Monday, May 7, 2012

Dark Chocolate Almond Blondies

I don't bake a ton, but when I do....

...it better be REALLY tasty if I'm going to splurge on the calories.  I'm not usually tempted by sweets, but I do keep coming back to the pan for these.  I love the salty sweet contrast, and of course almonds and dark chocolate together.  So good!

Dark Chocolate Almond Blondies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 c. packed brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips (or chunks), divided
1 c. whole almonds, chopped, divided

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl, set aside.  In mixer bowl, beat together brown sugar, butter and vanilla extract until creamy. Add eggs; beat until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Stir in 3/4 cup chips and 1/2 cup chopped almonds. Spread into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining chunks and almonds (I lightly pressed them in).  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and edges start pulling away from sides of pan. Cool, cut into squares (they're pretty rich, so smaller is better, for me).  Store tightly covered.

Weekly Meal Plan

OK, we're winging it a lot this week with lots of evening activities (4 of 7 nights!), so we'll be doing some reheating, slow cooking, and sandwiches.  Here are a few things I've got planned based on what's in the fridge & freezer:

Chicken, Veggie & Quinoa Skillet - I made some quinoa yesterday, grilled some chicken, and I've got lots of sliced veggies in the fridge - bell peppers, onions, zucchini, and asparagus.  I'm going to toss the veggies in my pan with a teeny bit of evoo and some fresh minced garlic, then add the quinoa nd chicken, heat through, and then sprinkle in some diced Roma tomatoes, and maybe chop up a handful of baby spinach leaves and toss it in, too.  I've also got a teen bit of fresh basil, so I'll probably add it.  Why not?! 

Baked Potatoes - topped with steamed broccoli, Canadian bacon, shredded cheese and plain yogurt - again, stuff we've got in the fridge to use up.   I've got some fresh pineapple to finish off, too. 

Homemade pizza - I've got the toppings for a ricotta, tomato and herb pizza, so we'll go for it, and maybe add some grilled chicken if there's any left from the skillet meal.  Salads on the side.

More to come - gotta go dig in the freezer downstairs!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Grill Packets

Ever grill your food in a foil packet?

It's an easy way to grill things quickly, and with minimal mess.  I purchased a big box of pre-cut foil sheets at Sam's a long time ago, since I use foil a lot in my freezer meals and such, so I can just pull out a 12" x 12" sheet, which is perfect for making a foil packet.  You can do a packet of veggies, potatoes, meat, etc.  Here's one combination (a full meal all in one!) to try - then get creative and see what happens!  I'll post a photo soon - we always end up eating the goods before I remember to whip out the camera...

1-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 c. brown rice or quinoa, cooked
1/4 c. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. tomato, diced (Roma, or whatever you have)
1/2 c. bell pepper, diced (any color works - red, yellow, green, orange)
1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
1/4 c. of your favorite dressing - Caesar, Greek, Italian (make your own - even better!)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cooking spray

Toss chicken and garlic with dressing to coat, and set aside.  Mix veggies, tomatoes and basil together in a separate bowl.  Lay out four sheets of foil.   Lightly mist each sheet with evoo (seriously, just get a mister for olive oil).  Place 1/2 c. rice or quinoa in the center of each packet.  Top with about 1/2 c. of the coated chicken pieces. Top with equal amounts of the veggie mixture, and then lightly season with salt & pepper. 

Seal the packet tightly.  Cook on a medium grill over indirect heat (watch for flames, so you don't torch the foil, basically), about 25 minutes.  The chicken is done when it appears "opaque" and is firm to the touch.  You can serve the meal right out of the foil - just let them cool a few minutes before you open and be careful of steam.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pepperoncini Beef

Need to feed a crowd?

I made this one for a luncheon for my husband's co-workers - they were my guinea pigs - and it went over well.  I decided to scale back the juice and add some water or broth instead for larger crowds, in case some didn't care for the heat.  You can make this as a freezer meal - either combine all of the ingredients with the roast in a freezer bag, and cook as directed (after thawing in fridge), or cook the meat, and then freeze the meat, and warm it on the stove before serving. 

Pepperoncini Beef

1 (3 lb.) beef chuck roast
1 (16 oz.) jar pepperoncini peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Brown the roast if you feel like it, and then put it in your slow cooker.  Cover the roast with the garlic, onions and seasoning.  Add entire contents of the jar of pepperoncini peppers - just use half of the liquid at first (add it all if you like it really hot) and a cup of water or broth over meat.  Cover, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.  Shred the meat and serve on rolls with provolone cheese and some of the peppers and onions.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Celebration Season

Here's an "oldie but a goodie" on feeding a crowd...

It's graduation party season, so I decided to dust off this post - there are a few good tips, things I've learned, and some recipes - you can find lots more recipes by searching for "Feeding a Crowd" recipes from the blog.  Happy celebrating!

***

I like to feed lots of people.

I have honed my lots of people-feeding skills over time, and figured out a few tips:

1. Stick to the basics and go with what you know.  Instead of trying something fancy and impressive, which will end up freaking me out and prevent me from enjoying the event, I go with simple, tasty, and tried & true.

2. Buffet-style works best.  I usually pick a menu with 1-2 main dish items and a variety of sides.  I set out the spread somewhere with easy access, and let people serve themselves.  Sandwiches, soups and salads are great for this.

3. Pick a theme - it makes it super easy to select your menu.  For example:  Mexican Fiesta:  build-your-taco bar with chicken & beef and an assortment of toppings (sour cream, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, chopped cilantro, cheese) chips & salsa (or a vat of some awesome fake nacho cheese, or a taco dip), some of those fun little tortilla roll-ups, green salad with cilantro lime vinaigrette, etc.  For dessert, you could make some cinnamon tortilla chips and a fruit salsa, or FLAN, etc.

Here's the menu from my most recent gathering, with some recipes (it's nothing special, but there was nothing left!):

Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches (Hawaiian bread mini-rolls and little slider buns)
Sandwich toppings: homemade freezer pickles, sliced red onion, banana peppers, lettuce
Hashbrown Casserole (seriously)
Marinated Veggie Salad
Watermelon
Cookies

For the BBQ Chicken:

Load up the crock pot with the following:

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I figure about 1 breast/2 people, for smaller ones, 1:1)
1/2 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
a splash of apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup?)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
That's it for me, but you can get fancy and add more if you like - this is pretty basic, so it has broad appeal.  I adjust seasonings and sauce at the end.

Then fire up the crock pot, and cook on medium heat 4-6 hours, or low 6-8.  If you're going to be gone all day, add about 1 c. of chicken broth to keep it moist.  Shred chicken, and mix up to make sure it's all coated with the saucy goodness, and you're ready to rock!

Note: this is a great freezer meal, too - either put all of the ingredients into a freezer bag and knead to combine, then thaw and toss into the crockpot.  You can also do the cooking and THEN freeze the shredded BBQ chicken.  Then just thaw and reheat.