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Monday, January 30, 2017

Rice Krispie Treats, with brown butter and vanilla

This our family's favorite rice krispie treat recipe. Browning the butter and adding the vanilla makes them have a little extra je ne sais quoi that makes them irresistible.  Adapted slightly from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.

 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
16 ounces large marshmallows or 6 1/4 cup mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch coarse, kosher salt or sea salt
9 cups crisp rice cereal (i.e. Rice Krispies)
Sprinkles (optional)

Butter or spray the bottom and sides of a 9X13-inch pan. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter on low heat and let it cook until the solids start to turn golden brown and it smells caramelly and fragrant.

Add the marshmallows and cook on low, stirring constantly until essentially all melted.  Add the vanilla and salt and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat.  In a large bowl put half the rice krispies, then scrap in the marshmallow butter mixture, and then add the other half of the cereal.   Stir until evenly combined. Scrape the mixture into the 9x13 pan and using lightly greased spatula, lightly press the mixture into the pan (mashing them too hard and you'll end up with very firm rice krispie treats - so use a gentle hand if you want them chewy).  Add sprinkles on top if desired.  Let cool before slicing into squares.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Classic Brownies

After an extensive side-by-side comparison, this classic brownie was the unanimous favorite brownie for our family.  From Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.  Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it) the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy. If overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.   (Note: this recipe from Smitten Kitchen is amazing and a bit simpler or even try it in mini brownie bites).

1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine 12 tablespoons
(1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 9x13 baking dish carefully with aluminum foil, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges.  Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 1 minute, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.)

When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla.

Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter.

Bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or in the freezer).

Kale Salad with Pecan Parmesan Topping and Lemon Vinaigrette

Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.   Ideally the massaged kale and dressing sit for an hour or so, so plan ahead.  But if you make all the dressing and pecan parmesan topping ahead of time it comes together quickly at the end.


12-14 ounces kale (about 2 bunches), stemmed and finely shredded or choppedPinch of sea salt or coarse kosher salt1/4-1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries3-4 slices cooked, crumbled bacon (optional)


3 tablespoons olive oil3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juicePinch coarse black pepperPinch of coarse kosher salt1 tablespoon pure maple syrup or honey

Pecan Parmesan Topping: 
1/2 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese1 tablespoon olive oil1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

DIRECTIONS For the salad, place the chopped kale in a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Rub the salt into the kale for 2-3 minutes. You'll notice the kale starting to soften and darken in color.

For the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients until well-combined. Pour over the salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour (you can serve it right away but I think it tastes best if the kale and dressing have time to sit for an hour).

For the pecan parmesan topping, pulse the pecans in a blender or food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the Parmesan, olive oil and salt and continue to pulse until it resembles coarse crumbs but not totally smushed.

Add the craisins and bacon to the salad and toss.  Sprinkle the pecan topping over the salad. Serve immediately.

Massaged Kale and Craisin Salad with Feta Cheese

This is a favorite salad adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  The first time massaging Kale was a bit unusual, but it makes all the difference.

6-10oz bag of kale greens, pre-trimmed*
pinch of salt
1/4 cup finely diced red onion, optional
1/4-1/3 cup dried cranberries/craisins (the cherry flavored ones our my favorite)
3/4 cup small-diced apple
1/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese

 Place the kale in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt over the top and massage it into the kale with your hands for two minutes. You’ll notice the kale start to turn a darker green and the texture of the kale will begin to soften. Toss in the red onions if using, craisins, apples, sunflower seeds, and feta.

Notes:  I love this salad without dressing.  But it's also great with a store-bought white or red vineagreete or make your own.  In a small bowl whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

*If you don't buy pre-trimmed and washed Kale you can prep it the following way for this salad:
 Wash the kale and pat it dry. Slice off the stiff stems below the leaves and continue slicing the stem away from the leaf until you have cut a thin v-shape into the kale leaf and removed the tough stem all the way up. Stack the kale leaves two or three at a time, roll them up, and slice the leaves into thin ribbons.