Almond Joy Brownies

_MG_6120etitleOoey-gooey delicious.

I found the basic recipe here and then I changed it from Mounds Brownies to Almond Joy Brownies, because I like Almond Joy better than Mounds.  So there.

_MG_6122eThese are very, very messy.  Let me emphasize the “messy” part, as in hard-to-get-out-of-the-pan, hard-to-serve, and hard-to-figure-out-how-to-eat-it.  But I am putting in the work, because of Dedication.  And Chocolate.

If you make them, heed well the admonition to use foil in the pan, and spray that foil really, really well with cooking spray.  Really well.

Do not, as I did, try to hurry the cooling/setting process by refrigerating and then trying to immediately cut them through the hardened chocolate topping.  Disaster will follow, in the form of broken topping.

Of course, you could just piece the topping back on and not worry about it, as I did.  It still tastes the same.

The recipe says that these will keep in the freezer.  I love frozen candy and cookies eaten straight from the freezer, so I may give that a try for these.  It would certainly make the messiness-while-eating factor a little easier.

All of those admonitions should be balanced against the deliciousness factor.  If you like brownies, and coconut, and chocolate…well, you will love these.  And damn the messiness.

Almond Joy Brownies (originally from Averie Cooks)


6 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used TJ’s 72% Pound Plus bar)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coffee (leftover from the morning brew is fine), optional but recommended
1 teaspoon instant espresso granules, optional but recommended
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut flakes, loosely packed
one 12-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
sliced almonds to taste, toasted in a dry pan until slightly browned

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang, spray with cooking spray; set aside. It’s mandatory to line your pan or you’ll never get the brownies out.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate, butter, and heat on high power to melt, about 1 minute. Stop to check and stir. Reheat in 15-second bursts until mixture can be stirred smooth.
  3. Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, optional coffee, optional espresso granules, and whisk until smooth. Coffee and espresso don’t make the brownies taste like coffee; they enhance the chocolate flavor.
  4. Add the flour and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
  5. Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula and bake until brownies are just set and done, about 28 minutes in my oven. Start checking at 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Don’t overbake because brownies go back into the oven after they’re topped with coconut.
  6. While brownies are baking, in a large bowl (the same one you used for the brownies is fine, just wipe it clean with a paper towel) combine the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and toss to coat evenly; set aside until brownies come out of oven.
  7. When brownies are done and removed from the oven, evenly top with the coconut mixture. Smooth the top lightly with a spatula, pushing mixture gentle into all corners.
  8. Evenly sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  9. Return pan to oven and bake for 5 minutes.
  10. Remove pan from oven and using a spatula, lightly smooth the chocolate chips. They will be have softened enough to smooth out when pressed lightly with a spatula. Immediately sprinkle with almonds.
  11. Place pan on a wire rack and allow to cool, undisturbed, for at least 2 to 3 hours, or until top chocolate layer has set; allowing to cool overnight is best.
  12. When ready to serve, lift brownies of pan using foil overhang, place on a large cutting board, and slice with your biggest and sharpest knife. Slicing is messy, but the longer brownies cool, the easier and less messy it is. Brownies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months._MG_6126e
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Pumpkin Apple Cake

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Or Apple Pumpkin Cake.  I can taste both, kind of equally, so I guess you could say it either way.

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My house smells like Fall.  Even though outside it’s in the 90’s with about a million percent humidity (you only think I’m exaggerating), in here it’s all cinnamon-toasty-apple-yummy smells coming from the kitchen.

I went scouring the Internet for something that had both apples and pumpkin in it, because I’m ready to taste both and they mean Fall to me.  I didn’t care if it was sweet or savory, cookies or soup or something else.  This recipe was the first one that jumped out at me from the Google Machine, and I had all the ingredients, so…it was fate.

I didn’t take any process pictures, because frankly I think that baking process pictures are boring.  Everything of this cake’s type is pretty much made the same way–combine wet ingredients, combine dry ingredients, put them together, fold in the chunkies.  And that is indeed what you do to make this cake._MG_4578e

 

I am such a sucker for a moist cake.  And this cake more than delivers in that department.  I don’t know how long it will stay moist, but I suspect it will be just as long as there’s a crumb left, which  may not be that long.

The addition of caramel sauce, as suggested by the author of the recipe, is not necessary but boy, do I recommend it too.  Chopped nuts would be nice but I left them out this time.

Make this recipe, and your house too will smell like Fall.  Even if you live in South Texas.

