Monday, April 30, 2012

Mo's ROLO-ver and Die Good Brownies

This weekend my friend, Mo, and her hubby welcomed a new baby boy into their family. In honor of their little bundle of joy, I'm re-posting a recipe Mo shared with us back in the fall: her absolutely fabulous ROLO-ver and Die Good Brownies.

When Mo originally shared this dessert, she suggested using up leftover Halloween candy. By this point, all of your Halloween candy is probably long gone, but you may have a few Easter treats languishing in your basket. These brownies are the perfect way to use up whatever goodies you may have left.

Congratulations, Mo!

ROLO-ver and Die Good Brownies
(adapted from

Yield: 24 brownies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped Rolo candy

1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping (If you use caramel sauce, microwave it for approximately 30 seconds to make the sauce more pourable).
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Place butter in medium saucepan on the stove. Cook over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with a spoon after each addition. Add cocoa; stir until well blended. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; stir until combined. Stir in chopped Rolo candy. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Drizzle caramel evenly over the brownies. Using a toothpick, swirl caramel into brownies. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool brownies completely in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cut into squares and serve.

First, I found that measuring all of my ingredients and laying them out on the counter before I started cooking was important. Since you have to keep stirring the warm saucepan of sugar and butter, it makes stopping to measure difficult.

I made this recipe once where I chopped the candy pretty small, and it made for a slightly less satisfying find inside the brownie. So this time I only really chopped them in quarters so the Rolo candy packs a bigger punch in each bite.

Next, I melted the butter on the stovetop, then with a wooden spoon stirred in the sugar and vanilla.

I cracked each egg and beat it in, until completely incorporated. After that, add cocoa powder. Incorporating this takes more time than I expected, but be patient.

Then, stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the candy.

Pour into prepared glass pan. Drizzle caramel syrup onto batter. Then, with a toothpick swirl the caramel.

Wait. Inhale. Wait. Drool.

When completely cool, cut into pieces.

Eat one. Then sneak back and have another. After three you will probably roll over and die!

Adaptation: I’m pretty convinced brownies and candy are natural friends. Therefore I have used other candy bars and think you can do it, too. Try Milky Ways, Snickers, Peanut Butter Cups. And if you want, substitute peanut butter for caramel. (Microwave 1/3 cup for about 30 sec so it’s more pourable).

Friday, April 27, 2012


I need some help, folks. Answer a few questions for me...

Why would a girl snack on pretzels dipped in mustard?

Why would she eat frosted strawberry Pop Tarts for breakfast every morning for three months straight?

Why would a girl need to have pickles for lunch every day?

Why would she put coleslaw on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g?

Why would a girl insist on peanut butter and jelly (preferably on a lightly toasted plain bagel, but accepted on white bread) for dinner at least three nights a week?

Why would a girl send her husband to the grocery store for asiago ciabatta rolls (not dinner rolls, not pretzel rolls, only asiago ciabatta rolls) and two boxes (yes, two boxes) of V8 butternut squash soup for dinner?

And most of all, why in the world would I (did I say "I"?) eat a tuna sandwich for lunch...

...that was piled with pickles...

...and potato chips?

Well I can only think of one good answer...

That girl is most certainly pregnant.

And I am most certainly that girl.

The husband and I are thrilled to announce that a little baby will be joining our family this September. We couldn't be happier.

Now for some frozen yogurt...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fluffy Strawberry Fruit Dip

I have had a taste for fruit lately like nobody's business. I want fruit. Serve it to me straight. Puree it into a smoothie. Let me dip it in glorious, fluffy dip. Just give me fruit. Okay? Okay.

Fluffy Strawberry Fruit Dip
Serves: Lots

8 ounces Cool Whip
12 ounces strawberry yogurt (I used fruit-on-the-bottom.)

In a large bowl, gently fold together Cool Whip and yogurt. Serve with your favorite fruit. (I used sliced apples, bananas, and grapes, but I can only imagine the wonderful combinations you could come up with. Strawberries and pineapple...yes, please!)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

It hasn't felt very Spring-y in Milwaukee lately. The cold, windy weather makes me want to stay in the covers watching movies all day. Maybe sipping cocoa. With marshmallows.

When I finally forced myself to stop whining about the winter weather, I attempted to perk things up with a Springtime salad. Fresh strawberries, juicy mandarin oranges, and a sweet-but-tangy poppy seed dressing really did the trick. Although I ate this meal in my bulky sweater with the heat on full blast, it gave me hope that these April showers may actually lead to May flowers.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
Adapted from
Serves: 4

Dressing Ingredients:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon juice from the can of mandarin oranges (or fresh orange juice)
1.5 teaspoons poppy seeds

Salad Ingredients:
6-8 cups baby spinach
1 can (11 ounces) mandarin orange segments (drained and juice reserved for dressing)
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds (or pecans)

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake together sugar and vinegar until the sugar starts to dissolve. Add olive oil, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, orange juice, poppy seeds, and salt to taste. Shake everything together until the dressing is thickened and emulsified.

