Friday, July 6, 2012

Homemade Twix Bars

Again, I've been a terrible blogger! With two sweet little ladies and the summer sun, outdoor activities have left my blog neglected.... I'm back with one of my favorite new dessert recipes. I had initially planned to post my Thai Shrimp Salad recipe next, but I've had several requests for these bars in the meantime. These knockoff Twix bars are chewy and gooey, rich and buttery, topped with crunchy toffee...everything you could ever want in a sweet bite! Enjoy!
Yields: a 9x13 pan (about 30 squares)


The base:
2 sticks of salted, softened butter
1 cup white sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder


Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg yolks and mix on medium until combined. Add baking powder, salt and flour and combine. Press into a greased 9x13 pan and bake for about 25 minutes at 350 (the corners should have a little bit of golden color while the rest remains white). Cool completely.


The caramel:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
4 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla


In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat all ingredients except vanilla to 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, stirring only at the beginning to combine ingredients. When caramel is a golden color and reaches 220, turn off the heat and let sit for five minutes. Pour over cooled base and chill until firm before adding the topping. 


The topping:
6 tbsp. melted butter
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee bits 


Combine the melted butter and chocolate chips and microwave in 30 second increments until chocolate melts. Be sure not to overheat! Stir until smooth and spread over cooled caramel layer. Sprinkle with toffee bits. 


Chill 1 hour before cutting. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coming Soon: Spicy Thai Shrimp Salad

This salad is my new OBSESSION. It's a spicy Thai shrimp salad topped with toasted peanuts, red bell pepper, green onion and marinated shrimp tossed in a cilantro lime dressing then drizzled with a spicy peanut sauce. Crispy, crunchy fried wonton wrapper and rice noodles give this salad just the right amount of crunch. This is the perfect salad to eat outside on your deck on a warm summer night! Stay tuned for the recipe!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mediterranean Rice

Grilling season is upon us, and this savory rice dish is the perfect accompaniment to a great grilled steak or kebab. Bright citrus, red onions and red/green peppers make this rice mouthwatering!

Serves: 4-6


Ingredients: 
1/2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 3/4 cups beef stock
juice of one lemon
1 cup white rice
1/4 cup of each: diced green pepper, red pepper, red onion
Kosher salt/pepper


Assembly:
Heat butter and oil and saute onion and peppers for one minute. Add rice and stir for another minute until rice is coated. Add stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper (be cautious on the salt if you use regular beef stock and not reduced-sodium!) Cover, reduce heat and simmer on low for about 20 minutes or until rice is fluffy and all of the liquid has evaporated. I serve this with my grilled chicken kebabs...I'll definitely share that recipe soon!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Quick and Easy Homemade Bread

UPDATE: I've made this recipe about a thousand times now and realized, thanks to a sweet friend, that there were a few tiny errors in the ingredient measurements. Sorry for the inconvenience and happy baking!


I've never been much of a bread-maker, but after going through many recipes and modifying them into one quick and easy recipe, I've found myself baking this bread several times a week. This is probably going to be the easiest bread recipe you'll ever try, and you will be shocked by the results! My husband agrees that this bread tops the bread from our local bakery, and there's nothing like hot, fresh bread right out of the oven! This bread is light and airy with a crispy crust that is deliciously nutty thanks to a healthy drizzle of olive oil. I hope you love it as much as I do!
Yields: One loaf

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. white vinegar
olive oil
cornmeal

Assembly:
Combine water and yeast in a stand mixer and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Using the dough hook, mix in the flour, vinegar and salt until the dough comes together. Form dough into a ball and drizzle with olive oil. Let sit, covered, in a warm place for a minimum of 30 minutes. Punch the dough down and form it into a loaf (keep it on the thin side as you will be letting it rise for a second time). Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet (use a small one so you can fit it into the microwave) and place the loaf on top. Brush with olive oil. Microwave a cup of water for two minutes. Put the baking sheet in the microwave with the hot water and allow the loaf to rise for another 20-30 minutes (don't let it rise for more than about 40 minutes tops or you will have dough that takes over your entire kitchen!). Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 25 minutes. Flip the loaf and bake for another 5 minutes. Sometimes I place an oven-proof bowl of boiling water in the oven to help the bread retain its moisture, but it's not necessary. Let the bread cool for 2-3 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Spicy Sesame Chicken Skewers

