Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14, 2012

Writing this in the wake of what has happened in Connecticut seems trivial.  I must say, if my kids ask for dessert tonight, I know I will say yes.  If they ask me to read twelve books, or play a game, or throw the football, or just snuggle, I know I will.  It isn't that I usually say no, but I, like you, sometimes say "in a minute" and it turns into 5, or 10, or longer.  Tonight I will do it right away - I will not wait.  Today has been a stark reminder that life is precious, and fleeting.  We never know what is coming.  An ordinary Friday turns heartbreaking for so many, and the date becomes etched in our mind. We all hug our children and one another and try to make sense of the events of the day.  But senselessness cannot be sorted out...

During this holiday season there are families and individuals everywhere that are in desperate need of a hug, or a shoulder upon which to lean, or even just the touch of a friend.  Be that friend, that shoulder, those arms for the hug.  And continue to be that friend long after you've put away the holiday decorations.

Sometimes food helps - a meal brought to a family in tough times, a treat dropped off for a friend, a casserole new parents can put in the freezer to be pulled out when their sleep deprived brains have no idea what to cook for dinner.  Perhaps one of these recipes can help you serve others in their time of need. Hold your families close, and say a prayer for the world.

New Recipes
Stuffed Peppers
Chocolate Marshmallow Bars
Peppermint Striped Delight
Buffalo Chicken Soup
Big Beautiful Muffins

Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

* 3/4 cup butter, softened
* 1.5 cups sugar
* 3 eggs
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 1/3 cups AP flour
* 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 3 tbs cocoa powder (Dutch processed is preferred)
* 4 cups mini marshmallows
* 8 oz chocolate chips
*3 tbsp butter
* 1 cup peanut butter
* 2 cups crisp rice cereal

1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar for 2 minutes.
2. Add vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next.
3. After all the eggs have been added, mix on medium for 6 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa.
5. After the six minutes, add the flour mixture.  Mix until well combined and no white streaks remain.
5. Spread the cake layer into a greased 13 x 9 pan.  Bake at 350 for 24 minutes.
6. Remove cake; sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over the cake.  Return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes.  Spread the melted marshmallows over the cake if needed once the cake is removed from the oven.
7. For the top layer, heat the chocolate chips, butter and peanut butter on the stove over low heat.  Stir until melted and well combined.  Remove this from the heat and add the cereal.
8. Spread the cereal mixture over the marshmallows.  Chill in the fridge.

We kept this in the fridge even after it was fully cooled.  You can make this in a bigger pan if you have on (15 x 10), and reduce the oven time for the cake to about 16-18 minutes.  I think I would prefer these in a bigger pan because the cereal layer was very thick.  Another option would be to keep it in a 13 x 9 pan but perhaps half the cereal layer ingredients.  The cake layer is very fudge-y and rich.  Additionally, it will fall a bit once you add the marshmallows and the cereal layer - don't worry; this is normal.

Buffalo Chicken Soup

* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 3 stalks celery, diced
* 1 cup onion, diced
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup 2% milk
* 3 cups chicken stock
* 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
* 1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce, or more to taste
* 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, or pepper jack cheese
* salt and pepper to taste

1.      Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; saute the celery and onion in the oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and allow to cook until absorbed, about 1 minutes more. Slowly stir the milk.  Once the milk is fully added and smooth, add the stock into the mixture.
2.      Stir in the chicken and buffalo wing sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stirring occasionally, allow the soup to simmer about 10 minutes.
3.      Just prior to serving, slowly add the cheese and stir it until melted.
4.      Serve with rolls or crackers and celery, with additional shredded cheese to add to the soup if desired!

      I let this simmer about an hour because that was how dinner time went at our house the day I served it.  I still waited until just before serving it to add the cheese.  Instead of serving additional cheese on the side you can add it to the pot of soup, but I didn't want it to be too "cheesy".  Also, people can add additional hot sauce to their soup if they want to kick up the heat!

