Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

It's the most wonderful time of the year...again!  Last year, right around this same  time, I shared a recipe for a Lower-Fat Nanaimo Bar, 'member?  This time around I thought I would switch it up a bit, and make them with a peanut buttery twist!  These however, are mos' def' NOT low-fat...sorry, not sorry.  These Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars are, so super decadent, and a would make a perfect treat to bring to a party or to give as a homemade Christmas gift.

My veins are running with sugar,  and body is practically vibrating around the kitchen at this point.  I'm in the midst of a baking, packaging, pricing, flurry of activity, as I get ready to sell some of my goodies at local Christmas Craft Sales.  I hope that these Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars, along with my other treats sell like crazy, 'cuz it's a heck of allot of work!  If they don't?  Well, more for me!  Or maybe placed beside the Christmas tree for Santa...if he's nice.

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

1/2 cup room temperature butter (salted or unsalted)
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup coconut
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

1/2 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons butter or coconut oil
2/3 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

4 Tablespoons peanut butter

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, and set aside.
For the bottom layer: In a large bowl mix together the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and finely chopped peanuts. Set aside.
For the bottom layer:  In a double boiler, stir together the butter, sugar, beaten egg and cocoa. It will be a bit stiff, but it’s important to start with the beaten egg in a cold pan and allow it to warm gently, to avoid scrambled eggs.  Stir constantly for 5 minutes, until smooth and slightly thickened.
Add the graham cracker mixture and stir until well combined.  Press this mixture evenly into the lined 8-inch pan and chill.
For the middle layer: Beat together the peanut butter, butter, icing sugar, vanilla and milk until smooth.  Spread this mixture over the chilled base. Smooth top and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.
For the top layer: Melt the chocolate and butter or coconut oil together in a double-boiler or in the microwave.  Spread melted chocolate over the chilled middle layer, smoothing out as evenly as possible.  If doing swirled top, heat peanut butter in microwave or in the same (clean!) double boiler. Pour warm peanut butter over the still warm chocolate top, in straight lines, and then lightly slide knife or toothpick through in the alternate direction.  Chill again until firm and then bring to room temperature, before cutting into bars.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chicken Cordon Bleu Meatballs

Doesn't it feel like the bombardment of Christmas is thrown at us earlier each year?!  Even before Halloween arrived, the stores were putting out Christmas stuff!  And then November 1st, was like, BAM!  CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!  Maybe it's just me?  I find it a little bit overwhelming, kinda exciting, and I get all nervous inside.  I have to plan what presents to buy, what kind of goodies I will be baking, and how I will stretch my paychecks to handle the load!  One thing I do to make a little extra money around the holidays, is to sell my baking at community Christmas sales and Craft Fairs.  So, I bake a little more than your average mom;)  I already have a garage (ahem: cold storage) full of goodies, but have yet to take any good pics of them yet.  So before I bombard you with their deliciousness, I thought I should bring you something savoury.

This recipe is from the recently published Skinny Taste Cookbook, which I must return to the library for the next person in line, and I hate to admit, but, *gasp*,  It's overdue!!  Horrible.
I've been hanging onto the book so I could share this fantastic recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu Meatballs, 'cuz it's so so yummy, and the whole fam gave it the "thumbs up" approval.  This recipe has the potential to be a great new way to use up leftover ham from Thanksgiving, so if you do a ham at Christmas too, keep this recipe in mind. 

This recipe from Skinnytaste, is genius!  It mimics the flavours of the traditional chicken cordon bleu, but in a easy to make and calorie reduced meatball form.  The flavours in the Dijon and white wine sauce deliver that extra sumthin' sumthin', that take a average week night meal, and elevate your leftovers to the next level!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Meatballs
Recipe adapted from: The Skinnytaste Cookbook, page 163
11/2 lbs lean ground chicken
1/4 cup panko or bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (roughly) leftover ham, sliced & cubed
3 slices (roughly) Swiss cheese, sliced & cubed

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk, I used 2%
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 salt
1/8 freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped as garnish

