to soak up the sugar mixture.

Bake for 25 minutes, uncovered. 

Serve warm with ice cream.  Drizzle with the caramel sauce left in the baking dish. 

Serves 6

*Want to make this more “adult”, use ¼ cup rum, plain or spiced, and ¼ cup water in place of ½ cup water.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Chicken with Peanut Sauce

I'm a big fan of Thai food....and if it includes peanut sauce, I'm a happy girl!

This is an easy recipe that uses rice noodles, but, don't be afraid to substitute cooked pasta, Shirataki noodles or rice! Try adding some other veggies, too!  Steamed broccoli, roasted asparagus, peas or water chestnuts would all give this dish an appetizing crunch!

Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Rice Noodles
8 ounces rice noodles
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, skinned and rough chopped*
2 cloves of garlic, skinned and sliced
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 – 2 teaspoon Sriracha (or to taste)
2/3 cup water
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon canola oil
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
6 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/3 cup chopped peanuts (I use salted)

In a large bowl, place rice noodles and cover with very hot water.  Set aside to allow rice noodles to soften.

In a blender, add peanut butter, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, Sriracha and 1/3 cup water.  Turn blender on high, adding more water, as needed, to make the peanut sauce.

In a medium sauté pan, over medium high heat, heat canola oil.  Add chicken and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Sauté chicken until all pink is gone.  Reduce heat and add peanut sauce.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes to finish cooking chicken.  Add more water, if necessary.   Taste sauce for additional seasonings, adding more Sriracha or lime juice, if desired.

Drain rice noodles and mix with peanut sauce and chicken.

Place in bowls and garnish with scallions and peanuts.

Serves 4

*The easiest way to remove the skin from the ginger is to use the edge of a spoon and scrape off the skin.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dutch Apple Pie Bars

With a chewy and delicious base, apple filling and sweet streusel topping, you would think there could be no improving on this easy dessert....but, add some caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have elevated this scrumptious sweet treat to near perfection!

It's an easy dessert to pull together at the last minute and, with simple, common ingredients, you just might have everything you need, already in your kitchen!

Dutch Apple Pie Bars

1 yellow or butter boxed cake mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup milk or cream
1 can (20 ounces) prepared apple pie filling
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Caramel ice cream sauce (optional)
Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Liberally butter a 7” x 11” baking dish.

In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, ½ cup butter and milk or cream until well blended, then beat for another 60 seconds.  Spread into bottom of baking dish.

Spread apple pie filling over batter, leaving a ½ inch of batter around the edges.

In a small bowl, mix together melted butter, flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon until well blended.  Sprinkle evenly over the apple filling.

Place baking dish on the middle rack and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until lightly browned along the edges.

Allow to cool slightly, cut into 8 – 10 pieces and serve drizzled with caramel sauce and ice cream, if desired.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Grilled Ham, Cheese and Fried Egg Sandwich

I like to bike....
(actually, I LOVE to bike)

I bike for many reasons....
I bike for exercise....
I bike for my health....
I bike for my sanity....
I bike for the challenge....
I bike for the peace it brings to my thoughts....
I bike to burn calories (so, I can eat more of my favorite foods)....
I bike for inspiration....

Often, that inspiration comes in the form of food creation (how to replace all those calories I'm burning), such as this Grilled Ham, Cheese and Fried Egg Sandwich.
YES!  A double yolk!  Must be my lucky day!

Around the 10 mile mark on my morning bike ride, I started thinking about breakfast. Usually, my breakfast includes an egg....6 grams of protein, 13 essential nutrients AND only 70 calories! But, today, I was feeling like MORE! And, there is something to be said about a breakfast sandwich!

So, I let my mind wander, while still keeping track of the traffic around me.....an egg, over-easy with ham and cheese on firm, white bread and then grilled!  That sounds perfect!  

For the next 10 miles, that's what I thought about, that sandwich....grilled to perfection, with the runny yoke and melted cheese....just, get me to the kitchen, please!

The creamy mayonnaise mixes
with the melted cheese
Something you will note about this grilled sandwich....I don't use butter on the outside, I use mayonnaise. Mayonnaise has fat and egg protein and creates a beautiful golden crust, not to mention, it tastes great!

