Friday, October 24, 2014

Chocolate Brownie Brittle Mousse and Chocolate Moose


My sweet and lovable chocolate "moose",
soaking up the fall morning sunshine.

Are you an "outy" or an "inny"?  I am an outy, and I'm not referring to belly buttons.  I am however referring to brownies.  This can be quite a debate in any given household or relationship.  Do you like the outside of the perimeter edge of the pan that has partial brownie crispy crust with a hint of the soft side included or are you completely crustless and only go for the soft cake and fudgy (is that a word?) parts.

My world has been changed forever.  Sheila G, a famous baker in Florida invented "Brownie Brittle" and will now become a millionaire because of it.  It's the simple ideas that really make you go, "Why didn't I think of that?"

These little cookie crunch brownie bites are amazing.  Every time I open the bag, I get this wave of fresh baked chocolate that immediately takes me back to my mom's brownies.  They are very dangerous to have around the house, to say the least.


I had a spare bag (amazingly enough) and wanted to create a treat with them.  I took some already made chocolate pudding and Cool Whip we still had in the refrigerator and made a pseudo "mousse". The crushed brownie brittle served as the base for the mousse and then I topped it off with a nice full size piece for the crowning touch.

Brownie Brittle Mousse

Measurements will vary, depending on how many your are making, but here is the ratio:

2 parts, prepared chocolate pudding
1 part, Cool Whip dessert topping (or more, to your liking)
crushed "Brownie Brittle"
whole pieces of "Brownie Brittle"

Add a small amount of the crushed brownie brittle to the bottom of your glass.  (I like to freeze my dessert glasses about an hour before I prepare the dish) Stir pudding well in a medium size bowl and carefully fold in Cool Whip, until it is all evenly mixed.  Spoon the mousse into your chilled glass. Top with a piece of brownie brittle.


One Year Ago: Grannie's Lasagna




Thursday, October 23, 2014

BLT Sandwiches and Nana Tomatoes

For throwdown Thursday, I became very reminiscent of my mom's BLT sandwiches when I was growing up.  I remember vividly the aroma of bacon being fried in her stainless steel GE electric skillet (that weighed more than our dog) while toasting the white sandwich bread for the BLT dinners some nights.  I loved her sandwiches and she always served them up with a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Fast forward in time, when I met my husband he taught me his mom's famous "Nana Tomatoes" that she made often for their family and they have become a staple at our house also.  They are so easy, versatile and have incredible flavor.

The other night we made them and I wondered how they would taste in a BLT, instead of just plain sliced tomatoes.  Oh dear Heaven!  Now maybe I was just really hungry that night, but that was the most delicious sandwich I enjoyed in a long time.  The marinated tomatoes, butter lettuce and  lightly toasted sourdough bread raised the retro sandwich to a different level.  One of my girls tried a bite of my sandwich.  Not only did she steal the other half my sandwich, she also proceeded to make another one for herself.  
If you're feeling nostalgic,
give this one a try.

Nana Tomatoes 
Inspired by Nana (Jan)

1 cup Best Foods Olive Oil Mayonnaise (or your favorite brand)
1 cup Newman's Own Family Recipe Italian Dressing (or your favorite brand)
3-4 beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

* Proportions/measurements can be adjusted based on how many people and use of tomatoes.

In a deep dish plate or glass pie pan, whisk the mayonnaise and Italian dressing, salt and pepper together until blended well.  Slice the tomatoes and submerge in the dressing mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Serve the tomatoes as a side dish with
 your favorite beef, chicken or pork meal.
Even better though...serve them as part of your BLT sandwich,
it is devine!!


One Year Ago: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chocolate Chip Shortbreads

If you want to give your teenager a heart attack, pick her up at school, have her open the rear tailgate of your vehicle to stash backpack and sports bag, to find a high chair, baby gate and pack'n play crib. Her face goes white, she freezes and asks why there are baby things in the back of my car.  "Why do you think?" I asked back.  "I don't know"...why don't you tell me!", as she says in complete panic.

After I got a really good laugh in the parking lot (I was the only one laughing of course), I had to remind her that their twin toddler niece and nephew would be here next month and needed a place to sit and eat and a crib to sleep.  "Oh yeah", she sighs in relief.

