Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Pretzel Crust

I'm not really a pie person.  But, there are a few times a year where it's practically required to make and/or eat pie. I grew up eating, and actually loving, lemon meringue pie.  I like a good pumpkin pie as well.  Come to think of it, maybe it's just the crust I can't get on board with.  Yes, crusts are beautiful and buttery and flaky, but to me, it's just plain, boring and almost tasteless.  I often just eat the filling right out of the shell.

Anyway, over the years, I've embraced pie more and more and have found my favorites that I can make over and over and genuinely enjoy.  Take this blackberry pie for example.  So good! And this egg nog pie, just in time for the holidays.

This pie today takes the cake!  It's everything you want in a dessert...chocolate, peanut butter, smooth and crunchy, salty and sweet.  The whole shebang!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Pretzel Crust
for the crust:
2 cups finely crushed pretzels (4 cups whole pretzels) 
13 Tbsp. butter, melted 
1/4 cup brown sugar 
1 9-inch deep dish pie pan 

for the chocolate filling:
8 oz. good quality dark chocolate (use a bar, not chips) 
16-20 large marshmallows 
1/2 cup milk 
1 cup heavy cream 
1 tsp. vanilla 

for the peanut butter whipped topping: 
1 cup heavy cream 
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter 
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar 
1/2 tsp. vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients for crust. Press firmly into pie pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Cool completely. 

In a double boiler over medium low heat, melt chocolate, milk and marshmallows. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and cool. Whip 1 cup of heavy cream until stiff and fold into cooled chocolate mixture. Fold in vanilla. Pour into cooled crust and chill. 

In a mixing bowl, whip remaining cup of heavy cream until stiff. In a separate bowl, whisk about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the peanut butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream. Spread the whipped topping on top of the pie and chill until ready to serve. 

Garnish with chocolate curls and crushed pretzels, if desired.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Brown Sugar and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

Ahhhhh!!  This has become one of my favorite things to cook over the last few months.  I never used to cook much with pork, except pulled pork, and I was looking for something different and easy.  Well, this was a sure winner.  Super quick and easy and I always had everything on hand.

I actually started making these with pork chops instead of a tenderloin, which I equally love and makes for an even quicker meal. But, either way, this is staying in the dinner rotation for a while.  Hope my fam doesn't get sick of it!

Brown Sugar and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
1 pork tenderloin, about 2 lbs.
olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1-2 tsp. dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Salt and pepper the tenderloin and add it to the pan; brown on all sides.  Remove to a plate and add butter, brown sugar and rosemary.  Once butter is melted, stir to combine and add the tenderloin back in.  Spoon the sauce over the meat and put it in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.  You can also take it out half way and continue spooning the sauce on top.

Once cooked, remove from oven and allow to rest.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Dutch Oven Mushroom Beef and Barley Soup

I LOVE Sundays.  I love that I get to sleep in (sort of).  I love that I can make pancakes or scones or muffins for breakfast, not something I can do during the week, and I love hanging out in my pajamas!  I also LOVE Sunday dinner.  Gathering around the table with your loved ones and sharing a good meal has got to be just about one of the best things on earth. 

The last time we got together I got to make a big pot of this warm, hearty soup.  It was the perfect remedy for a cold and blustery day.

Beef and Barley Soup
1 1/2-2 lbs. beef stew meat or chuck roast, cubed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup onion, finely diced
3/4 cup celery, finely diced
3/4 cup carrots, finely diced
8 oz baby bella mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 cup red cooking wine
4 cups beef bone broth, low-sodium
3-4 cups vegetable broth, low-sodium
2/3 cup barley, rinsed

In a Dutch Oven, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until rippling. Add the onion, carrots and celery.  Reduce heat to medium and saute until onions are soft and translucent. Remove to a bowl and set aside.  Add about a half of a tablespoon of butter and another small drizzle of olive oil to the pan.  Add the mushrooms and saute until soft.  Remove and set aside as well.

Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and beef cubes and saute until browned on each side.  Add veggies back in, the garlic and fresh thyme.  Saute about a minute, until fragrant.  Add tomato paste and red wine.  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add broth and barley and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook about 45 minutes.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve warm

SOURCE:  Slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lemon Cream Tart with Macadamia Nut Crust

I think lemon is one of those quintessential flavors of spring.  Maybe it's one of those flavors that you either love or hate.  But we just love it here! Especially when it comes in the form of dessert.  I decided to make this Lemon Cream Tart for Easter this year and it was delicious. The tart shell is salty and buttery, crispy and slightly sweet and made with roasted macadamia nuts (which I also love). The filling is a simple lemon curd mixed with fresh whipped cream.  What could be better? The combination is heavenly and it would make a lovely addition to any spring or summer menu.

Lemon Cream Tart with Macadamia Nut Crust
for the crust
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, roasted and salted
1 cup flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 Tbsp. cold water

for the lemon curd
zest of 3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
5 large eggs
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup whipping cream, cold
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

fresh blueberries for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put all the ingredients for the crust into a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.  Blitz until it resembles a coarse meal.  Press into a 9-inch tart pan and bake  for 11-13 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

For the lemon curd, add all ingredients into a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until butter is melted, stirring frequently.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook until thickened, whisking constantly; about 8-10 minutes.  Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down on top of the curd to prevent film from forming.  Chill in refrigerator.

