Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Basic Blondies

I have made these blondies countless times, but have never blogged them. This recipe was passed on to me by bakingblonde of Bakingblonde's Weblog. She is the queen of the blondies on The Nest's What's Cooking message board. These blondies are my go-to dessert for when we really want something sweet but don't have lots of time. They are so easy to throw together at the last minute, and as much as I love my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, I love when I don't have to get it messy. This is a one bowl dessert that is always a crowd pleaser.

The only issue that I have with this recipe is that it has no leavening agent and they always come out flat and a little raw tasting. Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind the ooey gooey undercooked chocolatiness. They're just a little hard to get out of the pan without squishing them. I think next time I will add a bit of baking powder and see if that does anything.

Basic Blondies

8 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8x8 pan. Mix melted butter with brown sugar and beat until smooth (I always just do this in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon) Beat in egg and then vanilla. Add salt, stir in flour, and add in any mixins (below)

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool on rack before cutting.

Mix in ideas:
1/2 to 1 cup of chopped, toasted nuts
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate/white chocolate chips
mint/almond/any other extract of your choice in place of the vanilla extract

My favorite mix ins so far were a combination of toffee chips, almonds and dried cranberries. Yum! Tonight I just did about 3/4 cup of chocolate chips though. Rob and Maura like them best tat way :-)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

I sometimes feel like I don't try enough new recipes. If I blogged every single time I baked something, including repeat recipes, I'd have well over 150 posts by now. But I tend to make the same baked goods over and over because they feel safe.

Well, I decided it was time to try something new. I have been wanting to make a pound cake for a while now and I knew that there were several recipes floating around my family. Mostly my aunts. I have lots and lots of aunts. My Dad had 7 sisters and my Mom has 2, and I have a couple of aunts related to me by marriage (my dad also had 2 brothers). So between all of them, I have enough recipes to last me a life time. I decided to refer to my family cookbook put together by one of my Dad's sisters. I found my Aunt Clare's Brown Sugar Pound cake recipe, and while it wasn't the traditional pound cake recipe I was looking for, it looked wonderful so I decided to give it a shot.

This cake is dense and rich and delicious. The brown sugar gives it a deep flavor that is amazing. You will definitely need a glass of milk though! The original recipe in my cookbook calls for a Caramel Rum Sauce to drizzle over the cake, but I skipped this because i was feeling a little lazy :-) However, the next time I make this for a party or get together, I will definitely try out the sauce because it sounds wonderful. This time I jsut dusted it with a little bit of powdered sugar.

Aunt Clare's Brown Sugar Pound Cake

2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter, softened
2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup of milk (Aunt Clare uses fat free half and half so that's what I used :-) )
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10" tube pan. In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and cream until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, and then add to the butter mixture alternately with milk or half and half, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the vanilla. Fill prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (my cake took only an hour and 15 minutes) Cool cake completely, then remove from pan. To serve, drizzle with rum sauce.

Caramel Rum Sauce
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp corn syrup
3 tbsp dark rum

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Cover and continue to boil for 1 minute to wash sugar crystals from the sides of the pan. Uncover and continue to boil for 3-4 minutes without stirring. Cool slightly. Drizzle over cooled cake and serve.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Asian Marinade

I made a really simple dinner tonight of grilled chicken, roasted veggies and brown rice. I have no pictures because I left my camera at my Mom's house last weekend. But the chicken was so delicious, that I had to post about it.

I love Asian inspired marinades and I've used one that is slightly similar to this one for my chicken stir fry. I was actually sad to discard the leftover marinade tonight because it smelled so good. Looking back, I probably could have reduced it in a saucepan on the stove top and turned it into a glaze for the grilled chicken. Next time!

Asian-inspired Marinade (I used this for my grilled chicken tonight, but I'm sure it would be delicious on veggies or even shrimp)

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup and whisk briskly with a fork or wire whisk. Add chicken (I used 3 boneless skinless breasts) and marinade ingredients to a large zip top bag and marinade in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. I marinaded mine for more like 5 or 6 hours. The longer the better. Grill or bake, as desired.

So easy and so delicious! I think I may use the leftover chicken in a salad tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Blueberry Cream Cheese Tarts

Today was the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon at my daughter's school and I signed up to send in a dessert. I thought I'd do a mini cheesecake recipe that I've made several times and always loved. It was a recipe I saw on an episode of Paula Deen's "Paula's Home Cooking" show a long time ago. This recipe is incredibly easy to throw together and is a really great dessert for picnics or cookouts.

The idea was that my daughter would just take the dessert with her on the bus and take it to the office at her school for me since i have to be at work so darn early every day...Not such a great idea. Poor Maura dropped the container of cheesecakes while she was waiting for the bus. She felt really really badly about it! So anyway, the cheesecakes didn't end up making it to school. I feel really bad about the teachers not getting their treat, but I'm sure there were other desserts, and what can ya do? It was an accident. And now I have 12 smooshed mini cheesecakes to tempt me in my fridge :-)

Here's a pic of the disaster:
And here's the recipe:

Blueberry Cream Cheese Tarts (source: Paula's Home Cooking)
~2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened (I usually use 1/3 less fat cream cheese and that works just fine)
~1 cup sugar
~1 tsp vanilla extract
~2 eggs
~12 vanilla wafers
~1 (21 ounce) can blueberry pie filling, or other pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liner in each cup of a 12 cup muffin pan.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Place vanilla wafer, flat side down, in each muffin cup. Spoon cream cheese mixture over wafers, filling liners almost to the top. Bake for 20-23 minutes. Allow tarts to cool completely. Serve with blueberry pie filling on top, or pie filling of your choice.

These are much better the next day, but should be chilled in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours before serving. Otherwise, they stick to the liners and become an awful mess. I learned that the hard way. Next time, I may try these with lemon extract instead of vanilla. I love the blueberry and lemon combo.