Peanut Butter Candy Bar Brownies

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As far as desserts go, I enjoy making cakes and cupcakes most.  However, not all situations are cake and cupcake friendly.  When I need a sweet treat that must travel well I turn to bars.  Bars are usually pretty easy to make and they are very easy to  transport.  So when you have an occasion that calls for a no fuss (yet delicious!) dessert–say a picnic, a potluck, or an event to which you are going straight from work, I suggest you consider bars!

Let this be your warning: these Peanut Butter Candy Bar Brownie bars are addictive!  If you have a sweet tooth, these bars are definitely for you!  They are peanut buttery, chocolaty, chewy, and crunchy all at once! 

Peanut Butter Candy Bar Brownies:

  • 1  16 oz. package peanut-shaped peanut butter sandwich cookies (Nutter Butters), coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 /2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5  1.5 oz. packages Reese’s peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
  • 2  2.1 oz. Butterfinger candy bars
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

Combine crushed cookies and butter in a medium bowl.  Press crumb mixture into bottom of a greased aluminum foil lined 9 x 13 glass dish.  Allow foil to extend beyond ends of pan.  Bake at 350 F for 6-8 minutes.

Combine condensed milk, peanut butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl.  Stir until smooth.

Sprinkle chopped candy bars, chocolate morsels, and peanuts over crust.  Drizzle condensed milk mixture on top.

Bake at 350 F for 27 minutes or until lightly brown.  Remove dish and place on a wire rack to cool.  Lift foil from pan and pull foil away from uncut brownies.  Let cool completely then cut into bars.

Recipe adapted from myrecipes.com.

Quinoa Salad with Corn and Red Pepper

 

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Quinoa is all the rage these days!  Everywhere I turn there are either quinoa recipes or articles praising quinoa as the best food source ever.  I had to get on the bandwagon!  I’ve been holding on to a box of quinoa for a few weeks now and I finally settled on making  this Martha Stewart recipe.  I was quite pleased! The taste and texture of the quinoa reminded me of a combination of rice and couscous–I think that if it were possible to “mate” the two, this is the taste and texture you would get! 

 Because I served this as a main dish, not a side, and I didn’t know what to expect, I decided to add some pulled chicken breast.  (I actually bought one of those grocery store roasting chickens and pulled off the deliciously moist meat—I am surprised over and over and over at how fabulous these birds are!)  That said, this is a filling meal and by no means did it need the chicken.  Without the chicken I think this would be a perfectly satisfying gluten free vegetarian main course or side. Also, I think it would pair perfectly with turkey tips or steak tips (or any other grilled or broiled protein–think Memorial Day cookout!).    

This recipe was a light yet filling, delicious, and nutritious gluten free meal—and a perfect introduction to this super-grain.

Quinoa Salad with Corn and Red Pepper:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1.5 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1.5 cups quinoa, cooked according to package directions, using chicken or vegetable broth in place of water
  • 1 cup of frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • chicken breast pieces, cooked
  • baby spinach

Whisk olive oil, vinegar, basil, mustard powder, and garlic in a large bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the (cooked) quinoa, corn, chicken, diced red pepper, and half of the sliced scallions to the bowl.  Toss lightly to combine.

Arrange baby spinach on individual serving plates or a platter.  Mound salad on the center.  Garnish with remaining scallions.

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Recipe adapted from MarthaStewart.com.

Chicken Lo Mein

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 I like to keep my eye out for recipes that are delicious and fresh substitutes for takeout.  This one caught my eye because it is packed with vegetables.  Also, it contains those scrumptious soba noodles that I just can’t seem to get enough of these days!  The cremini mushrooms have a strong earthy flavor that adds some depth to this dish.  (You could always substitute button mushrooms if the cremini are too “dirty” for you.)  This dish tastes even better reheated and eaten a few days later.  This is definitely another one of those instances where you could throw this in a little white box with a thin wire handle and enjoy the best take out you never ordered!

Chicken Lo Mein:

  • One 12-ounce package of soba noodles
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 pound of chicken breast sliced into thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, vegetable oil, or a few squirts of cooking spray
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • One 1-pound bag frozen mixed stir-fry vegetables (water chestnuts, mini corn, carrots, peppers, peapods etc.), thawed

In a medium pot of boiling water, cook noodles until tender, about five minutes.