When the curd and tart shell are cooled.  Make the whipped cream.  Pour cold cream into a mixing bowl.  Whisk on high until stiff peaks form.  Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla.

To assemble the tart, mix 1 cup of the whipped cream with the chilled lemon curd. Pour into tart shell and freeze 2 hours before serving. Remove from freezer 5-10 minutes before serving and add fresh blueberries for garnish.  Keep leftovers covered in the freezer.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries and Guacamole

Some of you know that for the past 30 days I have been doing the Whole30 diet.  I have LOVED it and will definitely be doing it in the near future. (But I gotta celebrate my birthday first!!)  You see, this girl has a really hard time with her sugar habit!  It's hard to break.  During the 30 days you don't consume added sugars of any kind, no sweets, treats or even "healthy" treats. (And there's other stuff too.)

While some may think it's super restrictive, which it kind of is, that totally works for me.  You see I just finished reading Gretchen Rubin's, Better Than Before, which is mainly about habits.  There are basically two kinds of people when it comes to habits; moderators- those who are good with having just a little, which keeps them from going overboard, and abstainers-those who, if they have just a little, it will push them overboard, leading them to overindulge.

I am an abstainer, that is why this works for me.  I also know it's not forever.  It's meant to be a reset diet, to help target food sensitivities, heal the gut and break free from a bad relationship with food.  Although I am done with my first round, I'll definitely be back for more.  I don't think my body is done yet, but I do need to take a break for a while.  Hopefully in the meantime I can keep up most of the habits, while still being flexible.

So, are you wondering what the heck this has to do with sweet potatoes and guac?  Well this is probably one of my most favorite things I made during Whole30.  The fact that fat was not the enemy and I could eat LOTS of avocado totally made me happy! This guac is out of this world.  And, what's not to like about sweet potatoes?  Granted, they're not crispy like regular fries.  In fact they're kind of floppy and I actually ate them with a fork.  But that may be because I can't cut fries worth a darn, HA! So, Whole30-ers or not, there's nothing not to love about this combo.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Guacamole
for the sweet potatoes:
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
olive oil
smoked paprika

for the guacamole:
3 good-sized avocados, halved, pitted and peel removed
1 lime
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 Tbsp. Restaurant Style Salsa  (or your favorite, fresh is best!)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
*1 Tbsp. jalapeño, minced (In you choose a different salsa and need a little more kick.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with silicone baking mat, if desired. In a mixing bowl, toss sweet potato wedges with a couple drizzles of olive oil, a few dashes each of salt and smoked paprika, until well-coated.

Lay out evenly on baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. About halfway through, take them out, loosen them with a spatula and give them a little shake.

While the sweet potatoes are baking, mash the avocados and place them in a serving bowl.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Once sweet potatoes are cooked, allow to cool slightly.  Serve warm with guacamole.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from No Crumbs Left

Friday, February 17, 2017

Greek Pot Roast

So, how many of you have an instant pot and love it?  I've been dying to get one since Christmas and we finally did last week!  Thank you Amazon prime for 2-day delivery!  We've used it about 4 or 5 times since then and just love it.  I seriously can't believe how fast it cooks things.  Like, if you cut a roast into pieces....10 minutes.  10 minutes!!!  Gone were the days of oops, forgot to turn on the oven or crockpot 6 hours ago, I guess we're having cereal for dinner....again, ha!

Anyway, I'm so happy with how this roast turned out.  Greek food and flavors are some of my most favorite to prepare and eat.  While the meat doesn't taste quite like your typical gyro meat with ground lamb, it's still very tender and well-seasoned.

You can serve the meat with some veggies over rice or potatoes but I love to serve it gyro-style. Use either some flatbreads or pitas, spread the meat down the middle and add toppings, such as tzatziki sauce, cucumbers, tomatoes, extra onions, feta cheese or kalamata olives.

Greek-Style Pot Roast (Instant Pot/Slow Cooker)
2-3 lb. boneless chuck roast
olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried dill
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2-1 cup beef broth

Trim any excess fat off the roast and cut into 1-inch thick slices.  Mix seasonings together in a small bowl. Add meat to a bowl, drizzle with olive oil then add seasonings and toss to coat.

If using the Instant Pot/pressure cooker, turn on sauté mode.  Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom and add the onions.  Sauté 4-5 minutes until tender, stirring frequently.  Add garlic another 30 seconds, careful not to burn it.  Add the meat and sun-dried tomatoes and pour in the broth.  Give it a little stir then pop the lid on.

Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes then release steam and open the lid.  Remove meat to a plate or cutting board.  Slice or shred the meat and put it in a serving dish. Strain the onions and tomatoes from the liquid and add them back to the meat.  Add additional broth back to the meat as well, taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.

*To cook in a slow cooker, trim fat off roast and leave it whole.  Place in slow cooker, rub with seasonings then add the onions, garlic, tomatoes and broth.  Cook on low 6-8 hours or until comes apart easily.

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