Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mississippi Mud Brownies

I made these delicious and messy brownies some time ago.  They were very popular, of course. They're kind of similar to these brownies.  I doubled the recipe to fit a 9x13 pan. Oh, I also made them nut-free.  Not sure if they're still Mississippi Mud, but oh well.

Mississippi Mud Brownies
adapted from Cooking Classy
makes an 8x8 baking dish; easily doubled for a 9x13

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly (I used salted)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pecans or almonds, divided, optional
2 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Chocolate Frosting:
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment or aluminum foil, if using foil spray with cooking spray or brush with melted butter. (I skipped foil; just used cooking spray on my glass baking dish.) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt until well blended. Using a wooden spoon stir in melted butter and mix until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and stir until blended (mixture will be thick). Fold in 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven 30 - 35 minutes (underbake slightly as you'll be returning them to oven to cook marshmallows).

2.  Remove from oven and sprinkle top evenly with marshmallows then return to oven and bake about 4 minutes longer until marshmallows puff slightly. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes then toast tops of marshmallows with a kitchen torch if desired (be very carefully around parchment paper). Pour and spread chocolate frosting evenly over top (just after preparing frosting as it will begin to set as it cools), sprinkle top with remaining nuts. Allow to cool completely if desired (and if you have the patience to wait, it will take about 2 hours), or allow to cool slightly (you'll have runny frosting and unevenly cut brownies - but they are amazing this way). Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

For the chocolate frosting:
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add milk and cocoa powder and cook whisking constantly until mixture has thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and using an electric hand mixer, stir in vanilla and powdered sugar. Use frosting immediately. (My hand-held mixer is broken, so I just poured into my stand mixer and went from there.)
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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Last July, we took a trip to Slovenia.  Our van died on the way there, and we were stuck in Ljubljana (the capital) for a few days.  We eventually got our van towed back to Italy and bought a new one. But while we were waiting to figure out how to get home, we had a good time exploring Slovenia. We had an AirBnB in the University/Embassy section of town.  The main section of the city was easily walk-able from there.  Good thing, since we had no vehicle.  (Our AirBnB was featured in National Geographic for being so quirky!) Anyway, I never posted pics from our trip.  These are just phone pics, as I had forgotten my real camera. We walked around the old town, saw the castle on the hill, the dragon bridge, ate out a few times, got gelato, and took two river cruises.

There was a photo exhibit in a large park.  The photos were or Syrian refugees as they passed through Slovenia the December before.
The market had SO many fresh and delicious berries.  

Corn soup, above.  White chocolate and pistachio gelato, below.

Last night dinner with our tow truck driver and his cool friends.  They were all very educated and professional, spoke English, and we had wonderful conversation.  The food is pictured below.  They grilled Serbian sausages, and I made them myself a few months later.  Above are the beautiful roses in his yard.
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Twice-Baked Potatoes

I made these for Valentine's Day, and we liked them so much I made them again a few weeks later.  I had never made them before that.  I don't remember ever eating them before, either.  On Valentine's Day, we grilled steaks, and had salads, etc, but it was too much food.  So the second time, I made these as our main dish.

Twice-Baked Potatoes
adapted from the Kitchn

4 medium russet potatoes* (3 1/2 to 4 pounds total)
Olive oil
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup full-fat sour cream, divided
1/3 cup whole or 2% milk
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon garlic powder (no-salt)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more for seasoning

1.  Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F.

2.  (*I can't get Russets here, so I just used large yellow potatoes.) Scrub the potatoes well and pat dry. Rub the potatoes all over with a thin coating of oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap each potato in aluminum foil and place directly on the oven rack. Bake until fork-tender, flipping halfway through, 50 to 60 minutes total.

3.  Place the potatoes on a wire rack. Open the foil packets and let the potatoes sit for about 5 minutes, until they're cool enough to handle but still very warm. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

4.  Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. To make them easier to handle if still hot, hold in a clean dish towel. Carefully scoop the flesh into a medium bowl, leaving about 1/4-inch of potato and skin as the shell. Place the potato skins skin-side down on a rimmed baking sheet; set aside.

5.  Add the butter and 1/4 cup of the sour cream to the bowl with the potato flesh. Use a fork or potato masher to mash together until soft and well-combined. Do not overwork the potatoes. Fold in the remaining sour cream, milk, 1 cup of the cheese, scallions, chives, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Divide the filling among the shells, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup cheese.

