Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No-Bake Chocolate Cookies

My husband grew up in Clarksville, TN, where he spent a lot of time visiting with his Grandparents that lived close by. His Granny used to make him these special cookies all the time and they are still, today, his favorite.

I love making these cookies for my family, especially during the summer. They don't require baking so they are the perfect treats to make on a hot day.

No-Bake Chocolate Cookies
(recipe from Granny Devers)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy can be used)
3 cups quick-cooking oats

In a small saucepan, bring the butter, sugar, cocoa and milk to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly.
Boil for just over 1 minute and then remove from the heat.
Stir in the vanilla and peanut butter, until the peanut butter is melted.
Pour chocolate mixture over the oats in a large bowl. Mix well.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto wax paper. Let sit until cookies are set and hardened. I usually make my cookies a little on the large size so I get about 24.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jen's Fresh Tomato Salsa

My husband, my oldest son, and I love fresh salsa. A lot of salsas are made with canned or cooked tomatoes, but we love it made fresh from the garden.
I like to make this salsa the day before I'm going to serve it so the flavor has time to set up, but it can be served the same day. It will stay fresh for a few days in the refrigerator if kept in an air tight container.

Here's my simple and delicious recipe:

Jen's Fresh Tomato Salsa

3 medium to large sized fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 of a red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely diced (can use more, if desired)
2 whole canned green chilies, chopped
Juice of 1/2 of a lime
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Mix together all of the salsa ingredients in a large bowl. Add the salt and pepper according to your preference. I like to start with about 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper and go from there. (if you are not into "chunky" style salsa, you can puree this in a food processor for a minute or so to get a smooth, thin consistency).

Serve with your favorite chips, on top of burgers and hot dogs, with tacos, on top of grilled steak....the possibilities are endless! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grilled Jalapeno and Bacon Burgers

I decided to grow jalapenos in my garden this year, so I planted ONE plant and got over 12 jalapenos! Thankfully, my husband and I really like spicy food so using up all the jalapenos wasn't going to be a problem.

This burger is a favorite of ours and is sooo good. You can control the amount of heat according to your preference. I like to use one jalapeno (with minimal seeds) per one pound of hamburger (to make four 1/4 pound patties). You can use less or more if you want.

Grilled Jalapeno and Bacon Burgers
(generously adapted from Rachael Ray)

Serves 4

1 lb lean ground beef
1 jalapeno pepper
8 slices of bacon, divided
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
4- Slices cheddar cheese
Avocado slices, optional
Onion slices, optional

Spray the grill with non-stick spray and then preheat to medium-high heat.

Cook bacon (not too crispy) and drain on a paper towel. Chop 4 slices of the bacon into small pieces. Reserve the remaining 4 slices.
Remove the seeds from the jalapeno and then finely chop.

Mix together the ground beef, chopped bacon, jalapeno, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Press the beef mixture into 4 equal sized patties.
Grill the patties for about 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the patties). Melt a slice of cheddar cheese on the top of each burger a couple of minutes before the burgers are done.

Serve burgers on toasted buns with one slice each of reserved bacon. I like to add slices of avocado and a few thinly sliced onions on top of mine as well. Enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Garlic-Lemon Marinated Grilled Chicken

Summer is almost over for us (our kids will be back to school in just over a week) so I decided to share with you a couple of our favorite, easy summer recipes.

My husband and I love grilled food, so we use our grill throughout the year, even when there is four feet of snow on the ground. Grilling in the summer is our favorite though because we can grill almost every night. My husband considers himself to be a master griller because he claims to be able to grill almost anything, and strives to achieve perfect grill marks every time. I'm not sure about the master griller part, but he does cook some of the nicest looking meat I've ever seen! :)

Here's one of my go-to marinated grilled chicken recipes. It's easy to throw together and has a really nice, subtle, but noticeable flavor. You can alter any of the ingredients to your liking or add more/different herbs to change the flavor a bit.

Garlic-Lemon Marinated Grilled Chicken

For every 4 boneless chicken breasts:

3 T extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves fresh, minced garlic (small to medium in size)
2 T water
1 1/2 T lemon juice (fresh is best)
1/4-1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (or 1/4 tsp dried)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

Combine all of the marinade ingredients.
Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag or glass dish with a cover. Pour marinade over chicken, coating each piece well. I like to pierce the meat a few times with a knife so the marinade soaks up better.
Marinate in the refrigerator for a least an hour, but I think the best flavor is achieved after the chicken has been marinating for most of the day (6 hours or so).

