August 31, 2012

Take 5 Bars

I wish I could call these something other than Take 5 bars, since I'm not even sure if I've had a Take 5 candy bar. But what else to call them? Peanut butter pretzel bars with peanuts, caramel, and chocolate? So, Take 5 it is. I have no idea if these resemble Take 5 candy bars, but they are so tasty.

Take 5 Bars
adapted from Pixel-Whisk

3 cups small pretzels
1 cup peanut butter (natural works fine)
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 heaping cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sea salt flakes or crushed pretzels for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8" pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the pretzels, peanut butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar until the pretzels are crushed into small bits and the mixture clumps together. OR crush the pretzels in a ziploc bag using a rolling pin and stir into the peanut butter and sugar in a large bowl. Press firmly into the pan and bake for 10 minutes.

In a saucepan over medium hear, stir remaining 1 cup of sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil sugar for about 5 minutes, or until the color begins to darken. Swirl caramelized sugar to mix and continue to cook until it's a medium amber color. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream (it will bubble violently, so stir carefully) and vanilla. Set aside to cool.

Pour caramel over the pretzel crust, then top with chopped peanuts. Lastly, cover all the peanuts with the chocolate chips and bake for 10 minutes.

Use an offset spatula or knife to smooth out the chocolate chips while they're still warm and top with sea salt or crushed pretzels. Let cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for a couple hours, or until chocolate hardens. Slice into bars and serve.

August 30, 2012

Summer Panzanella

I first made this panzanella (bread salad) 2 years ago. Somehow I missed making it last year, and it has haunted me ever since. This salad is gorgeous with bright colors, but also so delicious. I used some homemade whole-wheat bread from my freezer, but it would have been better if the loaf was a little stale so the bread would have crisped up a little more.

Summer Panzanella
from Smitten Kitchen

3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule or sturdy whole-wheat loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 bell peppers (try not to use green) seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

August 29, 2012

Nutella Brownie Bites

If you need a quick chocolate fix - this should do it. This is a simple recipe with quick cooking time. The centers on these mini brownies stay a little gooey, kind of like these molten chocolate cakes.

Nutella Brownie Bites
adapted from Abby Dodge

1 cup Nutella (280 g or 10 oz)
2 eggs
10 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a mini muffin pan.

In a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and mix.

Divide the batter evenly in the muffin tray (makes 24 mini muffins). If using, sprinkle each brownie cup with a few chocolate chips.

Bake for 6 minutes - the center will not be all the way set. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

August 22, 2012

Insalata Caprese

Promise me to make this easy salad in the next few weeks before the ripe, fresh tomatoes are gone...

It's most fun to be artistic with the presentation for the salad. Use heirloom tomatoes for unexpected color, arrange the plate in a geometric design, chiffonade (cut into fine strips) the basil, whatever you'd like!

Here's my version:

Insalata Caprese

sliced ripe tomatoes (if using grape or cherry tomatoes, keep whole or halve)
fresh mozzarella cheese
drizzle of olive oil
fresh basil
salt and pepper

Arrange the tomatoes and cheese artfully on a plate. Sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

August 18, 2012

Fennel-Apple Slaw with Spicy Almonds

Have you tried fennel? I talked about it once before when I made fennel-arugula salad. It has the texture of celery but tastes like licorice! This specimen from my CSA was extra licorice-y.

Here's a photo of fennel:

You usually eat the white bulb part, not the green stems or fronds. However, you can use those to flavor chicken or vegetable stock. The bottom of the white bulb is usually a little tough, so I don't use that part either. You know you're to the good stuff when sliced bulb has the shape of boomerangs.

Fennel-Apple Slaw with Spicy Almonds
adapted from The Endless Meal

1 large or 2 small bulb fennel, sliced thin
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced into small pieces or matchsticks

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Spicy Almonds:
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper

Toast almonds in a dry frying pan over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Quickly add water, sugar, salt and pepper and stir. Continue to stir occasionally until water has evaporated. Remove from heat to a sheet of wax paper, spreading out the almonds. Set aside and allow to cool.

Combine all dressing ingredients together and set aside.
Toss fennel and apple with half the dressing and toss. Add more dressing as necessary. Top with almonds.

August 17, 2012

Whole Wheat Buns

I'm so grateful I have the skills and time to make most of my food from scratch. There are so many bad products being sold in grocery stores - too many weird, unnecessary ingredients.

Previously I posted light brioche buns, and those are fabulous, but I also wanted to try a wheat version. This recipe turned out great - tasty and soft. When I make a recipe like this, I use a few buns and then put the rest in the freezer - individually wrapped in a large ziploc bag. Then I can just pull out what I need later on.

Whole Wheat Buns
adapted from Chocolate and Carrots

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 cup milk or almond milk
1 egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
wheat germ or sesame seeds (optional topping)

Set aside a large bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine the sugar, salt and yeast. In a smaller bowl, microwave the milk for 15 second increments until it is about 100°F or feels like bath water.