6.  Bake until the cheese is melted and the peaks of the mashed potatoes are crispy, 15 to 20 minutes (with an additional 5 to 10 minutes for potatoes that were made ahead). Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes: 
Make ahead: The potatoes can be baked and filled up to 1 day in advance and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to bake the second time. Add an additional 5 to 10 minutes to bake time when made ahead.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pula, Croatia

Happy Easter! Today we grilled steaks, had Ranch Potato Casserole, a cucumber salad, roasted asparagus and strawberry pie.

Way back in October, we took a weekend trip to Pula, Croatia.  Pula is known for its Roman Arena. We stayed at an AirBnB super close to the arena.  We visited the arena, walked around Pula's oceanfront and marina, visited an outdoor market, and went out on a boat trip with the AirBnB owner's father.  Some of my family went swimming in the sea, but it was too cold for me.  They loved it though. Then we went to a very good and cozy restaurant that the owner recommended to us. (These are only phone pics; I forgot my big camera.)

Every morning, the owner's grandmother, Marija (Maria), brought us homemade pastries.  So good!

 Above: the Temple of Augustus. Below, Twin Gates- once the entrance to the city.  

 Above & below: Views from the boatride.

Above, trying the local olive oil at a very good restaurant, Alla Beccaccia.  Pula is on the Istrian Peninsula, which is well-known for producing very good olive oil.  Below, my wild game and gnocchi dish.  This region of Croatia has food influences from Italy, but they put their own spin on it. 

 We looked for an olive oil farm and finally found this random one.  It was SO good and they were harvesting the olives when we were there.  This guy filled up a few fresh bottles for us and we were on our way.  I mention the olive oil in the bottom of this post about Croatian soup.  
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Friday, April 14, 2017

Nutella-Swirled Blondies

I made these simple blondies a really long time ago and came across the pics recently- lo.  I think I made them last fall. They were easy to make and really good, and were eaten up in no time.

Nutella-Swirled Blondies
adapted from Averie Cooks

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup Reese's Peanut Butter Chips (chocolate chips may be substituted)
about 1/3 cup Nutella

1.  Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. (I skipped the foil; just used cooking spray on the pan.)

2.  In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power. (Or use a saucepan on the stove.) Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don't scramble it. Add the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.  Add the flour and stir until just combined, don't over-mix. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.

3.  Evenly add and swirl the Nutella- drizzle Nutella over batter in 5 wide, evenly spaced, parallel lines, each spanning the length of the pan. Like 5 rows of long train tracks. Rotate pan 90-degrees. With a toothpick, starting at the top of the pan, "draw" 4 or 5 evenly spaced lines through the Nutella. You're dragging the toothpick perpendicularly through the first set of lines to create the marbling. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until done. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.
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Monday, April 10, 2017

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

I loved this salad- and so did my husband.  I sent half with him to work and ate the other half.  This made for very large servings; if serving this with other food, the salad would go much further than two.  The fresh herbs and bell pepper made it taste so refreshing, and with all the other flavors, it was awesome.

A friend shared this recipe with me and mentioned it went very well with Trader Joe's Thai Lime & Chili Almonds (or cashews).  I threw some on there and enjoyed those very much.
Vietnamese Chicken Salad
Adapted from Edible Boston
Makes 2 huge servings, or a few smaller ones

¼ cup warm water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1–2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (to taste)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small red chile, seeded and minced

½ medium head Napa cabbage, washed sliced thin
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
2 cups fresh cilantro, mint and/or basil leaves (don't leave these out- I used cilantro + basil)
2 carrots, shredded
½ red bell pepper, sliced thin
¼ cup toasted chopped peanuts (OR TJ's Thai almonds or cashews)

1.  For the dressing, mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and divide evenly between 2 dressing-sized containers. For the salad, toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl, divide evenly between 2 to-go containers and pack dressing containers on top. To serve, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
(These directions are for packing for on the go- if serving at home, just pour dressing over whole salad, toss, and serve.)
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Grand Canyon- North Rim

I was going through old pictures from FOUR years ago and I realized I never posted pics of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon when we went on our Southwest trip.  We didn't go to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon; we loved the North Rim.  It's a lot less crowded, has awesome views, and nice cool weather even in the middle of the summer.  We went on some hikes and ate at the buffet in the dining room for lunch.  (It was good! I usually don't think National Park food is good at all.) Before eating, we sat out on the patio, overlooking the canyon, and were the only ones out there. The North Rim is great.  Here's the National Park's website to find out more info if you plan on going. Tons of pics below. Of course, these pics don't do justice to the grandeur you can see in person here.  It's amazing.

These are the outline of some ancient Native American dwellings- you are free to walk around and explore this area.

Highest point in the North Rim.

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