Grilled Ham, Cheese and Fried Egg Sandwich

1 large egg
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 - 2 slices of cheese (I used Provolone)
2 - 3 slices of ham (I used Black Forest)
2 slices of firm, white bread (or whatever kind of bread you like)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon horseradish or to taste (optional)

Heat a small saute or fry pan over medium heat.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray and crack the egg into the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

The perfect dipping sauce!
Cook egg until the whites reach your desired doneness, flip egg to lightly cook the top, or until you reach YOUR perfect level of yoke doneness (I like mine over easy....lots of runny goodness).

Remove egg from pan and set aside. Spread one side of each slice of bread with a small amount of mayonnaise. Place one slice of bread, mayonnaise side down, in pan. Spread a thicker layer of mayonnaise on the exposed side of the bread and spread the horseradish on the mayonnaise.

Layer cheese and ham on top and place the fried egg on top of the ham. Finally, cover with the remaining slice of bread (so the exposed side of the bread can soak up the yoke) with the mayonnaise side facing up.

Grill bread until golden brown on the bottom, flip and continuing grilling until golden brown on the top.  Remove to plate, cut this sandwich in half and let all that runny yoke goodness flow out.

If you don't like horseradish, don't use it, add some mustard or other favorite condiment!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Murgh Makhani

Murgh Makhani sounds like someone's name.....it might be.....but, trust me, it's an incredibly flavorful chicken dish. I came across the dish in a book I was reading.  Just the name intrigued me, so I started doing some research on how to create this dish.

Murgh Makhani, often referred to as Butter Chicken or Indian Butter Chicken is a dish popular in Northern India. According to Wikipedia, “The origins of butter chicken can be traced back to a man named Kundan Lal Gujral, who ran a restaurant called Moti Mahal Delux in Peshawar before the partition of British India. With the partition of British India, Moti Mahal moved to New Delhi. Butter Chicken is regarded to have been first introduced by Moti Mahal in New Delhi”.

The dish can be made with yogurt and chickpea flour.  I found recipes that included fenugreek, cardamom and crushed almonds.  There are very involved recipes that include 3 different marinades and several different cooking methods.

My goal in creating recipes is to make them approachable, with readily available ingredients.  Though, I understand that Garam Masala is probably not a spice blend you have in your spice cabinet, I believe it is worth investing in. You can use Garam Masala on chicken, pork and beef.

So I think I was able to create an easy and simple approach to Murgh Makhani.  And, though, it obviously isn't authentic, it is aromatic, rich and full of flavor. 
Please let me know what you think.

Murgh Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoon Garam Masala*
½” piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste (or ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper)
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream**
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
Lime to garnish
Cilantro to garnish

In a sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat.  Add chicken and sauté for 7 – 8 minutes, stirring often, until the pink is gone.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

In same pan, melt another 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add the onion and saute for 4 – 5 minutes, until just it just begins to soften.  Add garlic, Garam Masala, ginger, Sriracha sauce (or cayenne pepper), chili powder, cumin and cinnamon.  Stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute and then add tomato sauce.

Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes.  Add cream and chicken, bring back to a simmer and cook for another 25 to 30 minutes on a low simmer, adding more liquid if necessary.  Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter stirring to melt.

Serve over cooked, white rice, Garnish with a squeeze of lime, lime slices and chopped cilantro.

Serve with Naan or Fry bread.

Serves 2

Fry Bread
*Garam Masala is a blend of ground spices used extensively in Indian cuisine. Garam means hot, not so much as spicy, but as in warming the body and Masala means a mixture of spices.  There's no single Garam Masala recipe as the ingredients differ according to region as well as each chef's individual preferences. But for the most part, Garam Masala will include coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Look for Garam Masala as a spice mix in the spice aisle.

**Because you are simmering the mixture, you need to use a dairy product with a high fat content.  If you use anything other than heavy cream, you may curdle the sauce.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hoby's Chicken Spaghetti

I moved to The Mississippi Gulf Coast a few years back....I can now say y'all with the best of 'em! Overall, it's been quite an adventure!

I have found that some things are different....things move more slowly here, winter barely exists and flowers bloom almost all year round.  But, that's about it!  People love their mommas, puppies are cuddled and the talk of food is always an interesting conversation!

Up north, we had Friday Night Fish Fry....here, any night is a fish fry!  But, there are certain days for certain meals (or at least, this is how I perceive it). For instance, on Mondays you can find Red Beans and Rice and on Thursdays, it's Chicken Spaghetti.

