Friday, October 29, 2010

S'mores Brownie Bars

Last weekend when we went camping again, I was looking for another s'mores inspired treat to bring with us. I made the cookies, for our last adventure, so of course I wanted to do something different. I decided on a s'mores bar, and after browsing around a bit, I chose to combine two different recipes.

These turned out delicious, and exactly what I was hoping for. But let me just say, these were RICH! I certainly can't say I wasn't forewarned- the recipe I used for the brownies was called "Chewy Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies" after all. I'm not complaining (really!), but had I known exactly how sinful these were, I probably would have cut them a bit smaller!

S'mores Brownie Bars

Graham Crust:
3 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 sticks of butter, melted
2 Tablespoons of sugar

Brownie Layer:
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 Tablespoons of butter
3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder

3 eggs
1 1/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 handful of mini marshmallows
3 graham crackers, crumbled
2 chocolate bars, roughly chopped

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9X13 pan with foil. Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar and mix until combined. Press the crust into the pan, and push out to all the corners until the bottom is covered. Bake for about 7 minutes, and set on a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, melt butter for the brownies in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, and stir until combined. Immediately remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl (doesn't need to be a stand mixer bowl, since these are all mixed by hand) combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until combined. Add chocolate mixture and stir to incorporate. Stir in flour until just combined. Pour the mixture into the pan over the graham cracker crust and spread to the edges. (This will be one thick batter!)

Bake for about 18 minutes, and then remove pan to sprinkle toppings on the brownies. Try to "glue" down the graham cracker pieces with marshmallow to make them stick. Return to oven, and bake for about 6-8 minutes more, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely, and cut into 24-30 pieces. Enjoy!

Brownies adapted from Annie's Eats, original recipe here, and graham cracker crust from My Baking Addiction, original recipe here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Butternut Squash Vegetable Soup

New Jersey has always gotten somewhat of a bad rap. TV shows like Jersey Shore and the Real Housewives of New Jersey certainly didn't help this, yet I can't blame it all on them. However, I love where I live. New Jersey has both beaches and ski resorts, forests, farms, and cities. We experience all four seasons, yet nothing too extreme. We're within a few hours drive from most major cities in the Northeast. And most importantly, New Jersey is the Garden State.

Laugh all you will, but until the other weekend I really had no idea how much produce came out of the Garden State. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of Jersey tomatoes in the summer, and I know there are a large number of blueberry and cranberry fields nearby too. But the farmers market H and I went to made me realize that those few things are far from all the area has to offer.

Now I've been to farmers markets before too, of course, but they've usually been small, mom-and-pop, side-of-the-road ones with just a few things to pick from. This one, however, was huge! Huge. I was surprised to see eggplants, pumpkins, pears, more types of squash, peppers, greens, and apples than I knew existed, all grown on the neighboring farms. And when I saw the you-pick schedule that included grapes, peaches, cherries, raspberries, and plums throughout the summer, I was blown away. Who knew? Clearly, not me.

I was definitely inspired, to say the least. All those fresh, cheap ingredients was like heaven for me. H had to stop me from going a bit crazy.

Two of the vegetables that I bought were kale and butternut squash. I've never cooked with either of these before, so needless to say I was excited. I did want to find a recipe that included both of them, and at times like that, I turn to's ingredient search. There was only one recipe that included both of those ingredients (which made my decision easier) and it sounded good, so onto the menu it went.

It turned out really well! It was hearty, filling, and healthy, and the butternut squash gave it a great flavor. I got some crusty French bread to serve with it and absorb all that delicious broth.

Butternut Squash Vegetable Soup
(serves 8-10)

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 red potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 cups of chopped kale
12 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of salt
black pepper

: In a large stockpot, saute onion and garlic until onion is soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add carrots, butternut squash, and potatoes, and continue to cook for about 20 minutes. Add vegetable stock, kale, thyme, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for at least 45 minutes.

Take about 3 cups of the soup, and set aside. When slightly cooled, place into a blender. Puree until it reaches a thick liquid, return it to the stock pot, and stir. Serve with a crusty French bread, and enjoy!