Slowly whisk the milk in to the sugar, salt and yeast and stir until the yeast and sugar are basically dissolved (a couple of seconds). Add the egg, butter and 1 cup of the flour and stir until there are no clumps. Slowly add in the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour until the dough is covered enough to start kneading with your flour covered hands. Knead for about 3 minutes.

Transfer the dough ball into the bowl that you set aside earlier. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough down, reshape into a ball, recover, and let it rise again for another 1 hour, until it has doubled in size again.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Shape the dough into 8-10 balls (flatten slightly to form bun shape) and let them rise while the oven is preheating. In a small bowl, beat the egg and tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash on the tops of the buns. Sprinkle with wheat germ or sesame seeds, if using.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove buns from pan to a rack to cool.

August 15, 2012

Roasted Delicata Squash

Growing up as a somewhat normal American when it comes to vegetables, they were my least favorite part of a meal. I would usually eat them first so that the memory of them would be long gone by the time I finished the rest of my plate. What a terrible attitude! I have since changed...

Really it just started with knowing that I'm supposed to like vegetables because they are good for my body, but over the last couple of years, I really have come to enjoy them. I really do love exploring new vegetables and finding the tastiest ways to prepare them.

A CSA (community supported agriculture) is a great way to force new vegetables into your kitchen. I don't get to choose what produce I take home, so it can be a challenge at times to incorporate everything into my meal planning. My farmer has included some recipes with her weekly emails, and I've discovered some great recipes and online resources. She sent a link to the recipe I'm sharing today.

Guess what? This simple preparation for delicata squash is DELICIOUS. The squash are fairly small, and I only received one in my share. I was so sad to not have more, but hopefully I'll receive more another week. You can eat the skins of this squash as they are not too thick, and the flesh is super smooth.

Roasted Delicata Squash
adapted from Chez Pim

delicata squash
melted unsalted butter
brown sugar
fine-grain sea salt

Rinse squash. Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and pulp, save for another use (like roasted seeds). Cut each half lengthwise on a diagonal to make triangles. Arrange squash on a cookie sheet or other pan. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and salt.

Roast in 450 oven for 35-40 minutes until caramelized and the flesh is fork tender.

August 14, 2012

Chocolate Sorbet

This is super rich and chocolately, but with no milk or cream. Simply divine if you love chocolate. David Lebovitz is an ice cream/sorbet genius. Truly.

Chocolate Sorbet
from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2 1/4 cups water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the water with the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a boil whisking frequently. Let it boil, continuing to whisk for 45 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's melted, then stir in the vanilla extract and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend for 15 seconds. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. If the mixture has become too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.

August 8, 2012

Pizza with Prosciutto and Balsamic Onions

I make pizza just about once a week. Usually I'm lazy and just pile on toppings I already have, which ends up being like a supreme pizza. I do have a few favorite topping combinations (Socrate's Revenge and Edgar Allen Poe), but this one is also going to be added to the list.

Look for prosciutto in the gourmet meat and cheese section, or try the deli for freshly sliced. If your deli has it, I'd go that route, as you can get exactly the amount you need - for this pizza, that's less than a quarter pound. If you have leftover prosciutto, try pairing it with cantaloupe for a delicious snack.

Try my favorite pizza crust recipe and baking method.

Pizza with Prosciutto and Balsamic Onions
adapted from Epicurious

2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons cup olive oil
1 12-ounce red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 large red bell pepper OR 1/2 c. jarred roasted red peppers
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
4 thin slices prosciutto, sliced crosswise into thin strips
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until golden, about 12 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until liquid cooks away and onion is very tender, about 4 minutes; season onion with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and sauté just until garlic begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Pour garlic oil into small bowl.

If using fresh red bell pepper, char bell pepper over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag; let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and slice thinly.

If using jarred roasted red pepper, slice into thin strips.

Roll out pizza dough. Brush 1 tablespoon garlic oil over dough, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Sprinkle with mozzarella and balsamic onion. Top with pepper strips. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly. Open oven and quickly arrange prosciutto atop pizza. Bake until prosciutto softens, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle with thyme.

August 3, 2012

Kale Salad with Lentils

Another salad with raw kale and lentils! This was simple but delicious, and not to mention gorgeous. You really should try a salad with kale if you haven't yet. Here are some of my other kale or lentil salad recipes:

Warm Lentil Salad
Raw Tuscan Kale Salad
Kale Barley Salad

Kale Salad with Lentils
from Food 52

2 bunches curly kale, center ribs and stems removed, washed, dried, and chopped finely
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 cup Puy or beluga lentils, (substitute brown lentils if they’re what you have), rinsed and picked over
1 cup red cabbage, shredded

Whisk together olive oil, apricot preserves, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper.

Turn kale into a large mixing bowl, and massage 6 Tbsp of the dressing into the salad. You’ll need enough dressing for the salad to be well coated and start taking on a “wilted” texture. Set aside.

Place lentils in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them by 3-4 inches (approximately 2 1/2 cups). Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat, add a pinch of salt, and let the lentils simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy.

Allow lentils to cool slightly and add them, along with the cabbage, to the kale, and add another 2 Tbsp vinaigrette. Use hands to combine. Add extra dressing as needed, and season to taste.