Monday, September 27, 2010

Chocolate Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie Bars

And in my continuing saga of baking pan issues, I bring you Volume III: Chocolate Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie Bars.

This is a Hershey's recipe that combines a sugar cookie crust with a cakier chocolate cheesecake-like topping. And although I never met a cheesecake I didn't like, I actually prefer mine with a cookie crust rather than graham crackers -- so this is right up my alley.

Unlike actual cheesecake, this is a very forgiving recipe. Very, very forgiving.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie Bars
Makes 16

1 15-oz. pkg golden sugar cookie mix*, mixed according to package instructions**
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. butter or margarine, softened
1/4 c. cocoa
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spread prepared sugar cookie dough in a 9" square baking pan.***

3. Using a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add cocoa and sugar, and mix. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until smooth.

4. Spread cream cheese mixture over cookie batter.

5. Bake 40 minutes**** or until no imprint remains when touched slightly. Cool completely before serving. Store in the refrigerator.*****

* I could only find a 17.5-oz. package.
** My package had different instructions for preparing the dough for drop cookies versus roll-out cookies. I just threw in what I thought would make a good hybrid of the two.
*** I do not own a 9"square baking pan. I used an 8" square baking pan, instead.
**** I have no idea how long I actually baked these. When I last looked, my timer had 10 minutes left, and I ran downstairs to fold some clothes. Which I then decided to put away in Jack's room. But Jack and I both got distracted by his busy ball-popper and shape-sorting barn, and then when I returned to said laundry work, I got distracted by weeding out summer clothes that I figure Jack has grown out of. Eventually, I had a nice, cozy "Mmm ... cookies" thought that turned into "Oh &#!$, my bars!" and ran upstairs. Elapsed time? I'd guess these bars were in the oven for 60-70 minutes. Luckily, I planned ahead by using the wrong size cookie mix and the wrong size pan, so the extra baking time was actually a good thing. Needless to say, no imprint remained when I touched the bars lightly.
***** I remembered to do this the first night. But then I accidentally left them on the counter for a few days. Nobody died.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shredded Pork Gyros

I'm a big fan of my slow cooker. And a big fan of shredded meat. And a big fan of any recipe that requires 5 minutes or less of preparation. This is a good recipe for me.

I recently saw a recipe for some Greek-style shredded pork, and while the recipe itself didn't speak to me, the idea did. So I threw together a few ingredients in the slow cooker one morning, and voila! Instant gyros. Well, after you toast the pita bread and chop a few veggies and slather on some hummus and yogurt. But really, those steps are optional.

On a side note, I don't typically put hummus on my gyros, but I had some in the fridge and decided to give it a try. I really, really liked it. The hummus and yogurt kind of combine to make a thicker, tangy, slightly more flavorful sauce. And to think, I might never have discovered this otherwise.

Texture-wise, this sort of reminded me of a soft taco. The hummus is kind of like the refried beans, the meat is tender and shredded, and it's topped with fresh veggies and yogurt (instead of sour cream.) In fact, if I handed expended all that energy with my 5 minutes of prep work in the morning, I'd have toasted up some homemade pita chips and served these up nacho style.

Shredded Pork Gyros
Serves 8-10

1 pork shoulder roast (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/s Tbsp. Greek seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

8-10 good-quality pita breads
Plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style
Hummus (I prefer roasted red pepper)
Chopped cucumber
Chopped tomato

1. Place pork shoulder in slow cooker and top with lemon juice, Greek seasoning, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes.

2. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours, or until pork is tender.

3. Remove pork from slow cooker and shred with two forks. Return meat to slow cooker and combine with juices.

4. Toast pita breads in a hot pan quickly on both sides. Add a layer of hummus, and top with pork, cucumber, tomato, and yogurt.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chicken Marinara Soup

The little man turns 1 year old this week (my, how time flies!) and keeping up with him is a challenge. And keeping up with him and cooking dinner every night is just short of impossible.

The good news is that Jack is quite possibly the least picky eater in the house. so far, he's not a huge fan of chicken stroganoff and quiche. Everything else is A-OK by him. (Especially veggies. The kid LOVES his tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini.) The bad news is that his crabbiest, neediest time of day is the 90 minutes between when I pick him up from daycare and when the hubby gets home. A snack won't suffice; the little man wants his supper about a half-hour before the hubby gets home, which is some tricky timing. We're still trying to work out the kinks on this one.