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Just before serving, shake the salad dressing one more time. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss, and serve.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Low-Fat Granola

Random thoughts about granola:

  1. I like to think of granola as a choose your own adventure. Don't like maple syrup? Use honey! Allergic to pecans? Double the almonds! Can't stand dates? Leave 'em out! Please feel free to make this granola your own. 
  2. Granola is simple to make, but all the stirring makes it kind of putsy. So I always make big batch. Then I have a million servings of granola to eat. A good problem, but it requires some creativity because...
  3. What do you do with granola? Here are my ideas: eat it straight up, make a parfait with yogurt and fruit, sprinkle it on oatmeal, add it to your favorite cereal, use it as an ice cream topping. And then I get stuck and hope I've eaten all the granola by then. If you have any favorite uses for granola, please share them in the comments section. It will be much appreciated by us all. 

Low-Fat Granola
Adapted from

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup real maple syrup (Don't use the fake stuff here.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine canola oil and maple syrup. Stir frequently and turn off the heat when the mixture begins to bubble. Stir in vanilla extract and almond extract.

Meanwhile, combine oats and wheat bran in a large bowl. Pour the maple syrup mixture over top and stir until everything is evenly coated.

Spread the granola into a thin layer on a very large, rimmed baking sheet (or 2-3 small baking sheets if you're like me and don't have a very large one.) Bake for 10 minutes.

Add the almonds and pecans and stir the mixture well. Continue to bake the granola for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. The granola should be golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Once granola has cooled, stir in chopped dates, dried cranberries, and raisins. Store granola in an airtight container for up to four weeks.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Apricot-Mustard Glazed Ham

I've waxed eloquent about my love of pork, but one cut I don't cook frequently is ham. Since the husband and I are just a little family of two, a big ham is a bit daunting. But it is so delicious. And when it was dirt cheap around Easter time, I just couldn't pass it up.

I bought the smallest ham I could find, which was boneless and spiral-sliced. I've heard, though, that bone-in ham is more flavorful. If you're family is a bit larger, or if you can handle leftover ham for a few years, you might want to give the bone-in ham a shot. Just brush the glaze on the ham for the last hour of cooking.

Apricot-Mustard Glazed Ham
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves: 8? 10? A million?

3/4 cup apricot preserves
1-2 tablespoons ground mustard
3 pounds boneless, spiral-cut smoked honey ham

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together apricot preserves and 1 tablespoon ground mustard. Give it a taste. If it's mustard-y enough for you, leave it alone. If not, add more ground mustard until it tastes perfect. (I used about 1.5 tablespoons of ground mustard.) Set the glaze aside.

Line a baking dish with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Place ham in the dish cut-side down. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until ham reaches an internal temperature of about 115 degrees. According to all the websites and cookbooks I read, this should take about 15 minutes per pound. Mine took longer, but I'm assuming that's a fluke.

At this point, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Brush the apricot-mustard glaze all over the ham. Turn the ham on its side and brush glaze in between the slices to make sure every piece is coated.

Continue baking the ham until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees, basting with the glaze every 10-15 minutes. This will take about 30 minutes of cooking. Once the ham reaches 140 degrees, brush it with any remaining glaze, tent with foil, and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Toasted Roast Beef Sandwich with Balsamic and Roasted Red Peppers

Whenever the husband is out of town, I use it as an excuse to eat foods that he doesn't care for, like tomatoes and red peppers. And I will neither confirm nor deny eating cereal for dinner when he's not around to catch me.

When I sat down to brainstorm this husband-free meal, my thought process was something like this:

I want something carb-y. Ciabatta bread! And cheesy. Oooey, gooey, stringy cheesy. Mozzarella! And balsamic vinegar. The husband hates that stuff. And the grand dame of foods hated by the husband: roasted red peppers. Oh. And I should probably have some protein. Roast beef. That's got protein...

I piled all of my hankerings onto a sandwich and called it dinner.

And it was gooooood.

P.S. My apologies in advance for the ridiculously long recipe title. I am accepting other suggestions that have fewer than ten words. Please.

Toasted Roast Beef Sandwich with Balsamic and Roasted Red Peppers
Serves: 1

1 ciabatta roll, split in half
1 slice (or about 1/4 cup shredded) mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup baby spinach (a handful)
5 thin slices roast beef
1 roasted red pepper (patted dry if you use the kind from the jar)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On one half of the ciabatta roll, layer cheese, spinach, roast beef, and roasted red pepper.

Drizzle balsamic vinegar on the cut side of the second half of the roll.

Close up the sandwich and wrap it in aluminum foil. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is warmed through. (Alternately, you could heat the sandwich in a panini press.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Beer Bread

I mentioned on Monday that the husband provided resounding approval for this Beer Bread, and, as usual, he really hit the nail on the head.

I've made beer bread from mixes before. If you've ever been to one of those home food parties where they bring out a platter piled with perfectly golden nuggets of beer bread and then offer you a  bowl of creamy spinach dip to dunk them in, you know the mix I'm talking about. And it's good. Real good. But what if I haven't been invited to a home food party where I can buy the mix in a while? What do I do then?

