Monthly Archives: June 2012

Margarita Bars

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When I was little my family used to go on vacation with my grandparents. My grandparents did tend to drink a lot, but I always remember my Grandma Margaret ordering margaritas and letting me try them if I was good when we were on vacay. Now I’m not saying a developed a taste for tequila at an early age, but maybe it hits a sentimental nerve in my subconscious. At any rate, I might have a million favorite things to do, but sitting somewhere near the water sipping on a margarita has to be high on my list. I can’t always be near the water, nor can I always have a frozen margarita at will, but these bars come pretty close. They’re fairly easy to make and a crowd pleaser. I made this last batch for the Bachelorette Party and I probably ate more of them than anyone. I’m a fan. Highly recommend them for your next BBQ or even a fourth of July party.

Ingredients

  • 1 12-0unce box vanilla wafers
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted
  • 1/3 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 5 large egg yolks, plus 2 eggs whites
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Agave nectar or honey, for drizzling (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Pulse the wafers and pine nuts in a food processor until well ground up. Add the melted butter and blend until evenly mixed. Set aside 1/4 cup of crumbs, press the rest evenly into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake until golden brown, 15 t0 18 minutes. Cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, throughly whisk together the tequila, lime juice, egg yolks and condensed milk.
  4. In another medium bowl, beat the egg whites and sugar with an electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the tequila mixture. Spread the filling evenly over the crust and bake for 25 minutes; cool.
  5. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs on top. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight before cutting. Drizzle with agave nectar, if desired.

My Notes…

Pine nuts are expensive and totally unnecessary in this dish. I don’t recommend buying some for this dish unless you already have some or use them often. It takes a while to whisk the egg whites, but if you have an electric mixer that really helps. Make sure you don’t overcook the crust or it can get black on the bottom, and who wants that?!? The top does taste strong on its own, but with the crust on the bottom it’s totally  fine and delicious.

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Watermelon Jello Shots

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I know, I’m going from a post about teaching kids to bake pizza to a post about alcohol. Can’t a girl have a little fun every once in a while? Speaking of fun, this past weekend was just that. One of my best friends from high school is getting married in about a month, so we celebrated her Bachelorette Party this weekend. It was great. I love hanging out with my girls from back home, and we always have a great time together. I first got the idea for these Jello Shots from my friend Amanda. She had made them for a party and told me about them. I wanted to make these to bring to the party because A) they are so stinking cute! B) They’re the perfect Bachelorette Party treat. They do take some effort. Okay, they take a lot of effort. But personally I think it’s worth it. You definitely do not have to make these with alcohol, nor do you have to use the amount of alcohol I put in. In fact if you follow my recipe, they’re quite strong. Just depends on your personal preferences.

Ingredients

  • 1 package watermelon flavored Jello
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup vodka (or other clear liquor)
  • 10 limes

Instructions

  1. Cut each lime in half vertically. (If the lime were a globe, don’t cut across the equator, cut across the Prime Meridian. If you still are not sure how to cut the lime now, shame on you).
  2. Use a knife to score the lime and then use a spoon to hollow out the lime. (I would save the limes).
  3. Prepare the Jello acording to the directions on the box, substituting vodka for the cold water.
  4. Pour Jello into the hollowed out lime halves. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  5. Use a sharpe knife to cut the lime halves in half (creating quarters).

    Watermelon Shots!

My Notes…

Hollowing out the limes can be a tedious (and sometimes painful) process. If you have any small cuts on your fingers you might want to wear gloves. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to scooping out the limes, so it probably took me longer than most. I found it was easiest to sit on the floor with a bowl between my legs and hollow out the limes into the bowl. I highly recommend cutting out as much as you can before going in with the spoon, but be sure you doing cut all the way through or the Jello will leak out. I arrange the limes on a baking sheet so that they can kind of “lean” against eachother. Then I use a glass measuring cup to pour it into the lime halves. Again, you do not have to use a cup of vodka, or vodka at all for that matter. Just be sure that you are always using 2 cups of liquid. I’m also anxious to try other variations on these. Like using oranges, lemon jello and a little cool whip for Halloween (Candy Corn anyone??)

Pizza at School?

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Don’t judge the heart shape. I did it for the kiddies.

I am not a fan of little kids. Which may sound funny considering I’m a teacher. But I like working with older kids. 6th grade is my lower limit. Any younger than that and they’re just so needy! That being said, somehow I got roped into teaching a series of 4H classes this summer to elementary school kids. We’re talking 2nd through 6th grade. These classes met for 2 hours a week Monday through Thursday. I wasn’t supposed to teach them anything in specific, just get them interested in topics they might be able to do a 4H project on. The last week I taught was called “The Science of Cooking.” I was really looking forward to it because I was hoping to learn somethings myself. Here are a few of the things I learned…

– It takes 8 elementary school kids 2 hours to bake 1 batch of cookies. (They were sent home with about 12 cookies and a huge bag of dough).

– Elementary school kids do not know how to properly clean anything! Me: Did you clean up your station? Student: Yes. Me: Then why is there still flour everywhere? Student: Oh we had to clean that too? (It was like this for two hours).