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Spicy Pasta Salad with Smoked Gouda, Tomatoes, and Basil

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Since everyone in America watches the Pioneer Woman (except me), this salad is probably old news to most people.  But I do follow her on Facebook, and today she greeted me with this pasta salad that I immediately craved and had to reproduce.

I will not recreate the process here, because her blog is great and her pictures are better than mine, so there would be no point.  But I will say that this salad was really, really good, and it will go on my regular list of things to make.

I did make one change, and I think it’s for the better, at least for me.  She added smoked gouda that was cut into small cubes.  I grated mine; I think it distributes better, and you don’t run the risk of getting a large chunk of cheese in a mouthful. I’m not a cheese hater, but it’s not high on my list of ingredients, and I’d rather avoid…the large chunk of cheese in my mouth.  Anyway.

But do use the smoked gouda.  That, with the chipotle pepper, give this salad a delicious smoky taste that sets it apart from any other pasta salad you’ve had.  _MG_3827efilter

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Pulled Balsamic Pork Chalupas

_MG_3814etitleThis was one of those times where I saw a recipe online and decided to just take parts of it and make it into something else.  Go figure.  I thought the recipe as it was written sounded wonderful, but events conspired against its complete creation.  It was presented as slow cooked balsamic pork that was to be served on cheesy polenta.  That sounds delicious, but polenta is really, really hard to find around here.  I found already-prepared polenta, which wouldn’t work at all, and I found quick-cooking polenta, which I might have been able to adapt–but in the end, I saw the package of fresh corn tortillas sitting on the counter and I thought this pork would make excellent chalupas.  And I was right.

_MG_3790eSo I slow-cooked the pork loin for six hours in a savory balsamic broth, used two forks to shred it, and then took some of it and chopped it a little finer to use on these chalupas.

 

 

 

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Then I made the delicious avocado-cilantro-yogurt and lime sauce…_MG_3816e

…and crisp-fried my tortillas, and combined everything with a sprinkle of Monterrey Jack on top.

The sauce is very tart and would be an excellent dip for vegetables.

The recipe is as follows:

Pulled Balsamic Pork with Avocado Cream
serves 4-6
2½ pound boneless pork loin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
Combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.  Shred pork and return to broth.

To make chalupas, fry corn tortillas until they are crisp, add warm pork and sprinkle with Monterrey Jack cheese.  Dollop with Avocado Cream.

Avocado Cream
1 avocado
juice of 1 lime
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup cilantro
Combine in mini-processor or puree in hand blender.  IMG_3809e

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Provençal New Potatoes

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I was planning to make this the post after the one about the Salmon Burgers, since those two dishes go together so well, but I got so excited about the Lemon Zucchini Bread that I forgot.  Anyway, I love these Provençal New Potatoes, the recipe for which I originally got from the wonderful Simply Recipes blog.  I have changed it a bit over the years so I will re-post the recipe here.  This dish goes well with simple meats like roast chicken, steak, or pork chops, to name a few.  One thing I love about it is that it is best at room temperature, so you can make it early and let it sit while you are preparing other things, or make it the day before, refrigerate, and then let it come to room temperature before serving.  It makes a great pot-luck dish too.

Provençal New Potatoes
from Simply Recipes–serves 4-6

2 lb small new potatoes (look for the smallest you can find; the potatoes should be no bigger than 1 1/2 inches, if they are bigger, cut them into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces)
1 medium onion, sliced in the direction of root to top
6 whole cloves of garlic, peel left onIMG_3432
15-20 grape tomatoes, or the equivalent amount of halved cherry tomatoes
20 pitted olives, green and black (Kalamata and Nicoise)
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 Tablespoon herbes de Provence
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Put all ingredients (except chives) into a bowl, toss with your (clean) hands to coat completely with oil and seasonings. IMG_3438Spread out in an even layer in a roasting pan. Put the potatoes in the oven, cook for fifteen minutes at 400°F. Then reduce the heat to 375° and cook for 30 to 40 minutes more, until the onions and tomatoes are somewhat caramelized and the potatoes are cooked through. Halfway througIMG_3442h cooking, stir the potatoes so that they remain well coated with oil and do not get dried out, and the bottom of the pan stays coated with oil.

IMG_3443Remove from oven and let sit until cooled to room temperature.  Remove garlic cloves from their skins and slice, if desired.

Sprinkle with freshly chopped chives to serve.

 

 

 

 

You won’t believe the heavenly smell while these are cooking.

