Melissa's Cuisine: September 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Zucchini Brownies

On Monday I mentioned that I enjoy spending time preparing my garden in the spring.  I also love checking it throughout the summer to see what is ripe and ready to be enjoyed.  I don't plant any zucchini plants, but I certainly don't turn a zucchini down when it's offered to me.  My boss brought in 3 large buckets full of tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant from her garden last week.  I took a few tomatoes and zucchinis home with me.  The zucchini sat on the counter, waiting to be made into something delicious.

These zucchini brownies certainly are delicious!  If I didn't know that they contained 2 cups of shredded zucchini, I never would have guessed.  They are a cake-type brownie and full of intense chocolate flavor.  I'd consider them to be fairly healthy too--they are made with whole wheat flour, applesauce (in place of oil), and zucchini.  Thanks to the zucchini, the brownies are incredibly moist.  These brownies are also incredibly easy to make and come together in a short amount of time.  Unless you're like me and your grater breaks halfway through the first zucchini so you have to shred the rest with a hand grater...oh well!  The brownies were worth it!
Zucchini Brownies

Serves 9-12 (makes 1 8x8" pan) 

2 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt, and applesauce.

2.  In a larger bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder.  Stir in the baking soda and cinnamon.

3.  Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.  The mixture will look very dry.

4.  Add the grated zucchini and chocolate chips and stir until combined.

5.  Pour the batter into a greased 8x8" pan.

6.  Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownie comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting.  Cover and store any leftovers at room temperature.

Source:  Baltic Maid

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thousand Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies

This past Saturday was a big day for me.  After nearly 2 years of running and 3 months of training, Saturday was my very first half-marathon.  The morning of the race was beautiful, the sun was shining and the temperatures were comfortably cool.  I faced the race with confidence and excitement.  Halfway through the 13.1 miles, the weather changed and thunder and lightning began.  Since we were running along the coastline of Lake Michigan, the race officials decided the lightning presented a safety issue and decided to call the race.  They did give the runners a choice to continue running at our own risk.  I was over halfway by time this news made its way to me and there was no way I was going to stop.  The thunder and lightening became more intense and then the skies opened up and it down poured.  The wind picked up and I heard reports of hail as well (though I didn't experience any).  I ran through water 2 inches deep, and I crossed the finish line soaking wet, freezing, and completely exhilarated that I met my goal and finished.  I'm looking forward to running another half in the future, hopefully one that doesn't get cancelled halfway through, so I can get an official finishing time.  But for now I am proud to say, I'm a half marathoner!
These cookies have absolutely nothing to do with running.  I wouldn't have minded seeing a plateful of these waiting for me at the finish line though!  The name of these cookies, Thousand Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies, does a good job of describing the many layers in these fabulous treats.  They are certainly more time consuming than your average chocolate chip cookie, but they are out-of-this-world delicious.  These cookies are worth the extra time, and I guarantee anyone you make them for will love them.  Now if only I can convince half-marathon planning committees to serve these at the finish line...
Thousand Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes approximately 20 cookies (depending on the size of your cutter)

2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2-1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into long, thin shards
1 large egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)
1.  Cut up 2 sticks of butter and place them in a large saucepan.  Whisk over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Turn up the heat and continue cooking the butter, whisking occasionally, until the butter turns brown.  (Don't walk away, as the butter can burn quickly once it turns brown!)

2.  As soon as the butter turns brown, remove the pan from heat and pour the butter into a medium heat-proof bowl.  Place butter in the fridge to solidify (about 4 hours). 

3.  Remove the butter from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature.  Bring the remaining half stick to room temperature as well. 

4.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

5.  Scrape the brown butter into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the remaining butter, brown sugar, and sugar.  Beat until fluffy and light, about 3-5 minutes.

6.  Add the egg and beat for 1 minute.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

7.  Add in the vanilla and beat to combine.

8.  Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add in the dry ingredients.  Mix until the flour is just incorporated.

9.  Place the cookie dough on a lightly floured surface.  Divide into 3 equal pieces and form each piece into a 4x6" rectangle.  Wrap each rectangle in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

10.  Remove the rectangles from the fridge and unwrap.  Place one of the dough rectangles on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle with half the chocolate shards.

11.  Top with another piece of dough and sprinkle with remaining chocolate.  Top with remaining piece of dough.  You should have a tall cookie dough rectangle in front of you.

12.  Dust the top layer of cookie dough lightly with flour.  Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough into a rectangle about 9x6" and about 1-1/2" thick.

13.  Use a 2" round cookie cutter to cut cookies out.  (I used a glass instead, and my cookies were about 4".)  Re-roll any scraps to get the most cookies out of your dough.

14.  Place cut cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, cover loosely, and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.  (The longer the cookies are refrigerated, the deeper their flavor.  I didn't want to wait longer to try a cookie, so I left mine in only an hour.)