Well, I learn to make beer bread from scratch, that's what I do. And don't tell your friend who sells that home party beer bread mix, but the from-scratch stuff is just as good and (dare I even say it?) just as easy. Shhhh...

Beer Bread
Adapted from

3 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12 ounce) bottle beer
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Additional butter and honey, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan and set aside. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Use a spatula to gently fold the beer into the dry ingredients until just combined. (If you over-mix the dough, it could get dense and tough.)

Spoon batter into the prepared loaf pan. Pour melted butter on top of the butter.

Bake in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve warm, preferably slathered with additional butter and honey.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup

The husband has a fantastic sense of humor. I get many a chuckle thanks to his well-timed, witty remarks. He's the most hilarious, though, when he's not trying to be funny at all. Case in point, dinner last Friday...

When I told the husband we were having Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup and Beer Bread for dinner, he was a bit dubious. Mind you, he kept his misgivings to himself, but I could tell by the stink-eye he was trying to suppress. As we sat down at the dinner table, I could see sweet relief pass over his countenance. "This doesn't look like prison food at all!"

Well, now. I realized that Potato Soup and Beer Bread was a relatively carb-centric meal, but I didn't realize it had the connotation of prison food. No wonder he was so worried!

And it got better as we dug in. "This Beer Bread is really good. It's not too crusty, and it has a great crumb." Accurate, but unexpected from my husband. As usual, it made me smile. He's so cute.

If you're wondering what he thought about the Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup, he shared his opinion on that as well. "This is much better than canned potato soup." Well, there you have it, folks. Give this soup a's better than the stuff from the can! I chortled a bit, and told him that I was taking that as a compliment. He sealed his fate with his next comment. "Oh, great," he muttered. "I can see the blog post now: 'The husband says it's better than canned potato soup.'"

Sorry, dear. You get what's comin' to you.

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup
Serves: 6-8
Adapted from

For soup:
5 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 (12 ounce) cans evaporated milk, depending on how liquid-y you like your soup

Toppings for serving:
Shredded cheddar cheese
Cooked and crumbled bacon
Sour cream
Chopped fresh chives

Combine potatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, broth, salt, and pepper in a large slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours, until potatoes are tender.

Using a spatula or spoon, mash some of the potatoes to thicken the soup. Stir in evaporated milk until the soup reaches your desired consistency. (I used 1.5 cans of 2% evaporated milk.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Let everyone top their own bowls with their favorite baked potato toppings: shredded cheese, bacon, sour cream, and/or chives. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Stir Fry

I think all the big birthday celebrations for the husband this week tuckered out my brain, and now I have writer's block. I'm fresh out of interesting anecdotes, funny stories, or even good commentary. I just have a recipe for you today. It's a very tasty recipe, so at least there's that.

Without further ado, Sweet and Spicy Chicken Stir Fry...

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Stir Fry
Serves: 3-4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, divided
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups sliced carrots
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2-1 tablespoon sriracha chili sauce (depending on your spice tolerance)
1 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
Hot, cooked rice, for serving

Cut chicken breasts crosswise into thin strips. Place chicken in a Ziploc baggie with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger. Seal the baggie and smoosh chicken around so it's evenly covered with the soy sauce and ginger. Set aside to marinade while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. (And, yes, you'll notice from the photo below that I forgot to slice my chicken before putting it in the marinade. Don't be like me; it's easier if you slice it up first.)

Place broccoli in a steamer basket over 1" of boiling water, cover and cook for 1 minute. Add carrots into steamer basket with broccoli. Cook for an additional 4 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Meanwhile, combine hoisin sauce, chili sauce, crystallized ginger, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken and saute until it is cooked through, about 7-8 minutes total. Stir in the hoisin sauce mixture until the chicken is evenly coated.

Stir in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes, until sauce is slightly reduced.

Stir in cooked vegetables until everything is evenly coated. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Honey Roasted Carrots

I'm always looking for a quick and simple way to get vegetables on the dinner table. You can only eat frozen peas so many times before you need to switch things up. The need for speed combined with a crisper crammed with baby carrots resulted in today's tasty side dish.

You might have seen these Honey Roasted Carrots peaking out from behind my Chicken Packets last week. Next time you're looking for a fast veggie, give them a whirl. I think you'll enjoy them as much as we did.

Honey Roasted Carrots
Serves: 4

2 cups baby carrots (or regular carrots cut into pieces)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon finely minced crystallized ginger
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean up. Toss carrots, butter, honey, and ginger together on the baking sheet. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, until carrots are golden and crisp-tender.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Husband!

Today is my husband's birthday. This made me think about the main reason I make hot dinner.

For him.

I'd be happy with cereal or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner every night for the rest of my life. (And I really mean that.) But preparing dinner for my husband is one way I can show him that I love him. Some nights all I can manage is popping a frozen pizza in the oven, but still, he knows that I love him so much that I want to take care of him in this little way.

So, happy birthday to my wonderful husband. Thank you for inspiring so many hot dinners.