– When a kid whines at you, if you whine back they usually get really big eyes and don’t know what to do. It was pretty effective.

– Everyone loves Magic School Bus, and if I promised to show it during lunch the kids were really good about following directions and cleaning up.

I know these are all super valuable lessons, but I did really enjoy cooking with the kids. The last day we made pizzas, and I wanted to share the recipe I used for dough. According to some others it’s not the easiest dough recipe there is, but I thought this was a great recipe because the kids can really handle the dough and it doesn’t break down. Also when they were making the pizzas it easily spread out without getting too think or hole-ridden. Personally I thought it was so easy to make this dough and it tasted great. I cannot wait to try it to make breadsticks or calzones or pizza again. If you’ve never tried to make your own bread from scratch this is a great starter recipe. Highly recommend it.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/4 ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for coating
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Place 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl. Stir in sugar until dissolved, then sprinkle the yeast onto the surface of the water. Let te yeast float there for 1 minute, then stir it into the water. Let the yeast “proof” for 10 minutes. It should bubble a bit, if it doesn’t the yeast is outdated and inactive.
  2. Pour the yeast mixture into a large bowl, then stir in te remaining water, and add the olive oil, flour and salt. With a wooden spoon, mix the dough until it forms a ball. On a lightly floured surface, knead he dough for 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.
  3. Coat the inside of a large glass or ceramic bowl with olive oil. Press the ball of dough into the bottom of the bowl, then flip the dough over so the oiled side is on top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and then let the dough rise in a warm place until has doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Makes 1 1/2 pounds of dough.

To make pizza with this dough, just add your favorite toppings and bake for 12 – 15 minutes at 450°F. (If you use a pizza stone decrease the cooking time). If you use the dough recipe above that makes roughly 2, 12-inch pizzas.

My Notes…

When I make homemade pizza I like to knead the dough out on cornmeal instead of flour. It adds a nice flavor and texture to the dough. Also I usually brush it with olive oil before adding the sauce and other toppings. Also many stores sell bags of shredded “pizza” cheese. I think this works fine, but I also really like to use a mixture of mozzarella and Muenster cheeses. It’s a nice blend for pizzas. My favorite toppings are spinach, chicken, and feta cheese. Sooooo good!

Peach Crumble for 1

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I hate my kitchen. I mean I utterly loathe my kitchen. It’s super tiny. I can literally stir something on the stove and wash a dish at the same time. The stove-top only has 1 burner that works, and it’s the smallest burner. The oven itself is terrible. Things that normally take 20 minutes to bake seem to take hours in the abyss that is my oven. Also the dishwasher doesn’t work. Sure it runs, but it does little more than rinsing the dishes. So it’s like a giant dish rack after I wash the dishes by hand. The cabinet space is anything but spacious. I think my fridge would hold more than all the cabinets in my kitchen. Such is the life of an apartment tenant I suppose. But now let me explain the purpose of this rant. This recipe is for 1. Me. Moi. Myself. The best kind of recipe! I won’t have leftovers for days that I end up throwing out anyways. Also it’s so small I can use my toaster oven. My toaster oven that actually works! I loooove cooking/baking things in the toaster oven. It’s so great. If you’re single (or a couple) living somewhere with a small kitchen I HIGHLY recommend a toaster oven. Seriously. I use it daily. Added bonus: In the summer when it’s crazy hot, the toaster oven doesn’t heat up the entire kitchen like a regular oven would. Also I love this recipe because I have all of these things in my tiny apartment pantry. I don’t have to go buy any fancy ingredients. And this recipe is great because you could use it with any fruit: apples, pears, berries, or any combo of those. In addition, easy clean up! Three bowls that can easily be rinsed. Sigh. Why haven’t I found this recipe sooner! And best news of all about this recipe… LOW CALORIE!! According to the website I snatched this from (www.livestrong.com) it’s less than 200 calories. Seriously could this recipe be any better?

Ingredients

  • Medium-sized peach
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 large egg white

Instructions

  1. Coat an individual, oven-proof serving bowl, like a ramekin, with non-stick spray and preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Peel and slice a peach and arrange in the bowl.
  3. Sprinkle the ginger over top of the peach slices.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter brown sugar and coats. Stir until coated.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg white until stiff and then fold into the oat mixture.
  6. Spoon the oat and egg mixture onto the peaches and bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

My Notes…

I really liked this. The ginger adds a nice flavor. Super easy recipe and I highly recommend it!