15.  While the cookies are chilling, prepare the egg wash by beating 1 egg in a small bowl.

16.  Remove cookies from the fridge and separate them on cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.  Brush each cookie with the egg wash.

17.  Bake at 375 for 11-14 minutes, until the edges of the cookies have just set.  Cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

Source:  Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

One of my favorite things about spring is planting my garden.  I enjoy planning out what I'm going to plant and where it's going to go.  This year was my second time having my own garden (though my parents had one growing up).  I think of my first year as a trial run because I wasn't quite sure what I was doing.  I can't say that I know what I was doing this year, but it's certainly fun to learn!

I don't grow zucchini in my garden, but many of my friends do.  The zucchini crop was abundant this year and I was a happy recipient of many pieces of zucchini.  The great thing about zucchini is that you can eat it in many ways.  Mike and I enjoy grilling zucchini coins.  I also grate up zucchini and freeze it to make bread and muffins. 

These chocolate zucchini muffins are a delicious flavor combination.   I made 4 jumbo muffins as well as nearly a dozen regular sized muffins.  I froze the majority of them, and I have enjoyed pulling the frozen muffins out of the freezer and thawing them for a fresh tasting breakfast!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Makes 12-18 muffins

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup coconut oil
2 cups of shredded zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces chocolate, melted

1. In a medium bowl combine flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Mix and set aside.

2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar together on a medium speed for one minute.

3. Slowly add oil while the mixer is on.

4. Add the shredded zucchini and vanilla, and continue mixing.

5. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the dry mixture.

6. Add the melted chocolate and mix until all the ingredients are combined.

7.  Divide the batter between greased muffin tins.

8.  Bake at 350 for 20-23 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container.  This muffins also freeze well.

Source:  Will Cook For Smiles

Friday, September 21, 2012

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches

I love to use coupons when I shop.  I'm no extreme couponer by any means, but it's become a personal challenge--a game--for me.  Each week I aim to buy everything that we need and come in under budget.  Thanks to coupons, I've been able to achieve that goal most weeks. 

I do my grocery shopping on Friday mornings and when Mike gets home from work I'm excited to show him the deals I got that day.  I show him products and have him guess what I paid for them.  Cheesy, I know...but it's fun to see how much money we're saving.

Sometimes I'll buy items that are on sale for an irresistible price, but are products that I don't typically purchase.  One of those items was a box of Carrot Cake mix.  I don't remember what I paid for it, but I know it was cheap.  However, because Mike doesn't like cake, I did not want to make an entire cake for myself. 

So there the cake mix sat. 

Until I saw this recipe.  I knew I hit the jackpot when Mike took a bite of the cookie sandwich and mumbled "mmmm".  I intended to share these cookies with my parents one Sunday, but Mike and I enjoyed them too much to share.  Oops!  At least that gives me an excuse to make them again...

Carrot Crinkle Cookie Sandwiches

Makes 10

6 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 (18.25 oz) box Carrot Cake mix
flour, as needed
1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/4 cup powdered sugar

1.  In a large bowl, mix butter, eggs, and carrot cake mix until no lumps are left.  (*If needed, add flour 1/8 cup at a time to achieve a batter that can be rolled into balls.  I needed to add nearly 1/2 cup of flour.)

2.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls and coat in powdered sugar.

3.  Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper.

4.  Bake cookies at 375 for 8-10 minutes, until the tops have cracked and the tops are mostly set. 

5.  Cool cookies for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

6.  While the cookies are cooling, cream butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth.

7.  Beat in vanilla and cinnamon.

8.  Add powdered sugar and beat until frosting is smooth.

9.  Spread frosting onto one cookie and then top with another, pressing down slightly to adhere cookies.

Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge--bring to room temperature before serving.

Source:  The Novice Chef

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Puppy Chow Bars

By now, I'm sure you are aware of my love of puppy chow. It's a favorite of mine and Mike's.  Judging by the way my fellow youth leaders devoured the bowl I made for our recent retreat, it seems to be a favorite of a lot of people.

I've made a few variations of puppy chow, and a couple different kinds of marshmallow treats.  I wondered what would happen if I were to combine the two loved snacks.  The result?  A delicious bar that tastes like puppy chow without the mess of powdered sugar all over. These bars were fun to make and eat, not to mention they tasted fantastic!  I'll certainly be making them again.
Puppy Chow Bars

Makes 1 8x8" pan, about 9 servings

1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
powdered sugar

1.  In a microwave safe bowl, combine peanut butter, butter, and chocolate chips.

2.  Microwave for 1 minute and stir until smooth.

3.  Stir in vanilla.

4.  Pour cereal into a large mixing bowl.  Pour chocolate mixture over the cereal and stir until cereal is coated completely.

