Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Peanut Butter Squares

Peanut butter plus chocolate. What's not to like? These little morsels are easy to make, freeze well, and taste good frozen (or slightly thawed), which make them rather dangerous. It's hard to eat just one.

Peanut Butter Squares

1 cup butter
2 cups peanut butter
2 1/2 cups graham wafer crumbs
1 3/4 cups icing sugar

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate OR
   2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons butter

First layer: In a large saucepan, melt together the butter (1 cup) and peanut butter. Stir well to mix. Remove from heat and add the graham wafer crumbs plus the icing sugar. 

Spread into a 9 x 13 pan (no need to grease it), and press down firmly and evenly. Chill. 

Second layer: Melt together the 3 Tablespoons of butter plus the chocolate. Stir well. Spread in a thin layer over the peanut butter mixture. Chill again.

Cut into small squares. Keep chilled or frozen. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Peanut Caramel Dip

A creamy peanut caramel dip complements fall's crisp apples perfectly. I used to make a dip using those individually wrapped caramels. Recently, while laying in bed one morning I wondered why I couldn't make a similar dip using a caramel sauce. So I gave it a try and this is the result. Dark caramelized sugar, cream, vanilla, a bit of butter, and peanut butter. I'm sure that it took less time to make than unwrapping all those caramels.

Peanut Caramel Dip

1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon water
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon butter
3/4 cup peanut butter (I use a natural, no sugar, no additives peanut butter - Adams brand)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, without stirring, but occasionally picking up the pot and swirling the mixture, until the sugar caramelizes to a deep golden brown. 

Remove from the heat and immediately add the cream. It will bubble like crazy, but stir it in until smooth. Add the butter and stir.

Add the peanut butter and vanilla; stir until well combined. The mixture will thicken a little as it cools and can be reheated gently if it gets too hard. If you find that your mixture is too thin, add more peanut butter. Different brands may produce a different result.

Serve with apple wedges - it would also be good with pineapple, pears, and other firm fruits. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Grape Focaccia Bread

The idea of making a grape focaccia bread seemed a bit strange to me at first. A bumper crop of Concord grapes propelled me into trying this. I'm so glad I did. Salty and crunchy and sweet harmonize well. I added blue cheese to half of the bread as not everyone likes its pungency. I think it added a lot of tastiness. 

Grape Focaccia Bread

2 cups flour (plus additional for kneading)
1 Tablespoon rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for sprinkling)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary
1 Tablespoon olive oil (plus more for the pan)
1 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups ripe Concord grapes 
1/4 cup (or more) Blue Cheese crumbles
1 Tablespoon honey

1. Place flour in a medium mixing bowl and add the yeast, salt, sugar, and rosemary. Stir to combine.
2. Add the water and olive oil. Stir well, then turn onto floured counter top and knead until smooth. Place in a greased bowl to rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
3. While the dough is rising, halve the grapes and flick out the seeds with the tip of a knife. Set aside.
4. Line a baking sheet (11 x 15) with parchment paper. Drizzle 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil over the paper.
5. Place the dough onto the oiled parchment paper and spread with fingertips to roughly fill the pan. You may need to let the dough rest for a few moments, then gently stretch it with your fingertips again.
6. Arrange the grape halves on the dough and gently press in. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.
7. Let rise for about 15 minutes while preheating the oven to 450 degrees.
8. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle blue cheese over (if desired) and return to the oven for 1-2 minutes, or until cheese melts. 
9. Drizzle with honey, cut into strips and serve. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Zucchini Ham and Cheese Tian

What, you might ask, is a tian? It's a Provencal dish of vegetables, sauteed, then placed in the oven to brown a little. The name derives from an earthenware dish used to prepare the vegetables, called a tian.

Whatever the etymology of the word, it's a delicious and easy way to prepare vegetables so that they melt in your mouth.

Maggie, of Normandy Life, recently posted a link to her Pinterest page to do with all things zucchini (or courgettes, as they say in France). I discovered this recipe on her page, and adapted it a little. Here's the original link (in French)

Zucchini Ham and Cheese Tian

3-4 zucchini, about 8 inches long

6-8 slices ham (I used smoked ham from the deli)

200 grams (about 7 ounces) Comte cheese (I couldn't find Comte, so I used a new-to-me cheese, made in B.C., - Gewurztraminer "Artisan Cheese - a semi-soft cheese with white wine" I think you could use whatever cheese you wanted.

2 Tablespoons olive oil

fresh thyme (about 2 teaspoons)

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 fat clove garlic, minced

1. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into strips (4 or 5 strips, depending on the diameter of the zucchini)

2. Heat the oil in a pan, then brown the zucchini over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel.

3. Cut the slices of ham in half lengthwise. Cut the cheese into 1/4 inch slices.

4. Layer the zucchini, the ham, and the cheese in a glass baking dish. 

5. Saute the onion and garlic in the oil remaining in the pan until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh thyme leaves. Spoon over the mixture in the baking dish.

6. Sprinkle with pepper, and a little bit of salt, if you think it's needed. With the saltiness of the ham and the cheese, I didn't add any salt.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. The cheese will melt, the zucchini soften a little more and it will taste simply wonderful. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins

Raspberries are best eaten fresh, don't you agree? But sometimes there are more than enough fresh ones and I want to do something else with them. These muffins are filled with berry goodness combined with a bit of cheesecake flavour. I adapted these from a recipe found in an old Cooking Light magazine. 

Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins

2/3 cup (5 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or whole milk plus 1 Tablespoon vinegar)
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Combine cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Beat until creamy and smooth. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat well.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir well.
Add the flour mixture along with the buttermilk to the cream cheese mixture, stir to combine. 
Add the raspberries and gently fold in.

Spoon into 20-24 muffin tins (lined with paper liners). Bake for 25 minutes or until tops spring back when touched with your finger.