Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

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So, you may be asking, “what is a nanaimo bar?”  Good question.  I didn’t know what they were either before I came across this recipe.  Well, let me give you a bit of background on this delicious bar.  It is a Canadian dessert, made popular back in the 1950′s by a local housewife who happened to live in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia.  This is the theory anyway, I am not sure this would be stated as a fact in an encyclopedia or history book, but we are talking about desserts after all.   Its original version was a no-bake, chocolate crumb base topped with a custard and then a hardened melted chocolate layer.  Well, since the 1950′s many versions have come about.  I decided to make this one considering two of my husbands favorite things in life are peanut butter and chocolate.  Also, as you may have guessed just by looking at the ingredients list, it was amazing.   It is a very rich dessert so a little goes a long way.  Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Ingredients:
For the Base:

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¾ cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder

For the Filling:

  • 1¼ cups creamy peanut butter
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup milk

For the Topping:

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, set aside.

2.  Make the Base: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar and eggs.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in graham cracker crumbs, coconut and cocoa powder.  Stir until completely combined.  Transfer mixture into prepared baking pan and using hands press evenly.  (Hint:  the mixture is very sticky, wet your hands slightly before you press the mixture)  Bake crust for 12-15 minutes, or until firm and no longer shiny.  Transfer pan to cooling rack and allow to cool completely before preparing filling.

3.  Make the Filling: Microwave peanut butter and butter in large microwave safe bowl until completely melted and smooth.  Whisk in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with divided milk.  Whisk together until completely smooth.  Spread evenly over the crumb base and refrigerate until firm.  Usually takes about 1 hour.

4.  Make the Topping:  Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter together.

5.  Spread over the chilled filling and allow to set at room temperature.

6.  Make sure it is completely cooled before cutting into bars and serving.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerate for best results.

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Adapted from:  Browneyedbaker

Marinated Cheese

 

I know you may have thought I fell off the face of the Earth; but the truth is life got crazy busy.  My husband and I moved into a new house; well new to us, but old in age (built in 1896).  It is a super cute old Victorian, but it needed a lot of TLC.  Including new hardwood floors, painting every square inch, electrical, appliances and new toilets.  The house is now sparkling, but during this time it consumed every spare moment of my time.  So, as you can tell cooking was not at the top of my list after a long hard day of work.  Besides there were moments in the process that I didn’t even have appliances, making it tough to whip up much of anything.  But here I am, don’t worry.  Back from the depths of house remodeling.

What I have decided to restart my cooking adventures with was a recipe I used for a “get-to-know-the-neighbors” potluck.  I wanted to bring an appetizer, something simple yet could sit out on a counter and not go bad.  Voila, behold marinated cheese.  Delicious.  Hello, it’s cheese can you really go wrong?  I served it with crackers and it was a total hit.  Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.  Also, it looks so pretty on a serving dish.

Yields:  approximately 16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 (2-oz) jar diced pimentos, drained
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green onions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 (8-oz) package Cheddar cheese
  • 1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, chilled

Directions:

1.  In a a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine first 10 ingredients.  Tighten lid and shake vigorously; set aside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Cut the block of cheddar cheese in half lengthwise.  Then cut crosswise into 1/4″ slices.  Repeat with cream cheese.  Arrange cheese slices in a shallow baking dish, standing slices on edge, alternating cheddar cheese with cream cheese.

 

3.  Pour the marinade from the jar over the cheese slices.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

4.  To serve move cheese slices to a serving platter so they are still arranged in an alternating pattern standing on their edges.  Spoon some of the extra marinade over the cheese.  Serve with your choice of crackers.

Toasted Coconut cookies

When thinking about coconut cookies I always imagine macaroons or those hard coconut tea cookies.  I went browsing the Internet for something different in a coconut cookie.  And, voila, out came the toasted coconut soft cookie.  I tweaked a few things in the recipe to give them a more intense coconut flavor.  I think next time I may substitute all the vanilla extract for coconut extra and give an extra coconut kick.  I hope you enjoy these soft delicious cookies, I know I did.

 Yields:  3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • Extra shredded coconut, for topping

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 ° and line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pour the 1/2 cup coconut onto the sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, tossing a few times during cooking with a fork, until lightly browned.

2.  In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and toasted coconut.  Whisk together.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, cream cheese and oil.  Add in egg, vanilla extract and coconut extract.  Blend thoroughly.