5.  Press cereal mixture into an 8x8" baking dish.

6.  Sprinkle powdered sugar over bars.

7.  Let the bars set for about 1 hour before cutting them into squares.

These bars are best eaten the day they're made.  Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container.

Monday, September 17, 2012

German Style Soft Pretzels


"The best thing you've ever made."

"You should sell these they're so good!"

"These taste just like those pretzels you buy at a pretzel stand!"

Yes, seriously, those are just a few of the comments that Mike made after trying one of these soft pretzels!
This month my Secret Recipe Club assignment was Lacy's blog, NYC Eats.  Lacy features restaurant reviews and local (NYC) foodie events as well as recipes on her blog.  I selected a few recipes from her blog and I actually made 2 of them.  I decided to feature the pretzels for this month's reveal because they were so delicious!

One thing I really loved about the pretzels (besides the taste) was the ease of making them.  For this recipe, you don't have to boil a pot of water with baking soda to dip the pretzels in.  Lacy's recipe just had me dip the pretzels in room temperature water, so eliminating the boiling water was a nice surprise.  

I made these pretzels for Mike and I to enjoy for a Friday night movie night.  We love to pop some popcorn, crack open an icy cold drink, and relax on the couch with a good movie.  We got lucky because we enjoyed both popcorn and pretzels!  Plus, for dinner I decided to wrap pretzel dough around a couple hot dogs.  (Allow a couple extra minutes of baking time if you wrap hot dogs.)  Mike is already asking me when I'll make these pretzels again!
German Style Soft Pretzels

Makes 8

1 cup warm milk (about 110 degrees)
2-1/4 teaspoons yeast
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2-1/2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons baking soda
coarse sea salt (or pretzel salt)
butter for brushing on top

1.  Pour the warm milk into a large bowl and sprinkle with the yeast.  Let it sit for about 2 minutes.

2.  Mix in the brown sugar and 1 cup of flour.

3.  Melt the 2 Tablespoons of butter and stir into the mixture.

4.  Add the remaining flour and salt.  Mix to form a slightly sticky dough.

5.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth but still slightly sticky.

6.  Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place to rise until the dough doubles (about 1 hour). 

7.  Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.

8.  Divide the dough into 8 pieces.  Roll and stretch each piece into a 20-25 inch rope.

9.  Form each piece into a pretzel shape by forming a U-shape, then holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press lightly onto the bottom of the pretzel.

10.  In a shallow baking dish (or pie tin), dissolve 3 Tablespoons baking soda into 1-1/2 cups water.

11.  Dip each pretzel into the baking soda water and place formed pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly sprayed with cooking spray. 

12.  Sprinkle pretzels with salt.

13.  Bake pretzels at 450 for 8-10 minutes, until golden.

14.  Remove pretzels from the oven and brush with melted butter while hot.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

*To make pretzel dogs, follow pretzel instructions up to step #8.  Then wrap a dough rope around each hot dog.  Continue with steps #10-14, but bake for 10-12 minutes.

Source:  NYC Eats

Friday, September 14, 2012

Peach Cinnamon Rolls

We're still able to get fresh peaches at our farmer's market and I plan to make the most of the fresh summer fruit...especially because it feels like fall today.  One of my favorite things about where I live is the local farmer's market.  It's open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and while I haven't been able to go as much as I'd like this year, it's still fun to go.  I enjoy seeing what all the different vendors have to offer.  There are booths full of fresh fruits and veggies, fresh baked goods, doggy bagels, donuts, coffee, flavored honey sticks, flowers, and (my favorite) fresh hot tamales!  Usually the center aisle is lined with various street performers, and it's fun to watch and listen to them while shopping.
You know how much I enjoy taking a loved recipe and adding a little something to make it special.  Last week, I offered to bring cinnamon rolls for our youth leader's retreat breakfast.  I made some regular cinnamon rolls, but I decided to add some fruity flair to others by putting diced peaches into the cinnamon rolls.  I loved the addition of the fruit and the cinnamon rolls were a hit with the other leaders.

The cinnamon rolls were fantastic on their own, but I decided to top a few with my dad's homemade peach jam to bring out the peach flavor.  It was delicious!
Peach Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 20 rolls

You will need:
1 cup warm milk, 110 degrees
2-1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 eggs
1/3 cup margarine, melted
4-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown sugar, packed
2-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup margarine, softened
2 large ripe peaches, peeled and diced

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Peach Jam, if desired

1.  Pour warm milk and 1 Tablespoon sugar into the bowl of your mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top of it.  Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, until frothy. 

2.  Stir in eggs and margarine until well mixed.

3.  Add in the flour, salt, and remaining sugar and knead for 5 minutes.

4.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rise for 1 hour, or until double. 

