Thursday, March 29, 2012

Caramel Brownies

Holy Shnikeys, you guys. Kay. I am NOT much of a chocolate girl. I mean, give me a pie any day, but with brownies, I'm usually like, meh. But duuuuuude. Something about this recipe called out to me when I saw it at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. So I tried it and just about fell off my chair when I took the first bite. A. maz. ing.

Caramel Brownies
Printable Version with Picture
Printable Version

*Note: I found that an hour or so of chilling the brownies after they had cooled completely helped the caramel layer set up and become more pronounced.

*Makes about 24 brownies

For the brownies:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the caramel filling:
14 ounces caramel candies, unwrapped
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil and grease the foil well with butter or cooking spray. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine the chopped chocolate and butter. Microwave in intervals of 1 minute at 50% power until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, stirring in between intervals. Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla until incorporated. Stir in the flour and salt just until combined. Spread about half of the brownie batter in the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven (keep the oven on!) and let the brownies cool for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the chopped pecans (if using) to a medium skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and light golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside. To make the caramel filling, combine the caramels and cream in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at 50% power. Stir. Repeat the process, keeping a close eye on the mixture as it can burn very easily (make sure you use low heat in the microwave). Continue the microwave process until the caramels and cream are melted and combined. Stir in half of the pecans to the caramel mixture. Immediately spread the caramel mixture over the bottom brownie layer. Scoop the remaining brownie batter in spoonfuls over the caramel layer and spread it evenly across the caramel layer (spooning the batter in piles over the caramel will help to get an even layer of batter over the caramel). Sprinkle the chocolate chips and the remaining pecans on top of the final brownie layer. Bake for 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing and serving. I found the brownies sliced easier once they had been cooled and refrigerated for an hour or two.

Lift the brownies from the pan using the edges of the foil. Remove the foil and cut the brownies into individual squares. Store in an airtight container.

*Kar's note - I've changed the cook time for the final brownie layer to 40 minutes. The original recipe called for 20 minutes, but maybe my oven isn't powerful enough? Mine hadn't set enough at 20 minutes.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I am a pineapple addict. "Hi, I'm Karlenn, and I'm a pineapple addict." "Hi, Karlenn..." I must say that the best part of Disneyland, for me, is the Tiki Room. Why? Because of the pineapple you can buy and eat while you're waiting in that little bamboo-lined waiting area. Or have one of those pineapple smoothies. Yummmmm. And what kind of fragranced candle do I keep buying, over and over? Pina colada. Or pineapple-cilantro. I'm in love with pineapple.

And, by the way, pineapple is amazing this time of year. I cooked up some pineapple upside-down cake for a friend who was feeling low last week - I've made it over and over again, and it's definitely shimmy-worthy.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 can pineapple slices in syrup (I had a can of pineapple chunks on hand and used that instead.)
maraschino cherries

Use an 8" square pan or a round cake pan. Drain the can of pineapple, reserving the syrup. Place butter in the pan, melt it in the oven while preheating it to 375 degrees. Sprinkle brown sugar over the melted butter. If you have pineapple slices, arrange them and cherries (with cherries in the centers of the pineapple slices) over the brown sugar in the pan. [If you have chunks or tidbits, just throw them in the brown sugar with the marschino cherries and arrange them how you like.] Cut remaining pineapple slices into half circles, then line the sides of the pan with them (standing up). In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, softened butter, milk, egg, vanilla, and 2 T of pineapple syrup. Pour batter into the pan, being careful not to disturb the pineapples and cherries. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes or until cake is golden and has pulled away from the edges slightly. Remove from oven, allow to stand for a few minutes to set, and then turn it upside-down onto a serving dish. Serve while still warm.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

A fun little factoid for ya - for my senior thesis in high school, I read and wrote a paper on The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. My teacher made me read the unabridged version. Mama mia, that's a long book.

We have a cafe/bakery in town called Babe's Bakery, and I always order the Monte Cristo sandwich from them. It's to die for. Several years ago, I got a recipe from under Southern U.S. Cuisine for Monte Cristos, and it's been fantastic.