 

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Lemon-Glazed Zucchini Bread

IMG_3650For years–probably more than 40 of them–I’ve been making the same recipe for Zucchini Bread.  It has always been my go-to recipe, because it has pineapple in it and it is SO moist and delicious.  I still love my Zucchini-Pineapple Bread.  But as of yesterday, there’s a new kid in town, and it involves lemons.

I got the recipe for it here and I followed it pretty much to the letter.  I will tell you, though, that when the recipe says “greased pan”, you better make sure you take heed.  In fact, next time I make this recipe I am going to grease and flour it, because I had a hard time getting it to come out of the pan.  I also had to bake it for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe says to, but if you just make sure to start testing it at 45 minutes you should be fine.IMG_3660e

Those caveats aside, I am really, really in love with this lemony bread.  It is just as moist as my zucchini-pineapple bread, but it is less sweet and more tart and bright.  IMG_3654e

I’m not going to abandon my old friend, but the new one is definitely going to get some attention as well.

Here is the recipe for the Zucchini-Pineapple Bread, which came from an ancient issue of Bon Appetit.  You should really try both, and see which one you prefer.

Pineapple-Zucchini Loaf
makes 2 loaves

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups peeled, grated and well drained zucchini
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 2 9×5 inch loaf pans.  Beat eggs until fluffy.  Add sugar, oil and vanilla and blend well.  Add zucchini.  Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt and add to batter.  Stir in pineapple and mix well.  Turn into pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour.  Cool on wire rack before removing from pans.  Wrap and store overnight to develop flavors before slicing.

zucchini-pineapple bread

zucchini-pineapple bread

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Salmon Burgers with Hatch Chilies and Chipotle Mayonnaise

Salmon burger

Because it’s Hatch Chile season, (even though we are many miles from New Mexico, and to my knowledge Hatch green chiles are not grown in Texas), my local grocery chain, HEB, goes all out to celebrate it.  There are roastings at some of the stores, and this year they’ve been spotlighting new Hatch products that are seasonal–i.e., I will get hooked on them and then they won’t be around any more.  To that end, I bought several packages of these raw salmon burgers that were for sale the other day.  They come two to a package, so I broke the packages up, rewrapped the burgers individually, and stuck them in the freezer.  This way I will be able to enjoy these for a while. And even after they are gone, there really is no reason that I can’t chop up some raw salmon and add stuff to it.  I will have to think about that after I use up all six of the patties I have squirreled away.

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This is how the burgers look when you buy them.  They have all kinds of goodness inside, like red peppers, onions, little chunks of cheese, and of course, the Hatch chiles.  For these burgers, I divided each patty into two and reshaped them.  I think these would make great sliders, and I may try those, breaking these into three or even four pieces.  They don’t lose much volume in the cooking process.

To begin, I made chipotle mayonnaise.  This is a very quick and easy process that I discuss in this post.IMG_0377Then I toasted the buns.  I used King’s Hawaiian hamburger buns for this recipe, and they worked great, but any old hamburger bun would do.IMG_3472IMG_3474Then I fried the salmon patties, which are raw, in a cast iron skillet until they were brown and cooked through, but not dry.IMG_3475

Finally, I sliced up some avocado and tomato, because really, what sandwich would not benefit from that, and then I slathered the bun with my chipotle mayonnaise.IMG_3482

These went really well with my Provenςal potatoes, which I will discuss in the next post.

 

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Shishito Peppers

IMG_3263I finally see what all the hype is about.  The shishito craze has been around awhile but I had never seen the peppers  for sale anywhere, until today, when I ran across them at my farmer’s market.  I had been reading about how delicious these were, simply prepared and eaten as a snack.  I admit to being skeptical, because as much as I love peppers, they are just peppers.

The lady at the farmer’s market said she had a devil of a time getting them to grow around here.  She said they do better in cooler climates, but that she had finally had success.  So I bought a few (the peppers you see here were $4.00; nobody tell my husband).

But they were tasty, I have to admit.  I loved them, in fact, and will be going back to the market next week to see if I can score some more.  They have a very mild, very delicious and delicate flavor, with just a hint of tanginess, and no heat whatsoever–though the seller did warn me that very occasionally you can get a hot one.  I assured her that that did not bother me.  If she only knew.

