Kitchen Adventures: Peanut butter cookie brownies

What’s better than a chocolate chip cookie, a peanut butter cup, and a brownie?  Being able to eat all three of them at once.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and made it for my office’s Pie Day Friday.  Even though it wasn’t technically pie (ok, not at all), it rocked because:

  • I was able to get all the ingredients at CVS on my way home
  • All the ingredients cost less than $10 and made more than 20 servings
  • I was able to make different portions easily
  • I was able to give the extra peanut butter cups to my gluten-free colleague so he could have somewhat the same thing as the rest of us

These were a huge hit and especially great for when you don’t have time to get to a full-blown grocery store or need something that travels well.

Cookiebrownies

Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies

  • 1 bag of small Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • 1 box of brownie mix and the ingredients to make it (varies by box)
  • 1 roll of refrigerated cookie dough or box of cookie dough mix and the ingredients to make it (varies by box)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Grease a muffin or mini-muffin tin
  2. Press cookie dough into the bottom layer of each section.  Add a peanut butter cup. Top with brownie mix, filling to about 2/3 full overall. (The cookies and brownies will both take up a little more space when cooked.)
  3. Bake for 18 minutes, less for mini-muffins.  When testing to make sure your treats are done, don’t let the melted chocolate from the peanut butter cup throw you off.  I overcooked mine a little, but they were still delicious.

Done!  I made 12 large muffins, 12 mini muffins, and 1 mini loaf pan (with the leftovers) with these ingredients.  Serving recommendation: warm these up and top them with ice cream.  You won’t regret it.

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Kitchen Adventures: Stuffed artichokes

There is basically never a time when I don’t want a stuffed artichoke since my college roommate first introduced me to this delicacy. (Hi Jill!)  It’s not the fastest thing in the world to make, but it’s completely worth it, especially when you can start eating it before going out with your friends and finish the rest when you come home starving after a night of dancing… if you can stand to not eat it all in one sitting.

IMG_3419_artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs with Italian seasoning added)
  • 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic (I use jarred but this is about 1 1/2 cloves)
  • 2 small to medium artichokes
Stuffing in progress

Stuffing in progress

  1. Lightly toast bread crumbs in a frying pan – no oil needed.  Put water on to boil with a steaming basket big enough to hold your artichokes upright.
  2. Cut off the top 1/4 (or so) of the artichoke with a knife, and trim the stem except for the last 1/2 inch or so.  Fan out the remaining segments of the artichokes and cut off the spiky tips with scissors.  You should only need to cut off about the top 1/3 per section but you should make sure you get all the sharp bits even if it means losing a little more of the ‘choke.
  3. Mix everything else together and start stuffing!  Start at the outer pieces and put the bread crumbs as far down in each segment as you can.  If you separate the pieces as you go, you should be able to get a good amount in each section.  When you get near the middle, keep stuffing – that’s the best part!
  4. Stand up the artichokes in your steamer basket over boiling water, cover, and cook for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your artichokes.  Add more water to the pot as needed.

IMG_3429_artichoke

C’est tout!  Just peel off the segments and eat them from the base, and then attack the middle with the fork once you get past the rougher outer layers.

Did your college roomies ever share tasty treats from home?  What do you put inside your stuffed artichokes?

Kitchen Adventures: Soup fail

I cannot in good conscience tell you how to make this soup, since I did it entirely wrong.  My version involved:

  • the smoke alarm going off while I was in the shower
  • “cooking” the butternut squash in three different ways
  • splattering boiling soup all over my arms and my stovetop

But boy, doesn’t it look pretty?  It was tasty too, once I started breathing again.

IMG_3410

More when I actually get this right…

Kitchen Adventures: Crockpot style

Things I love: coming home to the smell of something cooking.
Things I hate: anything that could feasibly burn my house down.

I have a bit of a complicated relationship with the idea of crockpots.  I just don’t trust them.  I know that they work for tons of people, but I just can’t wrap my head around intentionally leaving something cooking in my kitchen when I’m so far away.  So in my quest to get over this, I decided to take on a classic crockpot recipe today – with a twist – while I was out and about in the neighborhood.

The results were confidence inspiring and actually amazingly delicious – more so than anything I’ve made this way before.  The recipe is modified from a “Crockpot: the original slow cooker” cookbook I nabbed for $5 outside of Borders once upon a time.

Other than the delicious taste, this recipe wins because it just involves chopping some things up (no braising the meat, etc.), cooks at one temp the whole time, and doesn’t require you to buy tons of things you’ll never use in another recipe.  It’s also adaptable to almost any veggie – you can just use this as a starting point.  Definitely recommend for anyone who’s looking to spice up the old classic this winter!

