Sunday, November 16, 2014

Roasted Corn and Potato Chowder (Slow Cooker)

This morning, before the sun came up, before the roosters were out and before even Dunkin Donuts was open, the alarm went off and I dragged myself out of bed. I work for a race events company, and at 5 AM, I was standing on the edges of the woods on a dark street across from a cemetery unwrapping Chewy bars and fruit snacks. It was c-o-l-d. Not just chilly. It was bitter. I had at least 5 layers on, a fleece hat, boots and gloves, and despite all of that, my hands absolutely froze. It's 9:30 PM now, and my  fingertips are still sore. It was a sorry sight.
There aren't a ton of perks that come along with cold weather. People are crankier, snow ruins your commute, usually we all get fatter - full disclosure. It's just not a redeeming time of year. But soup, yes, soup. That is something I can get down on. A wise man once said that soup is the best food because it's the only thing that can encompass so many flavors in one bite (what does he know, anyway?), but I agree. And tonight, as I thaw, I ate the last little bit of this incredibly easy soup. It was a dump-and-go (new cooking style, calling it!). Literally I poured everything into the slow cooker, added some fattening agents and the very end, and voila! The beautiful thing about this was that I used frozen tatos, corn and even peppers and onions. That was one less prep step, and I can dig it. So, next time you know you're heading out for a long day in the cold, make sure this is awaiting you at home… you won't be disappointed!

Slow Cooker Corn and Potato Chowder
32 ounces frozen potatoes, chopped
1 (24-ounce) package roasted frozen corn
2 cups chopped peppers/onions
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
6-8 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Cooked bacon
Shredded cheese
Fresh chives, chopped

1. Place potatoes, corn and flour in a slow cooker and toss to combine. Stir in remaining ingredients up to salt and pepper. Feel free to add 3/4 of the broth here, just to make sure it's not too runny.
2. Let cook on low heat for 8 hours. Stir in butter and cream last. Top with bacon, cheese and chives, as desired.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

I am not a Boston native. Born and raised in Virginia, schooled in Pennsylvania, and up to Massachusetts after my Master's degree. I always loved Boston, so it my clear frontrunner upon graduation. 
First of all, it is fun. There are so many young people, and while it's pretty transient, I've already made some forever friends. Also, you aren't far from anything. You've got beautiful beaches on the cape, the white mountains just a few hours north, and you can easily get out of dodge. You have incredibly smart and driven people here. That makes for a super dynamic city culture. But all that said, three years into living here, and I can tell I take things for granted. What used to be a really fun part of the city to walk through just became a part of my commute. The incredibly passionate Boston sports fans became loud and sometimes obnoxious. The idea of snowy winters quickly lost it's vigor, and suddenly I longed for a change… wanting to make another big move, or perhaps return "home".
The problem was that I hadn't been in Boston, for what seemed like ages. The summer was spent on the cape, working on the weekends, or at another wedding. The fall has been jam packed with more travel, more races, more weddings, and the next thing I knew, I hadn't been in the city in m-o-n-t-h-s. Fortunately for my career, relationships, and overall stability, I spent this weekend here. And I remembered all of the wonderful things that I love about it. I went on a run near the finish line of the Boston marathon and remembered how special that was. I got brunch with some ladies I haven't seen since spring time, and by the way, it was fantastic. I grabbed cocktails with a group of friends that just makes me laugh so hard. I wandered the streets with my manfriend, watched a football game at a Penn State bar and got dinner at one of our favorite Irish bars. I fell back in love with the city in 48 hours. It felt -again- like home. 

Sometimes, all it takes is a good coffee date. Sometimes, it's the way the sun sets on the skyline. Sometimes, it's coming home to your cozy apartment or seeing a familiar face unexpectedly. For me, it's all of those things that make Boston home… so just to solidify that, I made chili.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb ground chicken
2 (10.75 oz) cans low tomato soup
2 (15 oz) cans white kidney beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
1 can crushed canned tomatoes
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch ground allspice salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add chicken to brown. Drain any liquid.
2.  Coat the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray, and add in all ingredients. Use spices to taste (this amount just worked for me!).
3. Cover, and cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve with sour cream, chips, etc.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Rolls

Yesterday was a day that filled up my cup. You've heard that expression right? It's the premise that if you haven't taken care of yourself, your needs, and your wants, then you only have so much you can give, or empty, to others. It's far too often we (women, especially) are doing the things we think we should do, or feel guilted to do.


We tell our family we will be in charge or organizing something. We agree to an outing that we don't want to go to. We put others needs in front of our own. And it's time to stop doing that. Perhaps it is a coming of age thing, but every year that passes I get a little less inclined to really care what people think of me or the people I care about.  I try and say no to the things my heart isn't into, and I dive head first into the things I love. Yesterday was a rainy, snowy Boston day. I grabbed coffee and had a homemade breakfast with my boyfriend, had not one but two dates with a couple of my gal pals, and I made these little gems.