4.  Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients, mix well.

5.  Roll dough into 1″ balls.  Place on baking sheet and slightly flatten each ball with the palm of your hand.  Sprinkle top of cookies with extra coconut.

6.  Bake for 11-13 minutes or until edges are slightly browned and coconut topping is toasted.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack for cooling.

Adapted from:  sugarcrafter

The Weekly Adventures of Insightful Girl

All I know is spring is here.  I couldn’t be more excited for hiking, camping, flowers and green leaves.  Get outside and get some sunshine on those white legs.  If your legs are anything like mine,  you must put on sunglasses to look at them to avoid being blinded by the whiteness.   Hope everyone has a great Cinco de Mayo celebration.  Chips, salsa and margaritas, it’s hard to go wrong.

Horton Trail, near Payson, Arizona 2010

“Spring is Nature’s Way of Saying Let’s Party.”
~ Robin Williams ~

Black Bean Salad

I decided to make this recipe for a baby shower I was attending and the momma-to-be was a vegetarian.  I served it with tortilla chips and it was a hit.  Full of delicious flavors and colors, with a salt and lime kick.  Also, feel free to increase the seasonings, if your a big fan of lime flavor, add more lime or if you like a bit more dressing, increase the Italian dressing.  Get creative on this one, it would be hard to go wrong.   
Also, with Cinco de Mayo coming up this weekend it could be a perfect dish for the Mexican themed festivities.  Use it for an appetizer, as a filling for burritos, a side dish for a chicken meal or simply eat it with a spoon.  Either way it will be delicious. 
 


Ingredients:

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 (15.25 ounce) can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • juice of 1 small lime
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • tortilla chips

Directions:
1.  In a medium mixing bowl combine, peppers, onion, corn, garlic and cilantro.  Add Italian dressing, vinegar and lime juice, mix well.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve with tortilla chips.  For best flavor, place prepared salad in airtight container and place in refrigerator for 2-3 hours before eating.

Skinny Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

Alfredo.  I can actually feel my waste band tightening just by saying the word.  Sticks of butter and cups of heavy cream, can you feel your arteries hardening?  Well, with this spin on a traditional Alfredo recipe, you no longer have to change into sweat pants after dinner.  I decided to make this with spaghetti squash to make it a bit more healthy and cut out some of the carbs.  It was delicious.  I tend to like spaghetti squash a bit crunchier when using it as a substitute for noodles, for added texture.  I finished cooking the spaghetti squash to the perfect crunchiness and by the time I poured the sauce over it and took my first bite, it had already become a bit softer.  So make sure not to over cook the squash or you will have more of a soup than a spaghetti dish.  Also, this is such a cute dish because the shell acts as a perfect bowl.    This is a great dish for entertaining, it looks like you puts hours into it by how cute it’s presentation is, when it really is quite easy and quick.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 Tablespoon light cream cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes and fresh parsley, for optional garnish

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds with spoon. Place spaghetti squash, cut-sides down, on the baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance.  Make sure to not overcook the squash for this recipe, because the sauce will continue to soften the noodles once you pour it over it.  Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.

2.  Once spaghetti squash has slightly cooled, scrape each half loosening the strands.  Keeping the spaghetti strands in the shell.

3.  For sauce, melt butter in small sauce pan over medium heat.  Once butter is melted add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning.  Add milk and flour, whisk until no clumps remain.  Once milk is warm, add cream cheese and whisk until smooth.  Remove from heat and add Parmesan, salt and pepper.

4.  Place one half of spaghetti squash on a plate and pour desired amount of sauce over each half.  I used about 1/3 of the sauce for each half.  Top with more fresh pepper, red pepper flakes or whatever garnish you wish. 

Adapted from: easycookbookrecipes.com

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

I came across this recipe when I was looking for a spring breakfast snack.   I didn’t want it to be too dessert like, but still tasty.  I think this fits the bill.  Plus, I seem to be in this lemon kick.  I’ve been adding it to breads, cookies and even pasta dishes.  Love it.  There is something about a sweet blueberry taste with a tart lemon kick.