Adapted from, original recipe here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Here is what is on the menu for this week:

Monday: Leftover Spinach Pesto Lasagna

Tuesday: Almond Crusted Tilapia with green beans and mashed potatoes

Wednesday: Filets with Mushroom and Herb Mac and Cheese and Broccoli

Thursday: Grilled Chicken Parmesan with Roasted Balsamic Vegetables

Friday: Spinach and Artichoke Pizza 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

French Apple Tart

One of my farm market finds last weekend was large basket of red delicious apples. They ended up being more than we could eat, so I went on a mission to find something to bake them into. Pies still intimidate me something fierce, so I decided to look for a tart. H loves fruity desserts, and probably would have been (secretly) disappointed had I baked them into muffins or cupcakes. I found a recipe for a French Apple Tart from Ina Garten, and since I've heard nothing but praise for her recipes, I decided it would work. To be honest though, it did still intimidate me, but I decided to bite the bullet.

And yes, I'm glad I did! Of course it didn't turn out as beautiful as the one in the picture, it was still delicious and not as difficult as I expected. And H loooved it, which of course, made me happy as well :) 

French Apple Tart
(serves 6-8)

For the dough:
2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon of sugar
12 Tablespoons of cold butter, diced
1/2 cup of ice cold water

For the apples:
 4-6 Granny Smith apples (I used red delicious, which worked as well)

1/2 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Directions: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to mix. Add diced butter, and pulse 10-12 times for 4 second intervals, or until butter is no larger than the size of peas. With the motor running, slowly pour ice cold water down the feed tube until dough starts to form. Dump onto a floured work surface, and knead into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out dough onto a floured work surface and trim to about a 10x14" rectangle. Place on baking sheet, and place in refrigerator while you prep the apples. Wash and peel apples, and slice them vertically into 1/4" slices (removing the cores). Arrange them in overlapping slices over the dough. Sprinkle the whole cup of sugar all over the apples, then cinnamon, and then arrange the diced butter on top of that.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until apples start to brown slightly. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly. Loosen tart from parchment paper with a metal spatula. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Adapted from Food Network, original recipe here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ham and Potato Soup

It's finally started to get a bit chilly in these parts, and my fall comfort food cravings have officially begun. Finally! Thick, hearty soups are one type of food I've been excited to make.

When I came across this recipe for ham and potato soup, I thought, "this looks delicious, but where's the cheese?" (which I may think more often than I'd actually like to admit). I made a mental note to add a bunch of cheddar cheese to the recipe when I got around to making it.

Well, wouldn't you know, when I was making my grocery list for the week, I totally forgot the fact that I was planning to add cheese and ended up not having any on hand. And the last thing I wanted to do on the cold, rainy, perfect for a thick, filling soup type of night was drive out in the rain to pick up some cheese. Even I have my limits. So no cheese. We'll have to see how this goes.

Well, fear not! This recipe turned out pretty darn good, even without the cheese! The flavors were awesome, and it was stick-to-your-bones comforting. 

Ham and Potato Soup
(serves 6)

4-5 large potatoes, chopped
1 small bunch of celery, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cups of cooked ham, finely diced
4 cups of water
1 packet of (sodium-free) instant beef broth
1 teaspoon of salt
black pepper

5 Tablespoons of butter
5 Tablespoons of flour
1 cup of skim milk
1 cup of half and half

Directions: Place potatoes, onion, celery, and ham in a large stock pot. Cover with water, and add salt, pepper, and instant beef broth. Bring water to a boil, and keep at a rolling boil until potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

When potatoes are tender, heat butter in small saucepan and when it's melted, create a roux with the flour, whisking often. When fully mixed, add to boiling potatoes and veggies. Stir to combine, and mash the potatoes with a fork a bit to smooth them out. Add the milk and half and half, stir to combine, and let boil for a few minutes more. Enjoy!

Adapted from allrecipes, original recipe here.

I apologize for the slightly less than appetizing photo, but I swear it was delicious! I've learned that creamy soups are a bit difficult to photograph...

Monday, October 18, 2010

One Year Ago Yesterday...


I married my best friend. I absolutely cannot believe it's already been a year!

We enjoyed a low-key weekend together at home. No trips or anything fancy, just some quality time together. We slept in, went to the farmers' market, had a picnic, watched baseball, went hiking, had some wine, and enjoyed a candlelit dinner at home- perfect. I look forward to many more years together!