I cannot remember the last time I made cinnamon rolls. I can't remember I ate cinnamon rolls. I have vivid memories of those humungous food court Cinnabons, and these (thankfully) are nothing like that. They were a really perfect mix of the dense, doughy, airy and fluffy. They were sweet, but not over the top. A mess, yes, but perfect for a rainy day with a cup of coffee.  The next time you need to fill up (your cup that is), give these a try. You probably have most of the ingredients already, so why not spend a lazy morning making these for some of your favorite people? Or just keep them for yourself. Adapted from a  Paula Deen recipe… you know she makes good buns.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Rolls
Dough:
1/4 -ounce package yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter or shortening
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:
1/2 cup melted butter, plus more for pan
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for pan
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Glaze:
4 tbsp butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp maple syrup
3 to 6 tbsps hot water


1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. In a large bowl mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add yeast mixture. Mix in remaining flour until dough is easy to handle. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes. Place in well-greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
2. When doubled in size, punch down dough. Roll out on a floured surface into a 15 by 9-inch rectangle. Spread melted butter all over dough. Mix sugars and cinnamon and sprinkle over buttered dough. Beginning at the 15-inch side, role up dough and pinch edge together to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices.
3. Coat the bottom of baking pan with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.
4. Meanwhile, mix butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and maple syrup. Add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. Spread over slightly cooled rolls

Monday, October 13, 2014

Heath Bar Brownies

I do realize this is my second Heath Bar recipe in a row. And you know, I'm okay with that, and I come by it honestly. You see, apart from my dad, the rest of my family is full of fall babies. My sister and I are just 4 days apart, and mother dearest, a few weeks later. So I spend the early days of autumn birthday baking, and I will never complain about that. 
I know that people always tell you how amazing recipes are, especially bloggers, but this - this - is truly an incredible recipe, made for an incredible wife, mother and friend. If anyone deserves a big bad brownie, it's Sue Davis. And the worst part? She will eat the brownie, and perhaps a second, and still look like a string bean. (Caution, these are made with real butter. You will not lose weight eating these brownies. You will gain… happiness).  This recipe is adapted from Sugar Dish Me - homegirl knows her brownies, because these really delivered.

For the Brownies:
1⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (you can use all unsweetened, if you like – I ran out!)
4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp instant espresso powder OR instant coffee granules
1-8 oz package Hershey's Heath English Toffee Bits

For the Ganache:
2 tbsp heavy cream
⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, stir in chocolate. Stir until smooth and completely melted. Meanwhile in a large bowl (or standing mixer) beat the eggs and sugar until well mixed (it took a few minutes for me). Stir in the vanilla and espresso powder. Slowly add the chocolate to temper the eggs. Once fully incorporated, add in flour mixture, and fold in Heath Bar pieces.
3.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until the center is mostly cooked. This recipe is tricky because the inside is still a bit gooey when finished. It’s more like a fudge.
4.  Once brownies are cool, cut into squares and set aside. Top with ganache once fully cooled, and add Heath Bar crumbles to the top, if desired.

5. To make the ganache, simmer the cream in a small saucepan. Remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it melts. Stir in the butter, and more cream if you need to thin it out. Drizzle on brownies and enjoy! Best if refrigerated.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Heath Bar Cake

I would guess, if I had to, that the most requested birthday cake flavor is Funfetti. Everybody loves the yellow cake speckled with colorful candy sprinkles, and I am one that agrees with the crowd. Once, for a friend's birthday, I made a homemade version. The box was better! It was my birthday last week, and my chef boyfriend who hates to measure and bake in general whipped it up. The point is, it's a cinch.
But sometimes, sometimes, you want to put a little extra TLC into your cake. Especially when it's your sister's birthday. Especially when you need to kill… oh, say 6 hours, because Sunday football isn't your thing (sorry, America).

So I did just that. I spent a lot of time (and still not quite enough) making, assembling, and frosting this cake. And the results you ask? Well, magnificent. One of my bests… though not my most beautiful.

Alas, if you like chocolate, caramel, whipped cream or heath bars, I suggest you keep reading.

For the Cake:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1 container Cool Whip (thawed) – or your favorite whipped cream frosting
3 crumbled Heath Bars

For the Caramel Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup half-and-half or cream
1 tbsp vanilla
Dash of salt
1- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl of a standing mixer. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water, and don’t be worried that your batter is thin… it’s supposed to be! Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely and frost with your Cool Whip or other whipped cream frosting. I did not give this enough time and my cake collapsed initially.
4. For caramel sauce, mix all ingredients except for sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5-10 minutes, until thicker. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir until combined and easy to drizzle. Turn off heat and drizzle over cake. If sauce is thin, just continue cooking for a few more minutes

Thank you Hershey's and Pioneer Woman for allowing me to adapt your recipes.