They are very simple to prepare.

first you wash them

first you wash them

...then you dry them well

…then you dry them well

Get out a cast iron skillet, get it very hot, then put in just a tiny bit of oil.  I used olive, but olive oil will smoke so you need to be right there to fry the peppers right away.  Add the dry peppers to the very hot pan and stir them around to coat with oil.  They will start to sputter and pop.

fry them

fry them

Turn and fry them some more.  Keep frying them as they blister and char.fry2When they are all  blistered and charred in spots, remove from the pan.

blot on paper towels and sprinkle with flaky sea salt

blot on paper towels and sprinkle with flaky sea salt

Blot them and sprinkle with salt while they are still hot.

plate of peppers

all gone

nothing left but the stems

I may or may not have eaten all these peppers all by myself.  Don’t judge.  Better to eat a whole plate full of peppers than a whole plate of potato chips, am I right?

Shishito peppers–cross another thing off my bucket list.

 

 

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Peanut Soup

IMG_1297eEvery time I think about ruthlessly winnowing down my extensive cookbook collection, which takes up more space and collects more dust than I’m comfortable with, it just so happens that I will be idly thumbing through a long-forgotten tome and come across a recipe that turns out to be a real winner.

That’s the thing about print, if I may be allowed a librarianly aside.  No doubt I can find any number of iterations of peanut soup on the Internet.  Some of them will have been tested and some of them won’t, but I can certainly apply my critical skills to perusing as many of them as I have patience for, and decide which one to use.  But with a printed cookbook, there’s something so familiar and comforting about the leisurely progression through the pages and the finding of hidden gems.  Not to mention that there’s a kind of perverse, old-fashioned-seeming ease to just taking the book into the kitchen and cooking from it.  With recipes I find on my computer, I have to either print them, email them to myself on my iPad or phone, or re-search them on the phone or pad.  Then there’s the hassle of cooking from the screen, which I have yet to master satisfactorily, though I have certainly done it enough.   I think I’ll keep my books a little longer.

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In any case, I found this recipe in a very old cookbook set called Great Meals in Minutes.  I adapted it to my own tastes quite a bit so I’m not going to copy it straight out of the book, but rather I’m going to tell you how I did it.  Since this comes from the …in Minutes series, it’s no surprise that it was quick and easy.  Next time I plan to cook some rice separately and add it at the end.  And it can easily become vegetarian with just a broth substitution.

Peanut Soup
serves 4-6

1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1 cup peanut butter
for garnish and accompaniment, all optional:
diced tomatoes
sliced green onions
lime wedges
chopped peanuts
red pepper flakes
chopped cilantro
In a saucepan, heat olive oil.  Sauté onion and garlic until soft.  Add curry powder and cook for a minute.  Add broth, coconut milk, and peanut butter.  Heat at a simmer until slightly thickened.  Serve with any or all of the garnishes.

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Fried Rice

IMG_9759eFried rice is not rocket science.  It’s so easy, providing you can make good rice in the first place.  It depends on having nice, fluffy, non-sticky cooked rice that has had some time to cool.  Ideally it would be made with rice that was cooked the day before and refrigerated, making it the ideal quick-to-cook meal that also has the advantage of using up leftovers.

Fried rice can be made with any meat and any vegetable, pretty much.  This is my favorite treatment of it; ham isn’t traditional but I like using it in fried rice because the meat stands up and stands out.  I find chicken fried rice a little bland, but it is certainly a good alternative, as are regular cooked pork, seafood, or even cooked beef.  A mix would be awesome too.

As for vegetables, most restaurants add peas, and I would too if I kept them around.  You can add carrots, broccoli, mushrooms…anything you like.  To me, the absolutely necessary add-ins are the egg and the green onions.  The rest is very flexible.

Ham Fried Rice
(about 8 servings as a side dish)
2 cups raw rice (I like to use Jasmine for this, but any long grain rice will work fine)
1 Tablespoon oil
2 eggs
1 cup diced ham
4 green onions, sliced
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
red pepper flakes to taste
Cook the rice according to package directions, or however you usually cook rice.  Allow to cool–overnight is best, but if you are pressed for time, cook it and immediately turn it out onto a cookie sheet, spread it out, and let it cool as long as possible.IMG_0131e

Have the vegetables and meat prepared and ready to go.  Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and set aside.

In a wok or a very large frying pan, heat the oil to very hot.  Break the eggs in a bowl and beat them, reduce the heat to medium, then pour into the wok.  Allow them to cook on one side until completely set, then flip the omelet over and cook the other side.  Remove the omelet to a cutting board and dice.IMG_0133eIn the same wok and without wiping it out, add the cooked rice.  Stir it around to break up any clumps, and add the sesame oil/soy sauce mixture.  Stir fry it until it is all one color.IMG_0135e

Add the vegetables and meat, and stir fry until everything is heated through.  Add the egg and serve.IMG_0140eIMG_9763e

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