Beef stew

Asian Beef Stew – Crockpot Style

  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 1/2 pounds round steak, cut up – I got mine pre-cut into stew meat sized chunks at the deli
  • 1 head of celery, sliced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced – make your slices pretty thin, my carrots still had some crunch to them!
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced (really, can use as little as 1 cup or as much as you want)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup beef broth (look for low sodium and low fat versions)
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce – the one weird ingredient!
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  1. Combine onion, beef, celery, carrots, and mushrooms in a large crockpot (the book recommends the 5-quart version, as though you have multiple sizes just filling your cupboards).
  2. Combine orange juice, beef broth, hoisin sauce, cornstarch, and curry powder in a small bowl – whisk together until cornstarch is dissolved.
  3. Pour into crockpot and give it a good stir – cover and cook on high for 5 hours or until the beef is tender.  When the beef is almost done (go ahead, peek!), stir in a cup of frozen peas and cook for a final 20 minutes or so.

Serve over rice, share, freeze, and enjoy!

This is definitely going in my list of easy favorites.  It has a great warmth to it, between the spiciness of the sauce and the curry.  The beef was so tender and tasty – I’m really looking forward to eating this all week.  Seriously!

What’s your favorite crockpot creation?  Had any major flops you learned along the way?

Kitchen Adventures: Easy Bake Tofu

No lightbulb required!

With Christmas approaching, I pulled out one of my great gifts from last year – a Silpat baking mat.  I wanted to see if this mat could amplify my love for tofu (and if starting cooking before I was starving would give me time to bake tofu for once) and I was not disappointed.  Here are a few steps to perfection:

Easy Baked Tofu

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz of firm tofu (I used TJ’s small block, but you could just double this if you were working with a bigger block of tofu)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 tbsp soy sauce (or so – I intended to use more but mine ran out!)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • salt, pepper, and garlic powder as desired
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the tofu into thin slabs, about 1/4 or so thick and as wide as you can get them and still have them stay intact when you mix them with the sauce.
  2. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a bowl with a fork.  Add the tofu and let sit for 5 minutes (or longer if possible).
  3. Place slabs of tofu on a baking sheet (I used mine lined with a Silpat mat) and bake for 10-14 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Enjoy!  I ate mine with spaghetti squash and poured the remaining marinade over the whole dish (bonuses of cooking with tofu: you can stop to eat the ingredients at any time AND you can reuse any leftover marinade safely.)

PS: I do actually cook more than just tofu – proof is here!  For Thanksgiving, I made a new Brussels sprout dish and lots of different egg concoctions.  What have you made or eaten lately?

Kitchen Adventures: Tasty Tofu

Kitchen Adventures: Tasty Tofu

Yes, it exists. I love tofu in any form, but this recipe is the only one I can make and want to eat the tofu raw, and a few pieces usually get sacrificed to “taste testing” before they can reach the pan.

All it takes is mixing a few items together:
2 tbps Mirin (a sweet Japanese seasoning made from rice alcohol – keep this in your cupboard for tons of recipes!)
1 tbsp sesame oil (hint: you can get this cheap at the Christmas Tree Shop! I use it basically every day.)
1 tsp Tamari (soy sauce)
1 tsp Teriyaki sauce (I used the low sodium version)

Optional:
Salt
Pepper
Chopped garlic

Cut up the tofu into small cubes and pour the sauce over the top. If you have time, try to marinade for an hour or two, stirring every once in a while. If you’re in a rush, just let this sit while you prep everything else.

You can either add the extra sauce to the pan after, or use it on a side dish – I threw mine, along with some extra Mirin and Tamari, over some asparagus I was cooking at the same time. Incredible!

What’s your favorite way to give tofu some flavor?

Kitchen Adventures: Autumn in a nutshell

An acorn squash shell, to be exact.

My obsession with simply-cooked acorn squash has me buying them in multiples every time I go to the store.  Settling down to one for dinner (or as part of dinner) is the perfect way to end a blustery fall day.

All it takes is a small acorn squash, goat cheese, and brown sugar.  Start by cutting the squash in half, and scooping out the seeds and the pulp with a spoon.  Then put both halves of the squash cut-side down in a small microwave-safe casserole dish (mine is about 10″ across) with 1/2 inch or so of water in the bottom.  The goal is to give the squash enough water to steam, but not so much that it will take a long time to get hot.

Cook on high for 5 minutes, then poke the outside of the squash to see if it’s soft.  My small squash tonight took 15 minutes to cook fully, but it’s a good idea to check every 5 minutes and then just add more time to the clock if it needs more.  The inside should be bright orange-yellow and the outside should be tender when poked for it to be done to my standards.

Remove from the dish, top with goat cheese, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of brown sugar.  And voila – you’ve got dinner!  This is also really good reheated the next day, but I’ve only made it that far once and have succumbed to eating the whole thing every other time.  If it’s all you eat for dinner, you might be hungry later – this dish is only worth 3 PointsPlus (aka super healthy).

What’s your favorite fall food?