It’s been fun!

Yes, Try It Tuesday has been fun, but the time has come for this tired — scratch that, exhausted mama to prioritize where she’s using her energy and what’s contributing to getting her where she wants to be. While I enjoy writing this blog, the time I spending planning and writing it would be better used on studying for the new career I hope to start by the end of the year, planning Sunday school lessons, hanging out with my husband, or just relaxing. So I’ll continue to experiment in the kitchen, but only those lucky enough to talk to me regularly will hear about the results. Thanks to those who took the time to read Try It Tuesday and to those who are supporting me as I let go of some things so I can be better at others. 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Black Bean Brownies

If you prefer cakey brownies, this recipe is not for you. If you are unable to wait for a while before sampling your treats from the oven, this recipe is not for you. Now then, if you like cool, fudgy, sweet treats, read on!

I’ve had black bean brownies before and felt rather underwhelmed. The flavor and texture were only okay, certainly not tempting enough for me to take the time to prepare them myself. However, I have a whole lot of beans in my pantry right now. I hoped between the peanut butter and the admonition from the blogger who posted this recipe to let the brownies cool in the fridge overnight before eating them I’d found a winning recipe. 

Overall, I’d say that if I’m going to make black bean brownies, this is how I’d do it. Check out the recipe at the following link. My comments on the recipe will be just below!

http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2017/01/30/peanut-butter-brownies-swirl/
These really are fudge-like. I loved pairing the cool richness of the brownie with the hot sharpness of my coffee this afternoon. I must say that the health benefits from the beans made me feel better about my afternoon indulgence, and the chocolate soothed my nerves after the fiasco (three times over) that was potty training thus far today. I let my oldest son try a few bites, and he didn’t notice that these were not traditional brownies — he knows when the pizza is homemade though. That said, I could tell the difference. The texture isn’t quite as smooth, and I noticed the floral notes from the honey I used as the sweetener. It wasn’t bad, but it was different. I might experiment with white or brown sugar next time since I don’t have a problem with using sugar in my desserts. Finally, while the peanut butter is a nice addition, the flavor is fairly subtle here. If you’re a peanut butter fiend, don’t expect that element to dominate. 

I still have three cans of black beans in my pantry. Let me know if you have a great recipe to use them in!

Snickerdoodle Blondies

I was very uncertain about these blondies when I came across this recipe. After all, snickerdoodles are supposed to be so soft they practically melt in your mouth. On the other hand, blondies are chewy and buttery. Could these two sweet snacks really meld into one? I didn’t know, but in my house, snickerdoodles always disappear fast, so I thought this recipe was worth a try.

Boy, was it ever worth it! Check it out here: https://sugarspunrun.com/snickerdoodle-blondies/

Although my husband looked at his first serving with a great deal of suspicion, he actually ended up bargaining with me for the last blondie in the cookie jar!

Which brings me to my comments on this recipe. These bars store well in a sealed container after you’ve sliced them. Or, put them in your kids’ lunchboxes for a great homemade treat.

Like most bars, they are also simpler and quicker to make than traditional snickerdoodles. The success of this recipe makes me want to explore recipes for other bar-versions of our favorite cookies.

As for flavor and texture, “blondies” is a misnomer because these capture the smooth, thick, melty perfection of a good snickerdoodle. They don’t taste super sweet despite the 2 cups of sugar. And don’t be afraid of the topping. The cinnamon might look overwhelming on the top of these bars, but the flavor and texture are perfectly balanced.

My husband has already insisted that I make these again. Try them and see if this becomes a repeat recipe in your household as well.

