Thursday, December 20, 2012

Magic Cookie Bars

I basically had to make these magic cookie bars to keep myself from going to hell. Last week my friend Keith posted on facebook that my friend Eric was baking. This was very funny because I'm pretty sure Eric uses his oven as a wine rack. That post was followed by another post about how he used 1/2 pound of butter, instead of 1/2 cup (which is double the amount), which was followed by more of me laughing at Eric.

That was followed by an email from Eric asking me for advice after he made the bars a second time and they came out disgusting. That's when I found out that he was trying to make these bars because his mom always made them at Christmas...but his mom passed away last year, so basically he was trying to capture this food memory that would help him feel comforted and close to her. And that's when I realized if I didn't mail him magic cookie bars immediately that I would rot in hell. Probably not real hell. But some type of cookie hell reserved for people who laugh at other people who are trying to make their dead loved one's holiday baked goods. Either way, it was too risky. So Eric got his magic cookie bars and I escaped the fiery pits* of cookie hell, at least for now.

If I'm not back for a while...Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

*I would totally roast demon s'mores in the fiery pits of cookie hell.

Yield: 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz. (2 cups) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

1.      Heat oven to 350° F. Grease a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with butter or non-stick cooking spray.*

2.      Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in small bowl. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. Press down firmly with fork.

3.      Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen from sides of pan while still warm; cool on wire rack. Cut into bars or diamonds.

*For perfectly cut bars, line entire pan with foil, extending foil over edge of pan. Coat lightly with non-stick cooking spray or butter. After bars have baked and cooled, lift up with edges of foil to remove from pan. Cut into bars.

(slightly reworded) from
graham cracker crumbs and 1 stick melted butter
graham cracker crust pressed into the pan
pouring on the sweetened condensed milk
sweetened condensed milk spread over crust
sprinkled with chocolate, pecans and coconut

I think I forgot to press down firmly with
a fork, but they held together anyway.
running a knife along the sides while warm
cut into bars

I didn't mess with foil and they came out easily.
magic cookie bars

I'd also like to add that I thought these bars were sickeningly sweet. But my family loved them. And I have to admit, the extreme sweetness didn't keep me from picking at them every time I walked through the kitchen for the past three days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions & Goat Cheese

If you're looking for a special occasion mashed potato, this is a good contender. Especially if you're a freak for caramelized onions and goat cheese like I am (one of my all time favorite food combinations). It's kind of sweet & good. As a matter of fact, I'm realizing now that I have some in my freezer (I purposely made extra last time so I would). Correction: it was in my freezer and is now defrosting in the fridge awaiting tonight's dinner.

Serves 4

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds yellow onions (approx. 2 large onions), thinly sliced
kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ cups half and half
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
3 ounces goat cheese
black pepper

1.      To make the caramelized onions, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and stir them to coat with the fat. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 30-40 minutes. If the onions get too dry, add a small amount of water to deglaze the pan. Set aside.
2.      Place potatoes in a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender.
3.      While the potatoes are cooking, heat the half and half, garlic, bay leaf, and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
4.      Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot, dry pot. Stir them over low heat for 2 minutes until they are dry. Pass the potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. Gently stir in the hot cream mixture a little at a time until the potatoes are smooth and creamy (discard the garlic and bay leaf). You may not need to use all of the liquid. Set aside a small amount of the caramelized onions for garnish and stir the remaining onions into the mashed potatoes. Crumble the goat cheese into the potatoes and stir to combine well. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
5.      Spoon the mashed potatoes into a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining caramelized onions. Serve hot.

from (added by Sonali aka the Foodie Physician)
caramelized onions

I really pushed them to their limit (I  probably had
them on the stove for like an hour and 20 minutes).
potatoes in water
riced potatoes

If you don't have a ricer, you can obviously just mash them,
but the ricer gives them a really great, smooth consistency.
mixing in the half 'n half mixture
super smooth
mixing in the ultra caramelized onions & goat cheese

I didn't save any onions for garnish -
I just tossed them all in there.
mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and goat cheese

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Chocolate Pecan Baklava

I've seen different flavors of baklava, but it's usually the choice of nuts or syrup that differentiates them. I got to thinking that the baklava I usually make (walnut/cinnamon with honey) is similar to rugelach (the flavors, that is). And rugelach is often made with chocolate, so how come I've never seen chocolate baklava? (A real head scratcher.) So I made some. And it was good as it sounds. Another mystery solved. I'm a regular Jessica Fletcher (although if I keep eating this stuff, I'll be more of a Frank Cannon).

Yield: 24 (or 48 minis)

12 oz. bitter- or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped or grated (or mini choc. chips)
12 oz. (3 cups) pecans, finely chopped
8 oz. filo (phyllo) dough, defrosted
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted (or more if needed)
16 oz. (2 cups) brown rice syrup (can substitute Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons amaretto (or other complimentary liqueur)

1.      Stir together the chocolate and pecans in a medium bowl and set aside.
2.      Preheat oven to 300° F.  Brush a 13” x 9” baking dish with melted butter.
3.      Cut the filo into 13” x 9” rectangles (if it didn’t already come that size). In baking dish, place 1 sheet of filo; brush with butter.  Repeat 5 more times to make 6 layers of filo altogether (brushing each layer with butter).  Spread half of the chocolate/pecans over the filo.
4.      Layer 6 more sheets of filo over chocolate/pecans (brushing each sheet with butter).  Sprinkle with remaining chocolate/pecans. Repeat with 6 final layers of filo (brush top layer with butter too).
5.      Using a sharp knife, cut just halfway through layers in a triangle pattern to make 24 servings (cut lengthwise into 3 strips; cut each strip crosswise into 4 rectangles; then cut each rectangle diagonally into 2 triangles).  For minis: cut each triangle in half again to make smaller triangles.
6.      Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes (or until top is golden brown).
7.      About 5 minutes before the baklava is ready, heat the brown rice syrup and salt until the consistency is thin and pourable. Remove from heat, stir in the amaretto.
8.      Spoon the hot syrup evenly over hot baklava. Cool in pan on wire rack for at least 1 hour, then cover with foil and let stand at room temperature.
9.      Finish cutting through layers with a sharp knife before serving.

chocolate and pecans
(I used ghirardelli mini chocolate chips)

Notice the little hand up top, sneaking some chocolate (it's
not easy baking with a 7-year-old chocolate freak around).
paper thin filo dough
brushing filo with butter
sprinkling on the chocolate/pecans
first layer of chocolate/pecans
brushing the next group of filo layers with butter
remaining chocolate/pecans
last layer of filo (already brushed with butter)
cutting halfway through (I like to
use a small serrated knife for this job)
cut into "normal" size baklava
cut into mini size (I like the mini size better)
brown rice syrup
baked baklava
spooning the syrup mixture over the hot baklava
one tray of chocolate pecan baklava
one piece of chocolate pecan baklava