5.  When the dough has risen, punch it down and let it sit on a floured surface for 10 minutes.

6.  Roll dough out into a 16x21" rectangle and spread softened margarine on top of it.

7.  Combine brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over dough.  Sprinkle peaches over dough.

8.  Roll the dough up length-wise and cut rolls into approximately 1" slices.

9.  Place rolls in a greased 9x13" pan.  Cover and let them rise for 30 minutes. 

10.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes--be careful not to over-bake!  (But also be sure they are baked all the way through, I've found the rolls in the center of my pan may still be doughy after 15 minutes.)

11.  While rolls are baking, combine icing ingredients.  Spread over warm rolls.

Store cinnamon rolls in an airtight container.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nutella Banana Bread

After a summer of unusually hot temperatures, the cooler temperatures we've had for the past couple days have been a welcome sign of fall!  I was up north this past weekend and spent most of the day in long pants and a sweatshirt...fall is coming!  I'm so ready for the colors of the leaves, fall decorations (I made a new fall wreath last night), hot apple cider and donuts, and apples.  Plus, the cooler temperatures mean I don't feel so bad about turning on the oven and spending a day baking!

I always have bananas in the house and the summer the temperatures were so warm that our bananas often turned black before we were able to eat them.  That means that I have a bag full of bananas in my freezer waiting to be baked into something delicious.  I enjoy making banana bread and I love the addition of the Nutella swirl in this bread.  It adds a delicious sweetness to the bread and has moved this bread to one of my favorite banana bread recipes.
Nutella Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf, about 16 slices

2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-1/4 cups mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup Nutella

1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

2.  In a separate bowl, combine butter and sugar and beat until fluffy.

3.  Add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4.  Add bananas, vanilla, and milk and mix well.

5.  Pour in the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

6.  Spoon the Nutella into a small bowl and microwave for 20 seconds to soften it.

7.  Add 1 cup of the banana bread batter to the Nutella and mix well.

8.  Pour half the banana bread batter into a greased bread pan.  Pour Nutella mixture over batter and top with remaining banana bread batter.  Swirl batters together with a knife .

9.  Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting and serving.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Oreo Marshmallow Treats

One of my favorite things about creating and making recipes is the opportunity to change it up and make it your own.  I especially like to change up recipes that are usually made pretty much the same every time, like making S'mores Puppy Chow or Funfetti Puppy Chow instead of basic Puppy Chow.  I've also made a few variations on Rice Krispies treats like Cookie Dough Marshmallow Treats and Cookie Dough Scotcheroos.  

I've been on an Oreo kick lately.  I bought a package a couple of months ago to make some Snowman Cookies and I've been hopelessly addicted ever since then.  My favorite way to enjoy an Oreo is just to eat it plain, but then I had the idea to add Oreos to Rice Krispies Treats.  And what a grand idea it was!  I'm also trying to incorporate the use of coconut oil into my diet so I decided to replace the butter with coconut oil.  It added just a slight hint of coconut to the treats, but I thought it was a fantastic, and slightly healthier, addition!
Oreo Marshmallow Treats

Makes 1 9x13" pan, 16-20 servings

3 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 (10 ounce) package regular sized marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
10 Oreo cookies, broken into pieces (I used chocolate filled, but any kind of Oreo would be delicious)

1.  In a microwave safe bowl, heat coconut oil and marshmallows on high for 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. 

2.  Stir until smooth, returning to microwave in 30 second intervals if necessary.

3.  Add cereal to marshmallow mixture and stir until well coated.

4.  Add broken Oreo cookies and stir until just combined.

5.  Press mixture into a greased 9x13" pan.  Cool before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Texas Caviar

I love to get recipes from friends because that usually means that they are time-tested and loved!  I first had this dip at my friend Alecia's house.  She served it with quesadillas and I could not stop eating the Texas Caviar.  I knew I had to have the recipe!  I made this dip as my contribution to a family potluck when we were camping earlier this summer.  It was a huge hit, as most people had not had it before.

The sugar and apple cider vinegar add a sweetness that is completely unexpected from a bowl full of vegetables.  I found myself eating this dip for a snack, side dish, and as a meal itself!  Yes, it is just that good.  With football season starting up, this is a great dip for tailgating.  The dip makes enough to feed a large crowd, and if you're lucky you'll have enough leftover that you can enjoy the leftovers for lunch like I did!

Texas Caviar

1 (10 ounce) bag frozen sweet corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 colored pepper, diced,
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green onion
1 cup chopped white onion
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the corn, beans, peas, pepper, celery, green onions, and white onions.  Set aside.

2.  Pour vinegar, sugar, and oil in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil.  As soon as it boils, remove from heat and let it cool.

3.  Pour cooled dressing over the vegetables.

4.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

5.  Drain excess dressing before serving.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe from my friend, Alecia
01 10 11 12
Blogging tips