In the meantime, we do a lot of cooking ahead, except for those rare days when the little man comes home and is content to play on his own for about 20 minutes while I throw together some supper that will be ready for him in time, and that will hold for the hubby.

This is one such recipe that the little man loved, because in incorporates some of his favorite foods -- chicken, veggies, and pasta. It comes together quickly, and is great for using up extra produce this time of year.

Chicken Marinara Soup
Serves 6

2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced on the bias
1 26-oz. jar marinara sauce
3 c. chicken broth
2 c. dried rotini pasta
1 medium zucchini, chopped
Additional salt and pepper, to taste
Shredded mozzarella cheese, for topping

1. Preheat 1 tsp. oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Add chicken. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and oregano. Cook until brown, and remove from pan.

2. Add remaining 1 tsp. oil to pan and add carrots and green peppers. Cook 2 minutes.

3. Add marinara sauce and broth to pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, and cook 8 minutes.

4. Return chicken to pan. Add zucchini and rotini, and cook 10 minutes.

5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve soup with mozzarella on top.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

I've decided that my Christmas list this year is going to include some new baking pans, because despite having a kitchen full of pots, pans, and gadgets, I don't seem to have some of the basics that my recipes have been calling for lately. Such as a standard loaf pan.

I agonize over pan sizes. I have no eye for measurements, so I have to get out the tape measure every time a recipe doesn't use my own standard pan terminology. For example, "the bar pan" means a 9x13 pan. The "brownie pan" means an 8" square pan. "The pan you use for homemade pizza" means the 11x15 sheet pan.

And in my world, a loaf pan is a loaf pan. But apparently this isn't the case, which is why my chocolate chip pound cake sort of resembled unsliced chocolate chip biscotti. But it sure tasted good. This recipe is based on a Hershey's recipe, and it tastes a bit like cake and a bit like shortbread.

I did end up trying the glaze on the cake later, but I'm not sure if it was an improvement. The glaze had a bit too much shortening for my taste, so it had a bit of a waxy texture, and I think the cake was just fine without it.

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
Serves 8-10

1/2 c. butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. chocolate chips

Glaze (optional)
2/3 c. chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. shortening

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan.

2. Combine butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat well.

3. Blend in flour and baking powder, and then stir in 1 c. chocolate chips.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until cake pulls away from sides of pan.

5. Cool 10 minutes, and then remove cake from pan and cool complete on a wire rack.

6. If making glaze, combine 2/3 c. chocolate chips and shortening in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until chocolate chips are melted, stirring frequently. Poor glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Cool before serving.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Happy fall-ish! We've had lovely weather here for the past few weeks, and it couldn't have been more well timed.

The hubby and I spent the weekend celebrating the wedding of one of my college roommates, Sarah, who traveled all the way to Fargo from Alaska for her nuptials (bringing some of her wedding party with her). It was a multiday celebration, and the weather cooperated beautifully. The weekend ended with the most unique and entertaining wedding I've ever been to. (I'm a fan of anyone serving me food during a wedding ceremony.) Congrats to supercouple Sarah and Doyle!

Labor Day dawned cool and rainy, and although I wanted nothing more than to stay inside and bake cookies all day, we were playing catch-up and running errands. So instead, I whipped up a small pan of cookie bars to tide us over. This is an adaptation of a good ol' Nestle Tollhouse recipe, and these bars are less like chocolate chip bars and more just like a pan cookie. They're perfect and yummy and they disappear quickly. (I have no idea why Nestle claims this makes two dozen bars. In our house it makes 9.)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Makes 9-12

1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. flour
1 1/3 c. chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" square baking pan.

I'm lazy and unprepared. I sprayed an 8" square pan with cooking spray, and everything turned out OK. I'm having pan issues these days. But more about that in a future post.

2. Combine butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add vanilla and egg, and mix well.

There should be additional pictures here. But the hubby was uploading wedding pictures to Facebook and he wouldn't let me have the memory card. He's mean. I still let him eat bars.

3. Stir in baking powder and salt, and add flour and combine. Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Pour mixture into prepared pan and spread mixture evenly.

This might require the use of your hands. Which you might have to lick off afterward. It's torture, I say.

5. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until bars are golden and center is set. Let cool before cutting into squares.