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Monday everyone! Here is what is on the menu for this week:

Monday: leftovers from this weekend

Tuesday: Turkey Meatball Sandwiches and Caesar salads

Wednesday: Pesto Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms

Thursday: Butternut Squash Vegetable soup with French bread

Friday: TBD from farmers' market finds

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spicy Shredded Pork

This recipe for spicy shredded pork was on our menu for last week, and boy, did it make a lot. I froze the rest in 2-person size portions, and we've been enjoying it for lunches ever since.

I never posted about it, but I really loved it so much that I can't not share! The flavors are incredible and the meat is as moist and tender as it gets. And of course, being a crockpot meal, it's as easy as pie!

This is absolutely perfect served in a flour tortilla, with a little bit of salsa and sour cream, and some fresh cilantro.

Spicy Shredded Pork

4-7 lb. pork shoulder (bone-in)
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of salt
black pepper to taste

4 garlic cloves
1 onion, quartered
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of white wine vinegar
2 cups water

Rinse and pat dry the pork shoulder.

Combine the spices, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture all over pork shoulder, in the crevices and folds. Place pork shoulder in the crockpot. Add the onion, garlic cloves, olive oil, vinegar, and water. Set crockpot to low and let cook for about 10 hours.

When done cooking, remove pork from crockpot, and shred with a fork discarding the bone and fatty pieces. Serves about 8-12, depending on the size of the pork shoulder. Enjoy!

Adapted from Annie's Eats, original recipe here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pumpkin Butterscotch Bars

Remember my pumpkin rules?

Well, I don't know what's gotten into me, but I have not been following them too closely as of late. First I go all crazy and make something as daring as pumpkin lasagna, and now I've gone off and baked a batch of pumpkin bars to (gasp) share!

We were tailgating last weekend with friends, and I wanted to bring a fall-y dessert, to off-set all the savory snacks we'd be having. I didn't want anything fussy or frilly- this is a tailgate now, not a tea-party! So when I found these on my "to-bake" list, I decided they would be perfect for the occasion.

They were a big hit! These turned out to be like a combination of cake and a brownie in texture, and the white chocolate and butterscotch chips were a perfect touch!

Pumpkin Butterscotch Bars

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1 cup of white chocolate chips
1 cup of butterscotch chips

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9 X 13 baking pan with foil.

Mix the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl, and set aside.

In an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and pumpkin puree until well combined. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients, and beat until just combined. Fold in the white chocolate and butterscotch chips.

Spread batter on foil-covered baking sheet, bringing it to all the edges. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until edges start to pull away and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely, and cut into 24 pieces. Enjoy!

Adapted from Annie's Eats, original recipe here.

Meal Plan Tuesday

I am not doing very well with my Monday meal plans. I have no excuses for yesterday, I just forgot! But here it is on Tuesday...

Monday: Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches with Grilled Zucchini and Tomatoes

Tuesday: Parmesan Tilapia with Cheesy Brown Rice

Wednesday: Ham and Potato Soup with Roasted Broccoli

Thursday: Feta and Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Mediterranean Quinoa

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: date night with H

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Perfect Strawberry Maple Syrup

I love flavored syrups on pancakes. It's a great way to spice up otherwise boring, plain pancakes. It's also a great way to create interesting flavor combinations by adding them to pancakes that are already special on their own.

I had been on the search for a perfect strawberry (or any fruit, really) maple syrup recipe for a while though. All of the recipes I found had extras like orange juice, apple cider, corn syrup, vanilla extract, water, flour... the list goes on. But none of them were exactly what I was looking for. I decided to give it a try and make my own. Plain old strawberries and maple syrup. No frills. And wow! I do believe I've found it! We had this over chocolate chip pancakes, and it was amazing!

Perfect Strawberry Maple Syrup

6-8 large strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Directions: Simmer strawberries and syrup over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, while smashing strawberries with a fork. Pour over your favorite pancakes and enjoy! Makes 2 servings. Enjoy!

(Haven't tried this yet, but I bet this recipe would be good with any type of fruit- blueberries, blackberries, apples... 

Also, this makes for a fairly thick syrup, so you may want to top with a bit of extra maple syrup after the fruit.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pumpkin Spiced Cream Cheese

I had a tiny bit of pumpkin puree left from the pumpkin lasagna I made last week, and wasn't sure what I could make with such a small amount without having to open another can. I was really craving some type of pumpkin cheesecake, but didn't want to go through all the effort or ingredients needed. And then I stumbled upon this recipe for Pumpkin Spiced Cream Cheese. It sounded perfect! I figured this could really hit the spot as far as that cheesecake craving, without all the effort (or calories)! And it doesn't really get much easier than this...

