Monday, March 26, 2012

Jenny's Baked Beans

I'm loving the time I've been spending on Just A Pinch, the recipe site I talked about in my last post. Jenny Moretz, another Blue Ribbon winner, posted her recipe for what she calls Land Your Man Baked Beans. And even though I'm not looking to land anything but a good night's sleep, I had to try this simple, creative and cost efficient baked bean recipe. Aside from all the condiments that you already have in your fridge, she included a package of Taco Bell Seasoning Mix that I found in the international aisle of my grocery store. How easy is that?

Jenny's Baked Beans

2 28 oz cans Bush's Original Baked Beans

1 large onion chopped

1 large green pepper chopped

1.5 pounds ground beef

1/3 cup ketchup

2 T yellow mustard

4 T brown sugar

3 T hot sauce

6 slices hardwood smoked bacon

1 package Taco Bell Seasoning

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Brown the ground beef on stove top in large pan on medium heat. Halfway through browning, add Taco Bell seasoning and cook until beef is cooked through. Set aside. In large bowl, combine beans, onions, peppers, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and hot sauce.

Pour into large baking dish that's been prepared with cooking spray. Add the seasoned beef to the top of the bean mixture. Place bacon on top. I didn't have any bacon in the house so I ended up omiting it, but I imagine it would only enhance the fabulous flavors already in the dish. Cover with aluminum foil, leaving one corner folded back for venting. Bake 1 hour. Remove foil and bake another 30 minutes or until bacon is brown and excess liquid has cooked out.

This dish was fantastic. Every ingredient in the recipe worked, and the hint of Mexican spice was a pleasant addition to one of my favorite comfort foods. Give this one a try. Oh, and for my second helping I added some sharp cheddar cheese. Yummy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blue Ribbon Cookies

These Mini Cream Filled Delights recently won me a Blue Ribbon from the Just a Pinch Recipe Club and I couldn't wait to share it on the blog. I haven't felt this passionate about a recipe since my Asian Green Bean Salad for Cooking Light. These little morsels are really that good.

They're decadent, creamy and crowd pleasing. If you like a cakey, brown sugar cookie, filled with a creamy, yet crunchy, chocolatey filling, go directly to the ingredient list, get what you need at the market and make these cookies now.

Mini Cream Filled Delights
makes 45 delectable sandwich cookies

8 oz neufchatel cheese softened to room temp
1/2 cup butter softened
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 T brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi sweet mini chocolate chips

3/4 cups butter softened to room temp
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs room temp if possible
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

To make the filling: In medium size bowl combine all ingredients except the mini chips. Mix until combined. I use a hand mixer. Add the chocolate chips and fold to evenly incorporate. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge while you prepare the cookies.

To make the cookies: Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In medium size bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl, with hand mixer, combine butter and sugar and mix until smooth and airy (about 2-3 minutes). Add eggs and vanilla and continue to mix, remembering to scrape down the sides of the bowl. When mixture is smooth, add half the dry ingredients into the wet and mix on low. Add the rest of the dry ingredients until dough is smooth. Don't be surprised if dough is sticky, it's supposed to be.

Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form dough into small balls about 3/4 inch each. Place on baking sheets, flatten slightly with a spoon and bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly on cooling rack, then remove to paper or kitchen towels to cool completely. You will get about 90 cookies.

Remove filling from the refrigerator and when cookies are cooled, take a teaspoon of the filling and place it on the flat side of a cookie. You can see I pile it pretty high.

Take a second cookie and cover the filling to make a sandwich. Now you only have 44 more times to do this. It is worth it.

Dust with confectioner's sugar. Now if 90 cookies seems a bit daunting, make the cookie balls a little bigger, about 1 to 1-1/4 inch in diameter and bake them for 12 minutes. I made them this way last weekend, and the work does go faster and the end result is just as delicious. I got 40 individual cookies and 20 sandwiches. And the portion is almost equivalent to 1 cupcake.

I store the cookies in the refrigerator wrapped in an air tight container and take them out about 20-30 minutes before I serve them. Try these, you'll be ever-so happy!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Is It Soup Yet?

Remember that commercial? It was years ago, it was Campbell's and it was ever so comforting. My mom used to make a mushroom and barley soup that I absolutely adored- chock full of vegetables, aromatic, and when she made it, it always reminded me of that commercial. But ours was home made. Unfortunately she never gave me the recipe. So this weekend I decided to do my best to recreate this soup. And I did it!

Barley, Mushroom and Vegetable Soup
Inspired by Elaine Dalton

3/4 cup barley
2 T olive oil
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
4 small carrots diced, 1/2 inch
2 stalks celery diced 1/2 inch
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
8 cups of liquid- I used three 14.5 oz cans of fat free chicken broth and water
3/4 cup split peas
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
8 oz button mushrooms sliced

In medium size pot cook barley according to package directions (usually about 45 minutes). While barley is cooking, begin the soup prep.

In large pot on low heat, add olive oil, chopped carrots, onions, celery, garlic and Old Bay Seasoning. Cover and sweat the veggies until soft (8 minutes or so) stirring occasionally. When veggies are soft, add chicken broth and water, bring to a boil and add split peas. Bring back to a boil, lower heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes.

Add salt, pepper, and mushrooms and simmer 15 minutes more. Add cooked barley, stir and serve. This recipe makes 4-6 servings. Enjoy.

It's soup now and dinner is ready. I had some fabulous rosemary-infused artisan Italian bread on hand, so I grilled it, placed it on top of my steaming bowl of soup, and enjoyed this tasty bowl of goodness just like I used to in mom's kitchen.