In my opinion there's nothing better than a versatile chicken recipe! I adapted a recipe for sesame noodles a sweet friend shared with me, turning it into a simple and delicious marinade and sauce for chicken. These yummy chicken skewers are delicious as both an appetizer and as a main course over steamed rice with some crispy peapods or broccoli. Marinating the chicken overnight gives it incredible flavor and the most tender texture. The honey in the marinade caramelizes into a sweet and smoky glaze as the chicken grills, and the red pepper flakes lend a subtle heat to balance out the sweetness of the honey. So delicious!
Ingredients:
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 pk. of bamboo skewers (soak them for at least 30 minutes before grilling)
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
6 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
6 Tbsp honey
5 Tbsp low-Sodium soy sauce
1/4 Cup green onions - sliced/chopped
2 tbsp. cold water
1 tbsp. cornstarch

Assembly:
Cut chicken into strips (or use tenderloins). Combine marinade ingredients (everything except the green onion, water and cornstarch). Pour half of the marinade over the chicken and refrigerate for 8-24 hours (save the rest in a container). Weave the chicken onto the skewers. Grill the chicken over medium heat. While chicken is grilling, heat the remaining marinade to a boil. In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp. water with 1 tbsp. cornstarch. Stir the mixture into the boiling sauce. Stir for about 30 seconds until the sauce coats the whisk or spoon. Remove from heat and serve warm as a dipping sauce. Sprinkle the chicken skewers with green onions.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thin and Crispy Spicy Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

We love a good pizza party in our house! My sweet toddler tried sausage and mushroom pizza the other day and has been asking me to make it ever since. Tonight I gave it a try, and we had a very memorable pizza party with our little family while we watched a Christmas movie. The crust on this pizza is crunchy and stands up well to the hearty toppings. Blanketed in spicy sausage, baby bellas and two kinds of cheese, this pizza will satisfy any pizza lover in your house!
Serves: 3-5

Pizza dough:
2 cups of warm water
2 1/3 cups bread flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
cornmeal and olive oil

Add the water and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Add salt and flour and mix until dough forms a ball (if it's too sticky, add a little more flour; if it's too dry, add a tiny bit more water). Cover and allow to rise for at least 2 hours. Rub the entire surface of either a pizza stone, pan or baking sheet (yes, this will do in a pickle; no need to go buy new equipment if you don't need to) with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with cornmeal. Stretch the dough using your hands (or you can cheat and use a rolling pin; I'll never tell on you) so that the dough extends to the edges of the pan.

Sauce:
You can use any sauce you'd like, but I typically freeze a simple marinara to use on pizzas. Here's my recipe:

1 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
3/4 cup red wine (I typically use cab)
3 minced garlic cloves
1/2 yellow onion, minced
6-8 baby portabella mushrooms, diced
kosher salt, black pepper
1 tbsp. red pepper flake (I like my sauce pretty spicy)
3 tbsp. olive oil

Saute onions and mushrooms over medium high heat in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flake and saute for one additional minute. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the wine by half, then add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour. Cool completely before adding to the pizza dough.

Toppings:
Go crazy here!
These are my favorites~ browned balls of hot Italian sausage (Johnsonville is actually pretty good. Apologies to my Sicilian Grampa and Great Uncle Joe for this transgression! I buy uncased sausage then pinch off little pieces and saute them in olive oil) & baby bella mushrooms. I add a layer of muenster (yes, you read that correctly...it melts like a dream!) on top of the sauce then a layer of mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan over the toppings (so it goes dough, sauce, muenster, toppings, mozzarella/parm).

Bake at 375 (this might vary based how hot your oven runs) until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is gently browned. Wear a bib and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another Teaser! Coming Soon: Chocolate Toffee Cupcakes with Caramel Icing

My sweet toddler begged me to make cupcakes this morning and, tired of the usual vanilla or chocolate, we decided to experiment with some new, super rich flavors. These are the perfect holiday indulgence: moist, decadent chocolate and toffee cupcakes glazed with melted chocolate and dipped in bits of chocolate covered toffee drizzled with just the right amount of smooth and creamy caramel icing. I promise to have this recipe up very, very soon so please check back in a day or two (or click the "Join this Site" button on the sidebar underneath the advertisement and sign up to receive Happiest Belly updates...you'll be the first to know when a new recipe makes an appearance!).