Back at home, the other teenager needed some assistance with extra credit for her history presentation.  She studied the Country of Austria and interviewed their Uncle Rudi (our brother-in-law), who immigrated to the United States from Austria when he was just three years old, with his parents.  Truly a wonderful and fascinating story that she was delighted to share with her class.

So, for that extra credit I (I mean she) decided to make shortbread cookies.  Since most Austrian shortbread recipes have nuts in them, I had to be on the lookout for other recipes, to respect anyone with food allergies...That would be just our luck - make a cookie, someone has an allergic reaction, say good-bye to the extra credit.  At any rate, we got very lucky and found a super easy, buttery, yummy shortbread that I will definitely make again.


Chocolate Chip Shortbreads
Courtesy of Woman's Day

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold, unsalted butter, diced in cubes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
(Makes 16 wedges)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Have baking sheet ready and covered with a piece of parchment paper.

Mix flour and granulated sugar in a medium bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or rub butter in with fingertips) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in mini chocolate chips.

Gently press crumbs together to form a dough (the heat from your hands will help this happen). Place on baking sheet; pat into an 8-inch disk.  With a sharp knife, score into 16 wedges, cutting about halfway through dough.  Lightly prick wedges twice with a fork.

Bake 25 minutes, or until shortbread looks dry and golden at edges.  Immediately cut through score lines.  Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

* For the purpose of our classroom assignment and needing to share with 40 students, I took the recipe measurements (x 4) and spread all the dough out over a cookie sheet.  I then scored it into diamond shapes and baked it for about 30-35 minutes, checking often to make sure the edges didn't burn. Worked perfectly if you are looking to feed a large group.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Greek Shrimp Saganaki


In my forever quest of weekly meal planning and calendar strategy of what to make for dinner, my husband saves the day.  Not only can I not remember what I did two days ago, I certainly cannot remember what I made for dinner a week or a month ago (hence the reason for the meal planning calendar).

Every now and again, my husband will say "What about the dish that....." (and he'll go into his description of how he remembers the meal).  I then have to stop, wait for it....oh yes, my ever flickering light bulb finally goes back on again...and I remember.  

Here is one of those meals that I completely forgot about and he once again reminded me of.  The great thing about this one is you can make it a date night meal for two or have it as an appetizer for a group of family, friends, neighbors, girls night in, book club,...you get the picture.

It looks complicated and fancy, but it truly is super easy and amazing flavors.



Shrimp Saganaki
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, November 2012
Original Recipe By Lord Byron Restaurant, Ios Island, Greece

1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 scallions, white part only, minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup drained diced canned tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
pinch of dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 medium shrimp (about 1/2 lb.), peeled, deveined and tails off
1 (4 oz.) block feta cheese
slices of country-style rustic bread, toasted

**I also add:
2 Tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted, drained, roughly chopped

Heat oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-low heat.  Add scallions and garlic; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, (capers and olives) and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 4-6 minutes.  Remove from heat;  add wine, broth, 1 tsp. parsley, 1 tsp. dill and oregano.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until tomato mixture is reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium.  Season shrimp with salt and pepper.  Add shrimp to skillet, arranging around edges.  Place block of feta in center of skillet.  Cover and simmer until shrimp are cooked through and feta is warm, 4-6 minutes.

** We like eating this dish straight out of our cast iron skillet, but you can also transfer the shrimp and feta to a large shallow bowl.

Garnish with parsley.  Serve with toasted rustic bread to scoop up every flavorful bite.  Since I needed white wine for the recipe, we enjoyed the rest of the McManis Chardonnay with our meal. Perfectly paired!


Monday, October 13, 2014

German Chocolate Bundt Cake


As I have previously mentioned, I married a German and when my Mr. German gets a "bee in his bonnet", as his mom used to say..."Look Out"!!  What's worse, is when my Mr. German gets a sweet tooth and I have "PMS", which in my house means "Putting Up With Mark's ****", it always makes an interesting combination.

Add to this, we are fully into Fall here and when there is a chill in the air, all I want to do is bake!  It makes the house so warm and cozy and the wonderful aromas from the oven always make everyone happy (including my hips).  So last week's issues of having no "treats" in the house have now turned into my husband complaining that he has to go down one notch on his belt.  Really?  I just can't win around here some days.....


