Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Poor Man's Toffee

I admit, I haven't been here in quite a while & I've felt a bit guilty about it.  I'm so glad to see the renewed interest in the site & I hope things keep clicking along they way they have of late.

While scrolling through I've loved seeing the healthy recipes & adaptations you all have posted...and now I'm going to ruin all our resolutions to eat better in this new year.  This recipe is floating about the ether in a few forms but this is my favorite thus far.

You will need:
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 sleeves saltine crackers
1 to 1 1/2 cup good chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate chips because they melt beautifully)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy sauce pan, melt butter and brown sugar together & bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes stirring often.

Line a jelly roll pan (or any sheet pan with sides) with aluminum foil and lay out saltines to cover the entire bottom of the pan. 

Pour butter & brown sugar mixture over the crackers & bake for 7 minutes.

After baking, remove from oven for 1-2 minutes then sprinkle with chocolate chips and return to oven for 1 minute.  Once chocolate chips have melted, spread chocolate over crackers with a spatula.  Let cool, then break apart or cut between crackers to eat.

Now, I will warn you, this stuff is rich and addictive.  I love it but can easily eat myself sick on it.  It's best made when you're going to have company to share it with.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Half Indulgent Penne

I was in the mood for a creamy alfredo type sauce tonight, and knew that my three year old would eat pasta (finally!). After figuring out was was available in frig, freezer, and pantry, I came up with this yummy, filling dish that caused my little boy to clean his plate and contemplate seconds. (This is a cause for celebration, just so you know.)

This dish is made up of a mish-mash of leftover bits and regular ingredients I keep in my kitchen, which you'll soon figure out when you see the amounts listed for the various cheeses. You can tweak it to fit what you have in your pantry and change up the amounts. Since my husband has been working on our landlord's barn for the past few weeks, I've served up some version of this for lunch about once a week. It really is a versatile dish and perfect for this winter weather.

At our house, we usually have Half and Half in the frig for my husband's tea, but we rarely have heavy cream. So that's what I most often use for this dish. Thus the name. I figure it's only half as fattening as it would be otherwise. And the tool that makes this super easy is a silicon Calphalon whisk that looks a bit like a spatula. (In other words, it's not a balloon whisk. But I don't know the exact name.) Happy cooking!

***This recipe easily serves 4. (We served two adults and one child, and have enough leftovers to have for tomorrow's lunch.)

1 Package Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of water
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 c. Carrots, chopped
Handful of Asparagus Spears, ends snapped off and remainder cut into one inch pieces
1/4 c. Pine Nuts
2-3 T. Butter
2 c. Half & Half + some to get desired consistency (you could also use whole milk)
1/3 c. Grated Parmesan
1/3 c. Shredded Mozzarella
1 T. Cream Cheese
1/4 c. Basil Pesto (I make this in summer and freeze in cylindrical ice trays to use year round.)
Salt & Pepper to taste
2-3 cups Penne Pasta

1. Cook penne according to directions so that it is al dente. (I usually add in a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking.)

2. Melt butter in skillet and add in garlic with a bit of salt. Saute over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant and slightly softened. Add in cream cheese and basil pesto and whisk to melt.

3. Add in half & half and gently whisk to combine. Slowly add in parmesan and mozzarella, whisking to combine as it melts. Sprinkle in salt and pepper.

4. Add in spinach and stir. At this point, you may need to add more half & half to retain a good sauce consistency. You be the judge. As the spinach cooks, it will give off a bit of liquid, but if you've drained it well, it won't give off that much.

5. Add in carrots, asparagus, and pine nuts. Add in more salt and pepper if needed, according to your taste. Cover and simmer on low until pasta is cooked.

6. Drain pasta and pour into skillet. Toss creamy sauce mixture with pasta until it is well coated and distributed evenly on all the noodles. Serve & Enjoy!

7. If any leftovers remain, refrigerate. To warm up, just add in a bit of milk or cream and heat in microwave or in non-stick skillet over low heat on stove.

King Ranch Casserole Results

OK - the taste and textures of this casserole were good. All in all it won reviews from BB and myself. The kids? Not so much...but that was later determined to be due to a stomach bug that traveled through 3 of the 5 of us between dinner that night and Sunday afternoon.

Good times...

All in all, I will indeed make this recipe again. I think next time, I will use the "Mexican Cheese blend" they recommend - I had a block of Mild Cheddar that I used and it was a tad lackluster. Or maybe it could be spiced up a tad with some Pepper Jack mixed with the Cheddar? Hmmmmm...the fresh onion was simply not cut into small enough pieces for my taste - I am not one who enjoys crunching on tender-crisp onions - they should either be cooked through and caramelized, OR raw on my salad or sandwich. I just don't like that in-between stage...especially in a casserole...

I will also use low-sodium soups, or even attempt to make their recipes for Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken soups. I had no stock on hand and used Swanson broth. Over all, it was a bit salty for my taste.

DO NOT substitute regular flour tortillas in this recipe! The corn tortillas give a good texture, and a sweet but robust flavor to the otherwise mild tastes.

I hope I'm not boring you all!