Friday, May 23, 2014

May 23, 2014

Wow - we tried a lot of new things this week!  One night we had a new slow cooker pork recipe, new rolls and new side dish.  The pork was lackluster (edible, but just not that flavorful). The rolls were super dense (but Hannah loved them and wants me to make them again!) so in my mind definitely not a keeper.  The side dish was a mashed potato casserole and we all enjoyed it and it earned keeper status! We even used the delayed time bake feature on our oven and it came out great. 

One of the recipes we tried for the first time this week we have already made a second time!  A definite keeper if ever there was one.  :)  I have tried a few granola recipes over the years, but they all seemed to require constant monitoring, stirring every few minutes, or some ingredient that I didn't like or didn't have on hand.  Well I saw America's Test Kitchen had a granola recipe that looked easy.  It absolutely was easy, and is DELICIOUS!  What a combo - easy and delicious.  This is why we've already made it twice this week!  I think this will be a regular at our house.

I've been drinking a lot of ice tea lately, so I thought I'd share the recipe.  You can make it as lemon-y and sweet as you'd like.  We add lots of lemon juice and barely any sugar to our pitcher, but you can customize it to your liking.

The other keeper for the week I made for our end of the year pre-school picnic.  Disappearing marshmallow bars.  I thought they meant disappearing because everyone loved them, but it turns out that the marshmallows melt into the bars and they disappear!  But, these were so good that it could easily be named this because of the former reason. 

We tried a few other new dishes this week, but they weren't good enough to be made again.  We'll see what this next week brings!  Enjoy the long weekend, and the unofficial start to summer.  We are expecting great weather here (finally) and I hope you are, too!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Disappearing Marshmallow Bars
Easy Granola
Baked Potato Casserole

Tried and True
Ice Tea

Easy Granola

* 1/3 cup maple syrup
* 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
* 4 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
* 2 cups (10 oz) raw almonds, chopped coarse
* 2 cups dried fruit (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat to 325 F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl.  Whisk in the oil.  Fold in the oats and almonds until everything is coated.
3. Transfer the mixture to the lined baking sheet.  Spread into a thin layer, and press with a spatula or potato masher until compact.
4. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once half way though the cooking time.
5. Let granola cool for 1 hour, then break into desired size and store in an airtight container.  If desired, mix in the dried fruit with the cooked granola.

Wow!  How easy is this granola recipe (originally from America's Test Kitchen)!!!  No stirring required, and very few ingredients.  We made it twice this weekend, and have been enjoying it over yogurt with fresh fruit.  We opted out of adding the dried fruit, though a few of us have mixed in craisins.  This is really fantastic granola - and I just can't get over how easy it is to make!

Ice Tea

* 8 cups water
* 2 tea bags
* 1/4 cup (or more) lemon juice
* sugar, to taste (optional)

Bring water to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Let two tea bags steep for 2 hours.
2. Pour the tea into a pitcher; stir in the lemon juice and sugar (if using).
3. Refrigerate, or pour over ice!  Enjoy!

I recently came across this method for making ice tea.  The original recipe called for 3/4 cup of sugar, to make it taste like Lipton Lemon Iced Tea.  But yikes...way too sweet for us!  We put in about 1/8 cup of sugar, or leave it out entirely.  No picture here, but just wanted to make sure to share this great and easy (and frugal) way to make ice tea. 

Disappearing Marshmallow Bars

* 1/2 cup butter
* 1 cup butterscotch chips
* 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1.5 cups AP flour
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 2 cups mini marshmallows
* 1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9x13 pan.
2. Melt the butter and butterscotch chips together (in the microwave or on the stove).  Set aside to cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl stir together the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Mix in the melted butter and chips, then the flour, baking powder and salt until smooth.  Stir in the marshmallows and chocolate chips.
4. Spread the batter in the pan, and cook for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven.  The cool and cut into squares.  Enjoy!

To grease the pan I used the butter wrapper from the stick of butter.  Great way to prepare the pan, and then you don't need to spray it!  I melted the butter and chips on the stove, and they didn't fully incorporate together, but that happened when they got added to the batter.  So don't despair if it doesn't seem like the butter and chips are working should be fine!  I also used my stand mixer to make these which made it especially easy.  My butter and chips were barely cool, and the recipe worked great.  This seems to be a pretty forgiving recipe, and super delicious!  In my mind this is another great blondie recipe!

Baked Potato Casserole

* 2 1/2 - 3 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
* 1 cup evaporated milk (regular or lowfat)
* 1/2 cup sour cream
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp black pepper
* 1.5 cups shredded cheddar
* 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
* 1/4 cup sliced green onions

1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Cook over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a 7x11 casserole dish.
3. Return potatoes to saucepan.  Add evaporated milk, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Stir or beat with a mixer until desired consistency.  Stir in 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and 1/2 of the bacon.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.  Top with remaining cheese, bacon, and all the green onions.  Bake for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

We made this ahead of time, and then put it in the fridge.  Right befre we left for Saturday evening mass we put it in the oven and used the delayed time bake feature.  Because it had been cold, the way to cook this is to cover it with foil and cook it for 40-45 minutes.  Then uncover, top with the cheese, bacon and green onions for the last few minutes, as directed above.  It was great to have this cook while we were gone and be ready when we got home!  We enjoyed this side dish!And we love green onions, so we added a lot more than it called for!  Probably closer to a 1/2 cup