Using a blender or food processor, finely chop the garlic and ginger.  Transfer half of the mixture to a medium bowl.  Add the chicken strips and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to the bowl.

In a large skillet, heat the oil or spray over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken mixture to the skillet and cook until chicken is no longer pink.  Transfer to a clean bowl.

Using the same skillet add the mushrooms and the remaining ginger-garlic mixture.  Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender and brown.

In a small bowl whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, the oyster sauce and cornstarch.  Add 1/3 cup of water and the chicken broth. Pour this mixture over the mushrooms and simmer until thickened. Add the thawed mixed vegetables and the chicken mixture to the skillet.  Cook until heated through. Add the noodles and toss. 

Adapted from Pork Lo Mein recipe found in Rachel Ray magazine.

Cajun-Baked Tilapia

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 As I mentioned, my husband has been craving fish.  This recipe called for catfish, which I thought would be a nice change since we usually eat cod and salmon.   Unfortunately, my grocery store did not have any fresh catfish, however, they did have tilapia fillets.  I think tilapia was the perfect substitute!  They are firm white fillets that are mild in flavor.   This is a nice and easy weeknight meal!  I served this fish with Polenta Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Some recipe notes:

  • I decreased the original recipe intended for 8 fillets to 2 fillets.  However it was still super spicy and a bit on the salty side.  I have adjusted the measurements below so that hopefully you won’t have the same problem.   I forgot how spicy Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning is!
  • I substituted olive oil spray for the 1/4 of melted butter called for in the recipe.  You could boost the flavor factor by using the butter, however, as a general rule our weeknight suppers don’t contain butter.  If I were to make this for guests that would be a different story!
  • I found this recipe on myrecipes.com.  I am obsessed with this site!!!  It is a compilation of recipes from Real Simple, Southern LivingCooking Light and many many more.  The kinds of recipes cover a wide scope of difficulty and ingredients and there are great photos and reviews.  You can find recipes for just about any ingredient or occasion. You must check it out!

Cajun-Baked Tilapia:

  • 1  cup cornmeal
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  tablespoon  pepper
  • 2 tilapia or catfish fillets
  • 1/2 tablespoon  Cajun seasoning (I used Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning —super spicy!)
  • a drizzle of olive oil or olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Combine first 3 ingredients. Dredge the fillets in cornmeal mixture; place fillets, skin sides down, on a greased baking sheet.

Sprinkle cajun seasoning over fillets.  Spray fillets with olive oil spray.

Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until golden and fish flakes with a fork.

Adapted from recipe found here on myrecipes.com!

Polenta Stuffed Poblano Peppers

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Something about the photo of this recipe in Rachel Ray’s magazine caught my eye.   The fact that I had a half of bag of leftover polenta on hand sealed the deal.  My husband has been craving fish quite a bit lately.  (My mom always taught us that if you are craving something it is your body telling you that you need it!  I have been diligently quenching my cravings for as long as I can remember.  I love when my husband mentions his cravings because I love finding new recipes to  satisfy them.)   I decided these peppers would be a perfect accompaniment to some baked fish.  I was right!  The polenta was just fantastic—creamy and flavorful (not bland at all due to the nice bite and freshness provided by the scallions) and the corn kernels added some always-welcomed crunch.  I served these peppers with Cajun-Baked Tilapia.  (Recipe to come!)

One note:

  • I could not find peppers labeled “Poblano” in my grocery store.  However, the produce manager assured me Pasilla peppers were the same as Poblano.  According to this article, that is not true, however, for the purpose of this recipe they were just fine.  They had a nice warm flavor–not as acidic as typical green peppers,  not nearly as punchy as jalepenos, and not as sweet as red peppers.  They were an enjoyable contrast to the creamy polenta.

Something else I wanted to mention: Technically, today is this blog’s one year anniversary!  The reason I say “technically” is because I started writing this blog in May 2008, however, I didn’t make it live until July 2008.  It has been a wonderful year of fun in the kitchen—I have discovered so many wonderful recipes from a variety of sources.  Sources that have ranged from the expected to the unexpected!  (One source I am currently addicted to is myrecipes.com. More on that in future posts!) I continue to adore researching, discovering, trying, and sharing new recipes with you.  I hope you’ll continue to visit kitchenbelle.com for inspiration, information, and fun.