I remember when my sis, Nat, had her fourth child, I went to her house and made these. She asked for the recipe, and it has become a staple in her house ever since. Maybe a month or so ago, her son, Brock, informed me that they had Monte Cristo sandwiches for dinner, and then he went on to tell me how you make them. I listened politely. :)

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

18 slices bread
softened butter for spreading
6 slices ham
6 slices turkey
12 slices swiss cheese
a little mustard for spreading
6 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt

For each sandwich, use 3 slices of bread. Butter one side of bread first, then cover the buttered side with a slice of ham and a slice of turkey. Butter both sides of the second slice of bread and spread with a little mustard. Place the second slice over the turkey.

Place two thin slices swiss cheese on top of the second slice of bread. Butter the third slice of bread and place it on top, butter side toward the swiss cheese. Cut into halves diagonally.

Beat eggs, milk, and salt in a cake pan. Dip sandwich halves into the egg mixture and fry on a hot skillet or griddle in butter. Brown on all sides, adding more butter when necessary. This part is tricky, because sometimes the pieces fall over. I just kind of lean them onto each other when I'm browning the thin edges. You can use toothpicks if you like, but I find them to be a pain in the butt.

Makes 6 sandwiches, 12 cut.

Mango-Jalapeno Salsa

Oh, can I tell you how much I love mango salsa? There is this salad I loooove getting at Costa Vida with mango salsa in it - I think it's called the Mango Chicken Salad, maybe? And it's ADDICTIVE. And, since a small salad costs a good $7 or so, I have resolved to use my mango salsa and try to make my own version at home. That is my plan.

Last week, I made this just to go with tortilla chips. And then I decided to blend it up, because I like my chips to dip into a more liquid-ey substance:

It's yummy either way, believe you me.

I got a recipe book when I was married called The Well-Filled Tortilla. I am a big, big fan of Mexican food, so this recipe book is really beaten up. The Well-Loved Recipe Book. :)

Mango-Jalapeno Salsa

2 ripe but firm mangos
1/2 tsp. minced jalapeno pepper
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp crushed coriander seed

1. Peel the mangos, slice around the large seed, and chop up the slices.
2. In a bowl, mix together the mangos, jalapeno, cilanto, lime juice, and coriander.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Mmmmmm. This is another Pampered Chef recipe (I swear to you that every recipe of theirs that I've tried, I've LOVED), and it's amazing. Of course, anything with cilantro in it is amazing, in my Humble Kar Opinion.

I'm typing this up doubled, which makes a whole lotta soup. If you have a smaller family, definitely half this baby.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

16 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 cup chopped onion
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used turkey breasts when I made this last week, and it was fantastic, as well)
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) chicken broth
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies, undrained
8 tsp. snipped fresh cilantro
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut tortillas into 1/2-inch strips. Place on a cookie sheet, preferably one with a lip so they don't fall off. Bake 8 minutes or until crisp.
2. Chop onion. Cube chicken. Spray the bottom of a large pot with cooking spray. Add chicken and cook on medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add onion, garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Cook for 2 minutes more, or until you know the chicken is cooked through. Stir in broth, tomatoes, and chilies. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
3. To serve, put soup into bowls, then sprinkle cheese, cilantro, and tortilla strips on top.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tangy Apricot Chicken

I originally got this recipe from one of my recipe books, Barbeques - Parties and Potlucks. The directions are for baking this chicken in your oven, but I was in a crock pot mood today, so I converted it a little. And it still tasted fantastic. I'll include directions for both oven-cooking this recipe and also crock-potting it.

Tangy Apricot Chicken

1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup apricot jam
4 chicken breasts

Combine barbecue sauce with jam. Pour it over chicken in a 9X13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes. Use the sauce that is left in the pan for a dipping sauce.

*Crock pot - Add an additional cup or so of water to the chicken and sauce in your crock pot. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Banana Nut Bread

Look, an actual picture that I took!!! My lens focused correctly! It's a miracle!