Pumpkin Spiced Cream Cheese

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons of maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

Directions: Mix all ingredients except cream cheese in a small bowl until well combined. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Enjoy!

Adapted from Pinch My Salt, original recipe here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Meal Plan... Tuesday

I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday (and the dreary, chilly, rainy weather we were having certainly didn't help) so I slacked off on Monday's meal plan post. I also slacked off on the actual meal plan, as we cracked open cans of chicken noodle soup last night instead of what I had planned...

But oh well, here is the rest of the week, ready to go!

Tuesday: Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce and Broccoli

Wednesday: Chicken and Vegetable Quesadillas

Thursday: Pasta and Vegetable Primavera

Friday: Mexican Shredded Pork Tacos with Roasted Red Pepper Corn

Saturday: Dinner party at friends' apartment

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pumpkin Lasagna

I have a confession to make.

I have somewhat of a hoarding problem. No, I'm not like the people you see on TV, who are buried in mountains upon mountains of stuff, their addiction alienating friends and family. My hoarding problem involves pumpkin puree. Lots and lots of pumpkin puree. Really. The proof is in the cupboard.

Come every fall, I get wind of some type of pumpkin shortage. Whether this shortage is real, simply a rumor, or caused by crazies such as myself (which I imagine must be the case at least sometimes), I buy a few cans to "stock up" every single time I go to the grocery store.

And no matter how many cans of pumpkin I accumulate, I am still extremely particular about the recipes in which I choose to use my precious stock. I actually have a couple rules regarding it. Rule number one: whatever I make, I don't share it. I usually love sharing the fruits of my baking labor with friends, family, and co-workers. It's better for my waist-line, gives me those "warm fuzzies," and let's face it, all the compliments and "mmmmm's" don't exactly hurt my ego. However, that's not the case with any pumpkin goodies. In the rare occasion that we have some left over after a day or two, they go in the freezer to be enjoyed by H and I at a later date. Selfish, selfish, I know.

Rule number two: I'm very unadventurous in my pumpkin recipes. I usually love trying new recipes and ingredients, but pumpkin recipes have to be for something that I'm absolutely certain that I'll enjoy. God forbid I use up a can of pumpkin puree in something that doesn't turn out well.

So there you have it. Call me crazy, blame me for the pumpkin shortage at your local grocery store, or what have you. But all this does have a point... Last week, I was gazing at all the drool-worthy food porn on, and I stumbled upon this recipe for pumpkin lasagna. It looked... delicious. But I hesitated in saving it, as it didn't follow the rules. I've only had savory pumpkin dishes a handful of times, and only in restaurants. I've never actually attempted one. But something about it... just drew me in. I decided to bite the bullet and add it to this week's menu.

(Edited: With all the waxing poetic about my love of pumpkin, I completely forgot to mention how this turned out! It was good, and I was really glad to be able to step out of my comfort zone a bit! A piece of advice- don't skimp on the salt. I did, because I am trying to cut back on sodium and I don't really like things too salty, but the salt definitely brought out a good flavor.)

Pumpkin Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles, either the no-boil kind, or the regular ones prepared according to package directions and left submerged in cold water

16 oz. sliced mushrooms, chopped
1 large white onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon of olive oil

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup of half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons of dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese
1 egg

4 oz. of mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.

Saute mushrooms and onion in olive oil, with a dash of salt and pepper. Allow them to simmer until soft, and then drain of excess liquid. Meanwhile, combine pumpkin puree, half and half, sage, and another dash of salt and pepper into a large bowl. Into a third bowl, mix ricotta cheese and egg and beat until combined.

Lightly spray cooking spray on the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan. Start with the pumpkin mixture and spread about 1/2 cups worth on the bottom of the pan, enough to lightly cover. Layer pasta next, then ricotta cheese mixture, then a couple scoops of the mushrooms and onions. Top again with pumpkin, and continue to layer until you run out of ingredients. Sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan cheese all over the top.

Cover with foil, then place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove cover, and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until the cheese is starting to get golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Adapted from Prevention RD, original recipe here.