Peppermint Striped Delight


* 3/4 cup finely crushed nilla wafers
* 1/8  cup  butter, melted
* 1/4 cup  sugar, divided
* 4 oz cream cheese, softened
* 1 ½ cups  plus 1 Tbsp. cold milk, divided
* 1/8  cup  finely crushed candy canes
* 8  oz. cool whip, thawed, divided
* 1 pkg. chocolate instant pudding
* 1/8 cup coarsely crushed candy canes, plus additional for topping


1. Mix cookie crumbs, butter and 1 tbsp. sugar; press onto bottom of 8x8 dish. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar and 1 tbsp. milk in medium bowl until blended. Stir in finely crushed candy canes. Add 6 oz of cool whip; mix well. Spread over crust.
3. Beat pudding mix and remaining milk with whisk 2 min.; pour over cream cheese layer. Let stand 5 min. or until thickened. Cover with remaining cool whip.
4. Refrigerate 4 hours. Top with coarsely crushed candy canes just before serving.

I popped this in the freezer for about an hour before I served it, and it made it easier to cut.  We loved it.  I put it back in the freezer instead of the fridge, and the next night it was too hard, and we didn't enjoy it as much. So - lesson learned...use the freezer to aid in cutting, but store it in the fridge! 

Big Beautiful Muffins

* 3 cups (15 oz) AP flour
* 1 tbsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
* 1 cup (just about 8 oz) sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
* 2 cups of frozen blueberries - thawed, rinsed and dried (or whatever additional mix-ins you want to add)
* raw sugar, for sprinkling on each muffin prior to baking

1. Preheat the oven to 425, and prepare a 12 cup muffin tin
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugar for 3 minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time.  After all have been incorporated, beat the mixture on medium for 5 minutes.
5. Reduce the mixer to low, and begin to incorporate the flour and yogurt.  Add 1/3 of the flour, followed by 1/3 of the yogurt.  Continue adding each until you have mixed in all the flour and yogurt.
6. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl, and then fold in your blueberries.
7. Divide the batter into the muffin cups.  Each cup will be very full.
8. If desired, top each muffin with a little sprinkling of raw sugar.
9. Bake at 425 for the first 5 minutes.  Then lower the heat (without opening the door) to 375. Continue to cook the muffins for approximately 20 more minutes.

You can use fresh blueberries, but if you do, mix them with 1 tbsp flour before folding them into the batter.  I used wild blueberries; they are small and worked very well!  Although I made these fresh, the original recipe from America's Test Kitchen Make Ahead Cookbook indicates that these can be refrigerated overnight so you can pop them in the oven in the morning, or even frozen in muffin liners so that you can cook just the right amount when you need them!  If you do freeze them, you do now need to thaw them, though you do need to increase the baking time.  Cook for about 7 minutes at 425, and then an additional 30-33 minutes at 375.   This recipe will make between 12-15 muffins.

You may be wondering about the is actually a picture I took on my phone to text to a friend  of my muffin success!  Then my family ate them all before I remembered I hadn't taken a better photo. Ha!  I bet your family will love these as well!

Stuffed Peppers

* 1-1.5 lbs ground beef
* 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs (more if you prefer)
* 8 oz can tomato sauce
* 1 pkg Lipton Onion Soup mix
* splash to 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
* peppers

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Mix all the ingredients together.  You can add additional breadcrumbs if you need or desire.
3. Wash and cut the peppers in half.
4. Stuff your peppers with the meat mixture.
5. Cook on a cookie sheet for 25-30 minutes or until the meat is fully cooked.

This recipe is very forgiving!  You can cook it a little longer if you are still getting other parts of the meal together - the pepper will keep the meat moist.  By cutting the peppers in half you can make reasonable size portions, and they won't take so long to get fully cooked through.  While these are not your typical "Italian" tasting stuffed peppers, they are fantastic.  This meat mixture is also great as a traditional meatloaf, or used for meatball sandwiches.