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sandwiches

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When I was in college, I spent a summer abroad in London. It was on my first night there that I had my first Guinness. Truth be told, I was trying to impress the boys in the group with my affinity for dark beer. It was a very unsavory first beer. But the more I drank, the more I liked it. Since then I’ve been drawn to recipes that include dark beer (see my stout cupcakes). Recently a fellow blogger posted this recipe, and I’ve been dying to try these. They include two of my favorite ingredients: chocolate and beer. They also have coffee in them. I don’t drink coffee, but I do like the flavor of it in many recipes. This recipe was no exception. I loved the hint of coffee in the batter, and with the dark chocolate it was divine. These take some assembly, and I’m not overly sure it’s worth it to make the sandwiches. I couldn’t really taste the beer in the filling, and it didn’t quite firm up as I was hoping it would. But overall a good little cookie. If you don’t feel like constructing the cookie sandwiches, I think the cookie would be quite good on it’s own.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp flaxseed meal (optional)
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

For the filling…

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup dark beer (best at room temperature)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, using a mixer or beaters, beat your butter and sugars together until blended. Add vanilla and egg, beat again. Add coffee and beat again until well-blended.
  2. Using a wooden spoon, mix in flour, salt and baking soda. Mix until well-blended. Mix in flaxseed, and then chocolate.
  3. Before baking the cookies, prepare filling by melting the chocolate chips and butter according to the package. Whisk in beer, and let this mixture sit 10-20 minutes to harden up.
  4. After preparing the filling, preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Use a teaspoon to scoop out your cookie dough and put it on the lined baking sheet. Cookies should be about 1 – 2 inches apart, fitting about 12 cookies on a standard baking sheet. (In total this recipe makes about 24 cookies, which would make 12 sandwiches).

    Small cookie dough balls. So good I didn’t want to bake them. I just wanted to eat them!!

  6. Bake 5 – 7 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown. Allow to rest on baking sheet for a few minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Once cookies are completely cooled you can assemble your cookie sandwiches. On the bottom of one cookie spread the chocolate filling, and sandwich together with another cookie. Repeat until you’re done and then enjoy!!

    Sandwich making station.

My Notes…

The teaspoon provided the perfect sized cookie for making sandwiches. You can use the trick of flattening the balls a little with a wet spoon or fork to make flatter cookies and flatter sandwiches if that’s something you’re going for. I didn’t use the flaxseed, A because I don’t have any and B I’m not really sure what it would add?? As I said in the intro, my filling never really set up. I may have been a little overzealous with the beer, so make sure you measure carefully. If you don’t have time to do the filling and sandwiches, I highly recommend just making little coffee chocolate cookies. Really enjoyed them.

Bacon Breakfast Cookies

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Back Home Again in Indiana

Indianapolis 500 Food

Every year for as long as I can remember, I’ve spent the Sunday before Memorial Day focused on the Indianapolis 500. I’ve got a ton of state pride, and I couldn’t love the Indy 500 more. When I was younger, we would gather as a family and listen to the race on the radio (it was blacked out from TV so people would go to the race). We would eat food, listen for wrecks, and place bets on who we thought would win. Now that I’m older and live in Indianapolis, for the past 5 years I’ve actually gone to the race. One of my favorite moments of the race is before the race when Jim Nabors sings “Back Home Again in Indiana” and hundreds of balloons are released. It gives me chills every time.  As much as the race is about friends and family and tradition, it’s also all about the food! It’s like an elevated camping experience. Usually our group brings the usual campground foods, and items to grill. The trick at the 500 is portable food that won’t melt easily. It gets really, really hot at the track. I found this recipes on allrecipes.com and thought it would be a nice option for breakfast at the track. I have a confession to make, it might make some of you think differently of me. Try not to judge too harshly. Here goes: I do not like bacon. I know. I’ve heard it all. I’m un-American, I have no taste-buds, and so on. But I just do not really like the taste of any smoked meats. That being said. I really liked these cookies, even with the bacon. They are a really hearty cookie. You could use these in place of a granola bar, or bowl of cereal. And in a sealed tupperware, they last for over a week. I really enjoyed them and highly recommend these if you need a breakfast on-the-go.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

For the glaze…

  • 7/8 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water, or as needed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on a paper towel-lined plate. When cool, chop the bacon, and set aside.
  2. Beat the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl until fluffy with an electric mixer on medium speed, then mix in egg, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl, and stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Gradually stir in the oats and bacon, about 1/3 cup of oats at a time, and cover the dough. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

    Batter with the bacon bits included

  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Thoroughly grease baking sheets.
  4. Scoop about 1/3 cup of dough per cookie, roll into balls, and place the balls at least 3 inches apart on the greased baking sheets. Use a fork dipped in water to flatten the balls slightly.

    Very large cookie “patties”

  5. Bake in the preheated oven until the cookies are golden brown with slightly browner edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheets 3 to 5 minutes before removing to finish cooling on racks.
  6. To make glaze, whisk confectioners’ sugar, water, and maple syrup together in a bowl until smooth. Let the glaze stand about 5 minutes to slightly thicken; drizzle onto the tops of the cookies. Allow glazed cookies to stand about 20 minutes to set up before storing.

    Finished Cookies!

My Notes…

First of all, chopping bacon is no fun. Tearing bacon is much easier. Also the batter is super thick, and when you make the cookies before baking, they look more like hamburger patties instead of cookie balls. By the second batch I stopped using the 1/3 cup and just formed my own, smaller balls. But the big cookie is okay, especially since they’re a meal. This one batch makes about 12 cookies. 12 large cookies. Also the glaze is very thin, but makes a lot. I would use a half a cup of sugar, and still 1.5 tablespoons of maple syrup.