German Chocolate Bundt Cake

For The Cake:
1 box (16.5 oz.) Devil's Food chocolate cake mix
1 cup Best Foods Olive Oil Mayonnaise
1 cup water
3 eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1 Tablespoon brewed coffee (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray bundt pan with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

Beat cake mix, mayonnaise, water, eggs, cinnamon and coffee 30 seconds in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed. Beat on medium speed, scraping sides occasionally, 2 minutes. Pour batter into bundt pan.

Bake 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 30 minutes before inverting onto serving platter.


For The Frosting:
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)


In a saucepan over medium heat, bring evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, and butter to a boil. Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens to the likeness of pudding . Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, coconut, and pecans. Let cool and thicken a little.

Spoon frosting on top of the cake, letting it run down all the inside and outside of cake.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Spaetzle with Gruyere and Carmelized Onions

As a side dish with last week's Oktoberfest Sauerbraten, I made Spaetzle with Gruyere and Carmelized Onions. These three ingredients marry so well together and were the perfect combination with the roast.

I will warn you, this recipe calls for making your own homemade Spaetzle.  At this point in my life, I have neither the time nor patience to attempt homemade Spaetzle, especially on a weeknight.  Perhaps some day I will get the courage to try it, but for now my box of Panni Spaetzle by Knorr fulfilled my "semi-homemade" need just perfectly.


Spaetzle with Gruyere and Carmelized Onions
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (5 ounces)
1 3/4 cups milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons peanut oil 


**Option in lieu of homemade Spaetzle:  (2) 9 oz. boxes of Panni Spaetzle by Knorr
Make according to box directions and go on to step 3.


1.  In a small bowl, whisk the milk with the egg yolks and egg. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg mixture into the flour, leaving a few lumps. Cover and refrigerate the batter for at least 1 hour or overnight.

2  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Carefully hold a colander with large holes over the boiling water. Add about 1/2 cup of the batter to the colander and press it into the simmering water with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Repeat until all of the batter has been used. Cook the spaetzle for 2 minutes longer, then drain. Immediately transfer the spaetzle to the ice water, swirling the dumplings until all of the ice melts. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

3.  Preheat the oven to 400°. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread the spaetzle in the dish and dot with the butter. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the spaetzle is hot and the cheese is just melted.

4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and cook over high heat until softened, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Scatter the onion over the spaetzle and serve.
Make Ahead The spaetzle can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated for up to 1 day.




One Year Ago:  Apple Dumplings

Monday, October 6, 2014

Slow Cooker Sauerbraten

The other morning, I was frantically looking for my laundry and found it in a business developer's conference room where they were working on payroll....Yes, my brain is still on overload and I am still having the most "off the wall - make no sense" dreams (when I am able to sleep, that is).

I don't know if I am going to make it through high school this second time around and I think I am putting more time, effort and brain power on the upcoming end of season volleyball dinner, more than I did my own wedding.

Once I get through the banquet the middle of next month, then two weeks later our son is coming for Thanksgiving with his family and we are meeting our twin grandbabies for the first time.  Then, two weeks after that is my husband's birthday...then two weeks later is Christmas, then our girls' sweet 16 birthday at year's end.  I can't imagine why it's so hard for me to get a decent night's sleep right now.

Well for now, I'm working on Oktoberfest fun.  I married a German and each year I try to up my German dish repertoire, even though I can barely pronounce some of the recipes.

I had never made Sauerbraten, but I figured anything I can put in a crockpot can't be all that difficult. This was awesome!!  I threw it all together before we all went off to work and school and came home to the most amazing roast dinner.


Slow Cooker Sauerbraten
Courtesy of Taste of Home

1 boneless beef chuck roast or rump roast (3 to 4 pounds)
4 cups water
1 bottle (14 ounces) ketchup
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
3 bay leaves
1-1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies (about 30 cookies)

Gravy:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Cut roast in half. Place in a 5-qt. slow cooker; add water. In a
large bowl, combine the ketchup, onion, brown sugar and vinegar;
pour over roast.

Place pickling spices and bay leaves on a double thickness of
cheesecloth; bring up corners of cloth and tie with string to form a
bag. Add spice bag and cookie crumbs to slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove roast and keep warm. Discard spice bag. Strain cooking juices;
transfer 4 cups to a large saucepan. Combine cornstarch and water
until smooth; stir into cooking juices. Bring to a boil; cook and
stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice roast; serve with
gravy.

One Year Ago:  Weeknight Ravioli Bake