15 February 2009

More Blog Inspiration... Peppermint Patties & Brownies

As anyone who reads my blog already knows, my sister has a lovely food blog called The Spiced Life. She has done a much better job keeping up with blogging and a chaotic life (2 moves, building a house, 2 toddlers - I would not only forget about my blog, I might run away to Mexico!) than me. I continually rely on her blog for inspiration and entertainment. She recently posted a recipe for some gooey Peppermint Patty Brownies. They looked really tasty to me, and her post planted a seed of an idea in my head.

I had a dinner party planned at my house for a few of my girlfriends for Valentine's Day. It was a strictly girls-only affair, and I really wanted to do something special to show my friends how much I appreciate them. Early Saturday, the seed Laura's blog planted in my head began to grow - I had some cute Valentine-themed packaging that I could tuck peppermint brownies in to send home with my guests. The little heart embellished buckets made the perfect container for a small bag of brownies and Kisses. I finished each bucket off with a handmade Valentine's Day card that doubled as a place card. I felt very creative and was certain Aunt Sandy would approve of my table-scaping efforts.

I ended up using the recipe provided by Hershey's on the back of the Mini York Peppermint Patty Baking Pieces package. I was busy making my Valentine's Day cards/place markers and forgot to keep a close eye on my brownies so they might have been a tiny bit over-cooked. However, I think I left them in the oven a solid 10 extra minutes, so the recipe is pretty forgiving. The finished brownie is chewy and slightly crumbly. This is not an ooey gooey fudge brownie, and I think they would have held up quite well to a cookie cutter. I desperately wished I had a heart shaped cookie cutter like Lori over at The Recipe Girl so I could make cute heart shaped brownies for my gift buckets, but the squares taste pretty darn good anyway.


Perfectly Peppermint Brownies from Hershey's


  • 3/4 cup Hershey'S Cocoa



  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda



  • 2/3 cup butter or margarine, melted and divided



  • 1/2 cup boiling water



  • 2 cups sugar



  • 2 eggs



  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour



  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract



  • 1/4 teaspoon salt



  • 1-1/3 cups (8-oz. pkg.) YORK Mini Peppermint Patties
    Directions:
    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
    2. Stir together cocoa and baking soda in large bowl; stir in 1/3 cup butter. Add boiling water; stir until mixture thickens. Stir in sugar, eggs and remaining 1/3 cup butter; stir until smooth. Add flour, vanilla and salt; blend completely. Stir in peppermint patties. Spread in prepared pan.
    3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. About 36 brownies.
    Note: 16 to 17 small (1-1/2 inch) YORK Peppermint Patties, unwrapped and coarsely chopped, may be substituted for the mini peppermint patties.


  • 13 February 2009

    Delicious Polenta- Who knew?!

    I am big follower of a blog by the name of Tummy Treasure. Erika, who owns Tummy Treasure, is a "CLBB Friend" and a great recipe source. She replies to comments and questions quickly and usually has something tasty cooking up on her blog. She recently featured a recipe that immediately jumped out at me - cilantro, cheese, corn - all ingredients that I love. But there was a major sticking point with the recipe - it most prominently featured polenta, which I enjoy, but have never successfully made myself. I commented on Erika's blog and asked for some suggestions to overcome my fear, and she sounded confident that I would be successful with this recipe.

    Let me just tell you, Erika was not joking. It is absolutely divine! The polenta is creamy and mildly flavored with garlic and cheese, and the corn and cilantro are fantastic together. I envision eating this as leftovers with black beans on top. So simple to throw together, and there are plenty of easy substitutions you can make if you are missing certain ingredients. I am thrilled with this dish, and I will absolutely be making it again the future. In fact I can imagine using this method with other flavors- maybe a gorgonzola and sun-dried tomato polenta? The possibilities seem limitless as long as you have cheese!

    Head over to Erika's blog, Tummy Treasure, for her original review.

    Polenta with Green Chilies and Cheese
    Bon App├ętit | January 1998 by Peggy Reed, Portland ME
    Yield: Serves 4 as a main-course or 8 as a side-dish

    Ingredients
    2 cups milk (I used 1%)
    1 cup water
    3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
    3 garlic cloves, minced (I used 2, grated on my microplane)
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    1 7-ounce can whole green chilies, drained (I subbed 1/2 cup chopped, raw jalapenos)
    1 cup drained canned corn (I used frozen)
    2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (I subbed grated sharp cheddar and an Italian 4 cheese blend that I had on hand)
    1/2 cup whipping cream (I omitted cuz I didn't have)

    Preparation
    Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 8 x 8 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Mix first 5 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook until polenta is tender and thickens, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan.
    Pour half of polenta into prepared dish. Cover with half of chilies and half of corn. Sprinkle with half of cilantro and 1 cup Jack cheese. Drizzle with 1/4 cup cream. Spoon remaining polenta over. Cover with remaining chilies, corn, cilantro and cheese. Pour 1/4 cup cream over. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.) Bake until polenta puffs and cheese begins to brown, about 25 minutes if not chilled or 30 minutes if chilled. Cut into squares and serve.

    12 February 2009

    Balance.

    Do any of you have a tendency to dive in headfirst without checking out the depth of the water first? I think I do that a lot. I get really excited about something (like blogging or working out) and forget about balance. Last summer, I think I was incapable of finding a happy medium with cooking, blogging and life. So today I log back in for the first time in months, and I have a new project to dive into headfirst. Balance.

    I have been working out long enough to have that integrated into my everyday life. I don't really consider it hard to fit it in anymore (although it is still hard to go back to the gym if I have been sick or out of town!). I am hoping that I can similarly integrate blogging back into my daily life. I have had some exciting changes over the past few months, which have resparked my interest in cooking.

    I have a roommate! And she is my personal trainer! What are the chances I would develop such a great friendship with someone I pay to make me do push-ups?! Kali moved in with me around Thanksgiving, and it has been a great fit. She laughs at my devotion to my kitchen, but she is also always willing to sample my most recent baked goodies.

    I have also recently made a commitment to volunteer with our local Ronald McDonald House charity. What could be greater for me than a charity that accepts all the home-baked goods you can drop off and encourages you to come cook for their residents! In less than a week I am taking a group of women from a local organization to the RMH to cook dinner for 80 people. I hope to take pictures and review the recipes.

    I also recently received some very sweet gifts from various people. My boss bought me a gift certificate for 3 cooking classes at a local school. Another dear friend and co-worker, Marsha, had a beautiful Chef's Coat (!!! I feel like I must be breaking some rule by owning a Chef's Coat without being a Chef, but I like it :)) embroidered with my name and the name of this blog for me! And, of course, I received several thoughtful cooking-related Christmas gifts from my family and boyfriend. I am really excited to get back to my blog and writing about food.