Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cracking up for Cracker Candy

During a recent cleaning blitz in my kitchen I found a tiny recipe card shoved almost under my fridge. Maybe the nutrition gods were trying to will it away from my kitchen because I don't think butter, sugar, salt or chocolate are on any superfood list? Who knows but this candy is super addictive.

Cracker Candy

40 saltines
1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 (12 oz.) package milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover large rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Line up saltines on the cookie sheet. Bring butter and sugar to a boil to dissolve sugar. CAREFULLY and slowly pour hot sugar mixture over crackers evenly as possible. Crackers may shift a bit and resist the urge to straighten them up because this is atomic hot stuff. Using oven mits CAREFULLY put in oven and bake 5 minutes. CAREFULLY remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chips. Heat from sugar mixture will melt chips so you can spread it over candy. Let cool at room temperature for awhile then pop in the fridge until hard. When hardened you can break it apart but be sure to store in the fridge.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Quinoa Salad

I consider myself to be a savvy cook but sometimes I'm just stumped by an ingredient. This lonely little box of quinoa had been sitting in my pantry for what seemed like months and I just didn't know what to do with it. Then I ran across this recipe. Light, fresh and easy. If you have not tried quinoa - give it a try in any recipe calling for couscous. Same idea but healthier.

2 cups quinoa
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 scallions - thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 Tbls. rice vinegar
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (from 2 large oranges)
2 Tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 seedless cucumber - diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro - chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds
salt/pepper to taste

Place quinoa in fine mesh sieve and rinse under cool water until water runs clear. Don't skip this step since it helps to wash away from any bitterness from the quinoa. Bring chicken broth to a boil, add quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so until liquid is absorbed. Uncover, remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Let cool.

Place cool quinoa in large bowl and add rest of ingredients (hold off on almonds if not serving immediately as they will get soft.) Season with salt and pepper. Now pat yourself on the back for making a healthy and delicious salad.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Banana Butterscotch Muffins

Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? It's hereditary and my problem is growing. It's my expanding cookbook collection. My mother has well...hundreds of them and they are scattered all over her house but many have made their way to a "cookbook" section of their basement. So many that I've often wondered if she needs to hire a part-time librarian. Someone who could just direct her to that lost recipe when needed. I could use that person today as I spent much of the morning searching for a favorite bran muffin recipe. However, sometimes getting lost is a good thing as I stumbled across another favorite. These muffins are made for my little muffins who love the surprise of butterscotch.

Banana Butterscotch Muffins

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 - 3 ripe bananas - roughly mashed
1 cup butterscotch chips (could use chocolate or white chocolate if butterscotch is not your thing)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Beat together oil and eggs in small bowl. In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients then slowly mixing in oil/egg mixture followed by the mashed bananas. Fold in chips and divide into equal portions into muffin pan. I use an ice cream scoop for this task. Bake for 20 minutes, then let cool on cooling rack.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tex Mex Salad

This is fantastic at a potluck and it doesn't hurt that the dressing is soooo irresistible that you'll want to pour it on everything on your plate! Make this in a glass trifle dish or a deep glass bowl for the "wow" factor.

Layered Tex Mex Salad

3 large store bought corn muffins
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 packet sazon seasoning (If you cannot find this I used 1 Tbl. cumin)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup salsa
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 head romaine lettuce, cut into strips
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

Mix together the beans with the sazon (or cumin) and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salsa with the tomatoes. When ready to serve, break up cornbread in large chunks. Toss the lettuce with 3/4 cups of the dressing. In a clear trifle dish, start with a layer of the black beans followed by the Monterey jack cheese, the tomato salsa mixture, the Cheddar cheese, the dressed romaine and top with the cornbread croutons. Serve immediately with the remaining dressing on the side.

Creamy Lime Dressing:
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blend all the ingredients except the olive oil until smooth. While machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until incorporated. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Pour it on everything that you eat that day. Yes, it's that good.