So I found these in my cupboard the other day:

I was like, "Weird. I don't remember buying these..." I had some overripe bananas that I wanted to turn into banana bread, and I felt like using these instead of my standard walnuts.

And can I just say....SCORE!! Wow. This is going to be my new standard - using glazed pecans in banana nut bread. Amazing.

I told Ben about these pecans that had seemingly magically appeared in my cupboard, like manna from heaven, and he said, "Oh. That was me. I had bought those before I left. I thought they'd be good." You thought right, my hubby.

I got this recipe from my BFF's mom, Bethie. I still have it written down on a piece of paper with musical notes on it that I got from her house.

Banana Nut Bread

makes 3 loaves

5 cups flour
2 cups sugar
7 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp veggie oil
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (6 medium bananas or so)

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour three 9X5X3 loaf pans. Mix all ingredients together. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes.

Pretzel Salad

Ah...the things I have in my recipe box under "salad".... Is this very healthy? Naw. I remember when my sister and her new hubby came up for a family dinner party. I was in charge of bringing salad, and I chose to make Cookie Salad. He was like, "How is this a salad and not a dessert??" Hahaha! Welcome to the family, brother. :)

Pretzel Salad

2 1/2 cups crushed pretzels (5 cups of whole pretzels yields 2 1/2 cups crushed.)
3/4 cup melted butter
3 Tbsp. sugar

Mix well and press into a 9X13 pan. Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Cream cheese layer:
8 oz. cream cheese
9 oz. cool whip

Mix these two together and pour into cooled crust.

Jello layer:
4 pkg. strawberry jello
3 cups boiling water
20 oz. froz. strawberries, OR 2 cups fresh strawberries plus 1/2 cup water

Dissolve jello in the boiling water. Add strawberries. If you chose the frozen strawberries, stir until they're thawed. Chill for 2 1/2 hours or until the jello is soupy.  You want it to be soupy, not liquid-ey. Otherwise, the liquid seeps down past the cream cheese and makes your pretzels all soggy. When it's nice and thick and soupy, pour it over the cream cheese and let it set.

Homemade Oreos

My younger sis, Lex, is getting more into cooking (which I think is adorable, by the way), and sometimes she refers to this blog when looking for something to cook. She asked the other day if she could contribute recipes to this site that she found shimmy-worthy. I readily agreed. She sent this recipe my way (which she got from my other sis, Nat), which I have also tried and found shimmy-worthy - I've just been too busy to put it up. But now, with two shimmy-worthy yeas, it must go up immediately. Then it must be cooked immediately and eaten immediately. That's how I feel about it.


2 packages Devil’s food cake mix

4 eggs

1 ½ cups butter

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together. Roll into little balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Filling: 8 oz. cream cheese, ½ cup butter, 1 package (not quite all) of powdered sugar.

Spread filling between two cookies.

Egg Rolls

I got this recipe from my seester, Lex. And may I just say, this recipe is a winnnnnnner at my house. Even my picky kids like 'em. And that's saying something.

Egg Rolls

  • 2 packages of egg roll wrappers (I can't find these at Wal-Mart, but I found them at Albertsons in the produce section, next to the tofu)
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, cut finely
  • 1/4 of a cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 of a small box of angel hair pasta, broken up into smaller pieces
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, chopped finely
  • 1/4 bottle of soy sauce
  • 1/4 bottle of sweet and sour sauce
  • 1/4 bottle of teriyaki sauce
  • 1 Tbsp veggie oil
  • Veggie oil for frying the eggrolls
  • Brown the turkey in the veggie oil in a wok or large skillet. After turkey is browned, brown onions, then add carrots, garlic, ginger, cabbage, and jalapenos to skillet. Cook until veggies are tender. Add the three sauces. Cook angel hair pasta and add to veggie/meat mixture. The pasta absorbs the liquid so the rolls won't be soggy. Wrap each egg roll with meat/pasta mixture. Follow directions on wrapper package. Fry egg rolls in hot oil until light brown.
  • These freeze really well, but I recommend individually wrapping the egg rolls in aluminum foil because the egg rolls will freeze together. I learned that the hard way :).