Preheat the oven to 425F, and spray large baking sheet with oil, and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, bread crumbs, parm, egg, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, and using your hands, mix together.  Wet your hand to prevent the meat from sticking, and form into meatballs.  Poke the meatball with your finger to make a whole, and insert one piece each of cubed Swiss cheese and ham.  Do your best to close meatball securely, to prevent cheese escape-age (!) you should make approx. 12 meatballs.  Place meatballs on prepared baking sheet, and bake about 20 minutes, or until cooked through, and slightly browned.
While the meatballs are baking, make your sauce!   
Using a large, deep, lidded skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  using a whisk, add the flour to create roux.  Next whisk in the wine, allow to thicken, and add both milk and broth, whisking for 5 minutes or so, allowing to thicken up again.  Reduce the temperature to low, and add the mustard, lemon, and season with salt & pepper, taste, and adjust to your preference.  
Remove the meatballs from the oven, and add them to the sauce.  Cover and simmer, for about 5 - 10 minutes.  Garnish with parsley prior to serving.  The meatballs are excellent served on egg noodles or pasta, alongside some seasonal roasted veggies!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

African Inspired Peanut Stew

You must forgive my absence, our house was hit hard by an unforgiving stomach flu.  It started with Presley, and then hit both Sloane and I.  Cory has somehow managed to miss out, lucky boy!  Without going into all the gory details, it was gross, and I'm glad to have my energy and appetite back.
I've only seen the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" maybe once or twice, so this is completely random that it sticks out in my memory, but whenever I get the stomach flu, I always think of this quote:

Emily: Andrea, my God! You look so chic.
Andy Sachs: Oh, thanks. You look so thin.
Emily: Really? It's for Paris, I'm on this new diet.  Well, I don't eat anything and when I feel like I'm about to faint I eat a cube of cheese.  I'm just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.

Hilarious, and true, right?!
I've decided to look at having the flu, as getting the opportunity to re-set your body, Mother Nature's cleanse!  Now that you have this blank slate of appetite and even what you may normally crave, you might as well keep eating the smaller portions, and as follow as clean a diet as possible.

One of the first real meals I craved once I was ready to get back in the kitchen was this African Inspired Peanut Stew.  I added chicken, because whiners, and swapped chick peas for lentils, because whiners, but kept the subtle spice, and the sweet potatoes, which pair perfectly with the peanut butter.
It's an interpretation of the vegan "Soul Soothing African Peanut Stew" from the recently published Oh She Glows Cookbook.  Angela Liddon is the author and blogger behind the amazing Oh She Glows website, and now the award winning book!  I find Angela's recipes to be imaginative, yet totally do-able, and always delicious.
Because I can borrow cookbooks for free from the library (you can too, silly!), I rarely purchase cookbooks of my own, but the Oh She Glows cookbook is the exception!  Totally worth the $ and the shelf space.

African Inspired Peanut Stew
Recipe Adapted From: Oh She Glows Cookbook Page 129

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded (optional) and diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, and chopped
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed (optional)
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/3 - 1/2 cup peanut butter
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup uncooked lentils (I used red), or can of chickpeas drained & rinsed
2 large handfuls spinach, chopped or torn
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 handful cilantro, for garnish
Roasted peanuts, for garnish

Using a large stock/soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and sauté for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic, red pepper, and jalapeño, sautéing for another 2 minutes. Add the sweet potato, chicken (optional), and tomatoes (with their juice) and a good shake of both salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, using a small saucepan or microwave, heat up 1 cup of broth, and then add the peanut butter, stirring so no clumps remain. Stir the peanut butter mixture to the vegetables, along with the remaining broth. Season with the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.
Cover the pot, and reduce heat to low, leaving to simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes and lentils are tender, and the chicken (if you're using it) is cooked through.
Taste and season if necessary, then stir in the spinach, and cook until just wilted.
Serve stew over rice and/or steamed vegetables, and garnish with the cilantro and roasted peanuts.