The original recipe called for buttermilk, but I used non-fat Greek yogurt instead.  I hate buying buttermilk at the store, you use a tiny bit for a recipe and then your left with the rest of the carton.  What am I supposed to do with that?  So, since Greek yogurt is a staple in my refrigerator, I decided to give it a whirl.  It was amazing.  One of the most moist cakes I have made in a while.  But if you are  a buttermilk fan, go ahead and substitute the yogurt for the buttermilk, using the same measurements.  Either way you will not be disappointed. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest, about the zest from 1 large lemon
  • 7/8 cup sugar (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (set aside 1/4 cup of this to toss with the blueberries)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups frozen wild blueberries
  • 1/2 non-fat Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, for sprinkling on top

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a 9×9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2.  Using an electric mixer cream butter, lemon zest and 7/8 cup sugar in medium sized bowl until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, beat until thoroughly combined.  Set aside.

3.  In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

4.  Place blueberries in a small mixing bowl and toss with remaining 1/4 cup flour.

5.  Add the flour mixture to the batter a small amount at at time, alternating with the yogurt.  Then fold in the blueberries.

6.  In prepared baking dish, spread batter.  Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Adapted from:  alexandracooks

Chicken and Veggie Rice Casserole

I know it’s not much to look at, but don’t let looks fool you.  This dish is packed with veggies and flavor.  It’s a great casserole option when looking for a healthy meal.  I did make some substitutions when I made this to add some fiber and decrease some of the fat.  By using brown rice and substituting Greek yogurt for the cream cheese.  I think it turned out great.  Plus, we had plenty of leftovers for the next night.  Hope you enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups short-grain brown rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups zucchini and yellow squash, chopped (about 2 zucchini and 2 yellow squash)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups non-fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
  • 1 cup corn, drained and rinsed
  • 4 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup chopped canned jalapenos

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 375°.
2.  Pour rice into 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside.  In a small saucepan bring broth to a boil.  Next pour broth into dish with rice and stir.  Then add in zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, green pepper, onion and salt into dish with rice.  Mix well.

3.  Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. 
4.  Remove foil add in cooked chicken, stir and continue baking for another 35-45 minutes, or until rice is tender.
5.  In a small saucepan whisk milk and flour together.  Cook over medium heat until bubbles and slightly thickens, approximately 3-4 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add in 1 1/2 cups jack cheese and corn. Cook until cheese is melted.  Set aside.

6.  When rice inside the casserole is done, stir in cheese sauce.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with Greek Yogurt, using teaspoon dollops to cover casserole.  Finally, sprinkle with jalapenos and return to oven to bake 10 more minutes.

 7.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. 

 Adapted from:  fitness magazine

How to Chiffonade – Tips

What is Chiffonade?  I came across this term and had to do a little research to see exactly what it was and how to do it.  It is a cutting technique in which herbs or any other greens are cut into long, thin strips to note freshness or add color to any dish.  So, here is a quick little how-to on the technique. 

Step 1:  Stack 2-3 leaves on top of each other.

Step 2:  Roll Stack of leaves

Step 3:  Make thin slices into roll of stacked leaves.

Step 4:  Fluff chiffonade with fingertips

Red Velvet Poke Cake

If you have been following my blog, not too long ago I had a recipe for coconut poke cake, well it was such a hit I decided to make a different flavored poke cake.  One of my husband’s favorite cakes is red velvet, so I decided to give it a try.  It was delicious, so delicious in fact my husband and I ate a quarter of the cake in one sitting.  I know, put the fork down.  It is so much easier said than done when it comes to me and sweets.  For the next week we were motivated to hit the gym everyday so we wouldn’t feel guilty about having a piece of cake every night after dinner.  Life is all about balance, right?  Even despite making it to the gym everyday, I think I am going to wait a while before I make another poke cake, my skinny jeans will thank me.

Ingredients:

  • 1 red velvet box cake
  • 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • For the Frosting:
  • 8 ounces butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract

*sprinkles if desired

Directions:
1.  Make cake according to box directions.  Remove cake from the oven and immediately poke holes all over the top of cake while still hot.  I used the end of a wooden spoon to poke the holes.

2.  Slowly pour the can of condensed milk all over the top of the cake, as evenly as possible. 

3.  Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting and decorating.


Making the Frosting:
1.  In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, whip together butter and cream cheese on high speed for about 5 minutes.  Next, reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add in powdered sugar until all is incorporated.  Add in vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Increase mixer speed to medium and whip for 3 minutes, or until frosting is light and fluffy. 

2.  Spread the frosting evenly over top of cake and decorate as desired.  Make sure to store cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Cut and Enjoy!!!!

Adapted from:  browneyedbaker