Until I moved to the South, I had not heard of Chicken Spaghetti.  But, as seems to happen often in The Universe, once I noticed Chicken Spaghetti here in the South, I started noticing it in other places, including in a Facebook post by a grade school friend.  Hoby posted about making his "World Famous" Chicken Spaghetti....well, that piqued my interest, so I asked for specifics.  He offered up his recipe and was kind enough to let me adapt his recipe and recreate it for Sylvia's world.

I won't say it is as "World Famous" as his, but here is my version of Chicken Spaghetti....

Hoby’s Chicken Spaghetti
          adapted by Sylvia Waldsmith
2 large boneless and skinless chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces spaghetti, broken in half
¼ cup butter
½ cup chopped green pepper
½ cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
6 ounces sliced white or crimini mushrooms
4 ounces Velveeta Cheese, cubed
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 small can (approx. 10 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies (hot or regular)

In a large pot, place chicken breasts in chicken broth and add pepper, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pan and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle.  Remove chicken to a plate to cool.

Skim or strain chicken broth to remove any foam or fat from the surface.  Bring back to a boil and add spaghetti.   Cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender.  DO NOT DRAIN.

While cooking spaghetti, melt butter in sauté pan and add peppers, celery, onion and mushrooms and cook over medium heat until onion is soft.  Set aside.

Shred the chicken breasts with two forks and set aside.

Add cubed Velveeta and Cheddar cheeses to spaghetti and chicken broth and stir until melted.  Add sautéed mixture, diced tomatoes and chicken and stir until thoroughly combined.  You can serve the Chicken Spaghetti at this time.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease a 13” x 9” baking dish.  Place combined chicken mixture into dish and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring once halfway thru cooking time.  Baking the dish helps reduce the moisture level and combine the flavors.

Serve sprinkled with shredded cheese (I used an Italian Blend) and sliced scallions.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Baked Corned Beef

I've always LOVED Corned Beef!  Growing up, it was an easy and cheap meal in my family home.  The meat and vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onions and celery) were inexpensive! You could feed a family of 6 for very little money and no one went away hungry.

My mom boiled the meat, as did everyone else I knew. Boiled was how I knew Corned Beef.  It was good, but usually a little bland and lacked any real color. Way too often, it ended up tough. But, we ate it anyway, because mom had put in the effort, added some love and created dinner. We were thankful to be together and enjoying a home cooked meal around the dinner table.

Fast forward....St. Patrick's Day dinner at a friend's restaurant and the most incredible Corned Beef I had ever eaten! It was tender and a beautiful deep, almost ruby red. The meat was full of flavor and seemed to melt in my mouth. His secret? Low heat and slow roasting. I was hooked!

Over the years I came up with several baked Corned Beef recipes, but this one, at least for the time being, is my favorite! It's easy! It's full of flavor! It will satisfy the Corned Beef craving that hits around St. Patrick's Day!  

One more thing....I, once again, forgot to take a picture of the Corned Beef, BEFORE I served it! I was so excited to dig in, that taking a photograph of the completed meal was the furthest thing from my mind! So, please excuse my lack of photos....

Baked Corned Beef

4 – 5 pound corned beef (flat cut)*
1 large onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
12 ounces cola (any brand)
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Line a large baking pan or Dutch oven with aluminum foil.

Place corned beef on foil (set aside the little seasoning packet**), fat side up and place onion slices over the top.  In a small bowl, mix together cola, juice, Worcestershire Sauce and cinnamon.  Pour around corned beef.  Completely seal foil around pan.  Bake for 6 – 7 hours or until fork tender.

Near end of baking time, in a small sauce pan, mix together brown sugar, honey, mustard, chili powder and garlic.  Heat over low heat until sugar is melted.

Remove brisket, raise oven temperature to 400 degrees, open foil and baste brisket with sugar/honey mixture, do not recover.

Return to oven and bake for another half hour, basting once more during that time.

Remove to platter, cover with foil and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.  Cut the corned beef against the grain into ½ inch slices.

*I choose the flat cut over the point cut, because I find it less fatty.  I think it is a better cut for corned beef.  I use the point for braised brisket because it shreds more easily.

**Now, what to do with that seasoning packet….if you are boiling cabbage, carrots and potatoes, place the seasoning packet in the liquid you use for preparing the vegetables.