Polenta Stuffed Poblano Peppers:

  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges (I forgot to get an onion so I substituted 5 whole cloves of garlic)
  • 4 poblano peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup instant polenta
  • 1 10 ounce package frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup soft goat cheese
  • 4 scallions, sliced

Heat broiler.  On a baking sheet toss the tomatoes, onion (or garlic in my case) and oil.  Turn the tomatoes so that they are cut side down and place them on one end of the baking sheet.  On the other end of the baking sheet place the peppers cut side down.  Broil the vegetables until they are charred, about 5-10 minutes.  Flip the tomatoes and peppers over halfway through.  Remove from oven.  Set peppers aside.  Place tomatoes and onions in a blender or food processor.

Heat oven to 400 F.  Add the cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to the tomatoes and onions in the  blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Spread half of this sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.  Place the peppers (cut side up) on top of the sauce.

In a medium sauce pan bring 2 1/4 cups of water to a rolling boil.  Slowly whisk in the polenta.  Do not stop whisking, about 3-4 minutes, until the polenta is thick.  Stir in the corn, goat cheese, and all but 2 tablespoons of the slice scallions.

Spoon the polenta mixture into the peppers.  Drizzle with the remaining sauce.  Bake in the 400 F oven until heated through, about 5-10 minutes.  Top with remaining scallions.

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Recipe adapted from Everyday with Rachel Ray June/July 2009 issue.

The Flour Bakery Cookbook

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(Above: With Joanne Chang in the bustling Flour kitchen.)

As some of you know, over the past weeks I have been a recipe testing intern for Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery and Myers & Chang.  If you haven’t heard of Flour Bakery (there is one in the South End of Boston and one in the Fort Point Channel) you must pull your head out from under that rock and go!   Flour sells the most delicious goodies, from cookies, to banana bread, to blueberry muffins, to carrot cake, to sticky buns and much much more.  (Joanne creamed Bobby Flay in a sticky bun Throwdown on the Food Network!)   You can find some tasty savory bites as well—the sandwiches and soups are to die for.

 Well, Joanne’s latest project is The Flour Bakery Cookbook.  Lucky for us, Joanne is pulling together some of Flour’s best recipes and neatly packaging them in a cookbook for all to access.  How generous of her!  The book is set to publish in the fall of 2010.  However, as you can tell by following Joanne’s blog, creating a cookbook requires quite a bit of effort.  Joanne had to rework every recipe written for commercial use to a recipe that will yield successful results for the home baker. 

 That’s where I came in!  As a recipe tester, I worked with Joanne to test the recipes over and over.  We had to make sure the instructions were clear, the oven temps were accurate, the baking time was appropriate and that the different components of the recipes yielded the correct amounts.  We made a lemon raspberry cake at least three of four times!  (Unfortunately I never snagged a photo of it!)  Joanne is so generous she always sent me home with a box of leftovers treats. 

 This experience really allowed me to indulge my passion for cookbooks, recipes and baked goods.  I want to thank Joanne and her fabulous staff at Flour for a wonderful experience and the opportunity to assist with The Flour Bakery Cookbook

 Here are a few photos I snagged during testing:

 Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Fresh chunks of pineapple are cooked in caramel sauce and then baked beneath a yellow cake batter that yields a pudding-like consistency.  Absolutely divine.

pineapple

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dried Fruit Foccacia

Dried fruit pieces distributed throughout this bread offer a surprise with every bite!

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Boozy Rum Cake (Pre-Frosting)

What a fantastic name for this cake!  Four layers of cake are lined with rum-flavored pastry cream then the entire cake is frosted with rum-flavored whipped cream.  The result is light, sweet, boozy and woozy!

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If you are too anxious to wait for next fall for the cookbook’s release, you can try Joanne’s Chocolate Cupcake recipe now!  It is my go-to chocolate cake recipe!  See below.

Easter Egg Cupcakes

Welcome Home Little Guy Teddy Bear Cupcakes