When ready to cook, spray grill with non-stick grilling spray (if desired) and the preheat to medium-high heat.
Remove chicken from the fridge and place on paper towels. Gently dab off any excess marinade.
Grill chicken until cooked through, about 15 minutes or so (6-8 minutes on each side).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie Parfaits

I made this special Peanut Butter Pie Parfait dessert in memory of a fellow food blogger's husband, Mikey, who recently passed away unexpectedly (read more, here). I've never met either of them, but the love and support that was showed to them throughout the blog world over the past week was just amazing. I couldn't wait to make my own special peanut butter pie dessert to share with my family, in their families honor.

This is a very decadent dessert that is very easy to put together. I hope you enjoy it!

Peanut Butter Pie Parfaits
(adapted from Inside BruCrew Life and The Pioneer Woman)

Here's the ingredients you'll need:

Oreos (regular or chocolate creme)
Unsalted butter
Creamy peanut butter
Cream cheese
Confectioners' sugar 
Cool-Whip, thawed
Chocolate Chips
Heavy whipping cream
Mini Reese's peanut butter cups, cut in half (or regular sized peanut butter cups, chopped)

Let's make it!

Oreo Crust Layer:
10-12 Oreos, finely crushed (I used my food processor)
1 T unsalted butter, melted

-Mix Oreo crumbs and melted butter together. Set aside.

Peanut Butter Pie Layer:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 T confectioners' sugar
4 oz Cool-Whip, thawed (half of the container)

-Using an electric mixer, cream together the peanut butter and cream cheese. Then mix in the confectioners' sugar. Gently fold in the Cool-Whip with a rubber spatula. Set aside.

Chocolate Ganache Layer:
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

-Heat the heavy cream over medium-high heat in a small saucepan until boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips until melted and smooth. Let cool for a few minutes on the stove top.

Homemade Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 T sugar

-Using an electric mixer, whip the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Once all of your "layers" are ready, it's time for assembly! If you make 3 layers of each like I did. then you should get 4 big servings (the bigger, the better, right?). If you only do two layers of each, then you should be able to get about 8 servings.

Here's how I put mine together, starting from the bottom:

About 2 tablespoons of Oreos, pressed into the bottom of each parfait cup.

Then add these layers in this order:
1 generous tablespoon of peanut butter pie filling
1 generous tablespoon of chocolate ganache
4- half pieces of Reese's mini peanut butter cups (or about half a tablespoon of chopped regular size)

-Repeat the above three layers, two more times (or once more if making smaller desserts)

Finish with homemade whipped cream on top and a few more Reese's mini peanut butter cups for garnish.
Enjoy!! :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chicken Florentine Bowtie Pasta

I'm always on the search for great pasta dishes, especially quick, week-night type dishes that can be thrown together in less then 30 minutes.

Here's another great recipe from one of my favorite blogs. Jenny from Picky Palate is always creating the best dishes that are kid (and adult) friendly. I often look to her recipes for inspiration in my own kitchen. This recipe was yet another winner in my house and I think you will enjoy it too!

Chicken Florentine Bowtie Pasta
(adapted from Picky Palate)

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
4 cups fresh baby spinach, washed
2 cups cooked boneless chicken, shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 containers of Philadelphia Cooking Creme
1 box bowtie pasta
1 1/2  cups shredded mozzarella cheese (I used reduced-fat 2% milk)
Grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Cook pasta to al-dente according to package directions. Drain.

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
Add the chicken, salt, and pepper and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the Cooking Creme. Stir well.
Add the pasta to the chicken mixture and mix well. Spread into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the mozzarella cheese.

Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until heated through and cheese is melted. Serve with desired amount of sprinkled parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Oreo Reese's Brownie Bars

Warning! If you are afraid of high calorie desserts, then don't read this recipe! :)

My family loves Oreos so I am always looking for ways to incorporate Oreos into our desserts. When I came across this recipe, my jaw dropped and I was instantly in love.
They are awesome. My youngest son had a lot of fun helping me put them together. They are so super simple to make and will definitely cure any sugar-type craving you might me having!

Here's the recipe:

Oreo Reese's Brownie Bars
(from Inside BruCrew Life)

Brownie mix (either boxed or homemade--9x13 pan size)
2 cups Reese's Pieces
Golden Oreos

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick baking spray and set aside.
Mix together the brownie mix (if using a boxed mix--follow 2-egg directions). Stir in 1 cup of the Reese's pieces into the brownie mix. Spread half of the brownie mix into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Then place the Oreos on top of the batter so they are just touching each other (I did 4 rows of 6--using 24 cookies).

Cover the Oreos with the other half of the brownie mix. Then sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of Reese's Pieces over the top.
Bake for 22-26 minutes, until brownies are done and a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Enjoy! :)