Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Crumb-Top Choco-Peanut Butter Bars

Is there any combination in the world more divine than peanut butter and chocolate? I'd say that anything strawberry-banana runs a close second, but peanut butter and chocolate really can't be beat.

I was scooping out some natural peanut butter from our ginormous Costco package today at lunch and found myself dreaming about peanut butter cookies. Which I probably haven't eaten in about a year and a half, since I didn't eat nuts while breastfeeding Logan. And somehow, the thought of peanut butter cookies didn't cross my mind since I've started eating nuts again until today at lunch. How is that even possible?

And so I found my confronted with a difficult decision. I had the choice of charting my clients while watching Bachelor Pad or making peanut butter cookies.  And as much as I was dying to find out what had happened on  Bachelor Pad this week, I found myself doing what any responsible, self-employed individual confronted with such a dilemma would do: I thumbed through my recipe books to find something deliciously peanut buttery. And I stumbled across this delicious recipe. Which I believe I may have already made before, many moons ago. Well worth giving up watching Bachelor Pad.

This recipe comes from the a little booklet called the Treasury of Holiday Cookies, made by Jif. I don't really consider these to be holiday-related though, but they're still delicious.

1 pkg. (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (1 C)
1 C firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 C creamy peanut butter (I used natural pb)
1/2 C butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 C flour (I used whole-wheat)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 C quick-cooking oats

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan (I used an 8-inch square pan for the whole batch, as I like the squares a bit thicker.  If you make it in a 13x9-inch pan, I'd recommend doubling the chocolate filling, as I don't think there would have been enough to spread nicely over the base).

2.  Place chocolate chips in top of a double boiler or in a medium bowl that fits securely over the medium saucepan.  Heat over boiling water until chocolate melts (water in bottom of double boiler or in saucepan should not touch top pan).  Set aside.

3.  Cream together brown sugar, peanut butter and butter in mixing bowl.  Add egg and vanilla; beat well.

4.  Sift together flour, salt and baking soda; add to creamed mixture.  Beat just until well mixed.  Stir in oats.

5.  Spread 3/4 of dough in greased baking pan.  Spread with melted chocolate.  Dot chocolate layer with remaining 1/4 of dough.  Bake 25 minutes or until done.  Cut into bars when cool.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Butter Chickpeas

I haven't been on my blog much at all lately, as we've been running around all over the place the past few weeks. I spent a week visiting my new little niece Maddy, was then home for 2 days before leaving for Anna and Willie's wedding in Boston and was then home for a day before Eliza came up from Boston to visit for a few days. This has been the flavour of our entire summer and I'm loving the chance to get to catch up with everyone once again. 

It's been great getting to see Eliza so much over the past couple of months, as we usually don't get to see her very often at all. And after making this Indian dish for her for dinner last night, tonight we're going to get a sitter (yay!) and meet her in the Old Port for Indian at Ghandi - a fabulous Indian restaurant for those of you in the area who like good quality Indian food.

My friend Heather made this for us for dinner a couple of months ago and it was absolutely fantastic. I made it last night for dinner for Eliza and realized that it's also super quick and easy to make. I think that I'm going to make a few batches of this without the potatoes to freeze for once the baby comes (since potatoes don't freeze well). You'll need to include the garam marsala in this recipe, as it is key to the flavour of the recipe. You may have to hunt for this a bit, but would definitely be able to find at at a bulk food store, such as the Bulk Barn or, in our part of the woods, you can get it at Mourelatos or Adonis.

Heather serves this with delicious whole-wheat chapati, which she picks up in the freezer section of Maxi.  But since Eliza is gluten-free, I served it with short brown rice, which is a bit of a sticky rice. You just have to soak it in a bit of water for a couple of hours prior to cooking it.

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced small (use a variety of potatoes that will hold its shape when cooked, such as red potatoes)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. fresh garlic
2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. garam marsala
1 tsp. powdered ginger 
1 tsp. cumin
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 10 oz. can of tomato soup
1/2 C milk
1/3 C butter
1 can of drained chickpeas

1.  Boil potatoes until completely cooked. You will have to watch them to know when they are cooked, but I think it took about 15 minutes or so to cook mine. You want to make sure that they are cooked, but not overcooked, so that they won't lose their shape once they are mixed into the rest of the mixture.

2.  Fry together the onion, garlic and spices until the onion is cooked.

3.  Add the tomato soup, milk, butter and chickpeas.  At the last minute, stir in the potatoes and heat until warm.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sesame-Grilled Asparagus and Berry Tart

I made this recipe this weekend while my family was down to visit. I used to make it a lot, but somehow, in the recent baby-dom of life, it's become much easier to just steam veggies than to actually do anything with them. Though, overall, this is still quite a quick and easy recipe. And I'd forgotten just how delicious it is. This recipe comes from How to Grill, by Steven Raichlen (who is featured on the Food Network).

1 lb. asparagus (the stalks shouldn't be too thin)
2 tbsp. dark sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
coarse salt and black pepper
2 tbsp. sesame seeds

1.  Soak either wooden toothpicks or slender bamboo skewers for 1 hour in cold water to cover, then drain.

2.  Set up the grill and preheat to high.  

3.  Snap off the woody bases of the asparagus and discard.  

Though not recommended in the recipe, I chose to boil the asparagus for a few minutes before grilling them, to be sure they were cooked enough and wouldn't take forever to grill. I just boiled them until they were fork-tender.

4.  Skewer 4 or 5 asparagus spears together, using toothpicks or bamboo skewers. (I just use a barbecue grill basket and don't bother spearing them together).

5.  In a small bowl, combine the sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic, and stir with a fork to mix.  Brush this mixture on the asparagus on both sides.  Season the asparagus with a little salt and lots of pepper.

6.  When ready to cook, place the asparagus on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes per side.  Sprinkle the asparagus with the sesame seeds as they grill.  You can serve the asparagus with or without the skewers.

Serves 4.

I then served a berry tart for dessert from a recipe that I had put up on my blog last year:


Except that this year, I used a mixture of fresh berries.  We also made a glaze for it this year (having a bit more time than we did when we originally made it with a one-month old). We basically just put some strawberry jam in a pot (you want to use a jam without too many chunks), added a small amount of water and heated it and mixed it together until it had a runny gelatin-like consistency.  We also had to add a bit of sugar to keep it all sticking together, as the jam I happened to have was a reduced sugar jam.  When heated, we let it cool a bit and then just used a food brush to paint it onto the fruit. The tart then has this lovely looking glaze that also protects the fruit for a bit longer before it turns (if it lasts that long without getting eaten!).  The glaze so makes the tart. I highly recommend spending the extra few minutes that it takes to make the glaze.