Hurricane Stew (and the Best Chocolate Cake Ever)

So as Hurricane Irma rumbles closer, I’ve decided to post early. Authorities are warning us we’ll most likely lose power for a few hours to a few days, so I’m doubtful I will be able to post on Tuesday. Instead, I’ll share what I made for dinner tonight as we watched the wind pick up and the rain fall faster. I’m calling this Hurricane Stew. 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 pound beef stew meat, cut into chunks

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 can condensed tomato soup

1 bay leaf

1 cube beef bouillon 

3-4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped

1 can (15-ounce) white beans (I used navy), drained and rinsed

Directions

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and beef. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until the beef is seared and the onions are soft and translucent. Pour into a slow cooker. Add tomato soup, one can of water, beef bouillon, bacon, and bay leaf. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

In the last hour of cooking, remove the bay leaf and add the beans. Serve with a hearty bread or rolls.

My brother-in-law and I really enjoyed the soup. My husband would have preferred that I use potatoes instead of beans, but thought it was just fine otherwise. My son ate without fighting, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say he liked it. Still, I’ll take it.

I really don’t have any modifications to make. The base of the soup was thick and flavorful, the beans kept a creamy consistency, and the beef was tender. We don’t get much in the way of soup weather in hurricane country, but today fit the bill and this soup met that need.

Now, as a bonus, I’m going to share a second recipe for chocolate cake that I made a few days ago. I had been prepping for the hurricane and needed a quiet moment of baking to relax and rejuvenate. I don’t usually make cakes from scratch because, as I’ve said before, the result generally falls short of the texture and flavor of boxed mixes. This cake made me eat my words – and boy was it tasty! Check out the recipe here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/king-arthur-flours-original-cake-pan-cake-recipe

The cake is moist and topped with a luscious frosting. The only change I made was to add a little powdered sugar to the frosting to sweeten sand thicken it a bit. Honestly, this easy-to-make cake was better than cake I’ve had in restaurants. Enjoy these two recipes on a chilly evening and you won’t mind the weather outside your door.

 

Milk-Braised Pork Loin

I had actually chosen a different recipe for this week’s Try It Tuesday, but I had a full gallon of milk in my refrigerator that was going to expire soon. So instead, I made some rice pudding for fellowship at church and gave this recipe for milk-braised pork loin in a slow cooker a try for dinner. 

It’s a recipe with a lot of flavor potential: fresh sage, garlic, lemon. I must say, my house smelled great from the moment I started searing the pork and sautéing the garlic and sage. Sadly, these flavors didn’t carry through for me — though that may not be the fault of the recipe. My sauce broke! Either the low setting on my slow cooker runs a little hot or I simply cooked the pork loin in its sauce too long. I’ll spare you the details of the mess in my slow cooker, but I think the garlic, sage, and lemon flavored the sauce (which was inedible), not the pork. 

Luckily, the pork still tasted good, if a little lackluster, and it was tender. I won’t rush to make this again, but if I need to use up a lot of milk, I’d be willing to give this recipe another shot. If you try it and it works for you, let me know how the sauce tastes!

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/braised-pork-with-lemon-sage

Chicken and Kale Casserole

 As I read through this Try It Tuesday’s recipe, I realized that I could do all the prep for the Chicken and Kale Casserole during nap time. I love when that happens. That’s also why I am in love with my slow cooker. Advanced-prep meals relieve so much stress at dinner. 

Anyway… I must say that I am glad that I read the comments for this recipe; I usually don’t. A number of people described the resulting dish as bland. They also suggested simple fixes like adding salt and herbs. So, you’ll find my additions and other notes below and the original recipe here: http://www.marthastewart.com/862208/chicken-and-kale-casserole

I halved the recipe, but used the same amount of onion, garlic, and lemon zest as the full version (remember, fight blandness!). I also used canned, chunked chicken, which I’ve never used before. I had it in my pantry from our move to our current location and wanted to use it up. It was actually flavorful and worked well. The can said it was rib meat and it already has some salt in it thanks to the canning process. To up the flavor subtly, I added 

  • a good deal of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander 
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

These additions gave a background of spice notes to the star flavors of the dish: lemon and chicken. The way in which the lemon shone through pleasantly surprised my palate. I appreciated how it’s brightness lightened what could have otherwise felt like a lot of ricotta cheese. If you have less picky/more adventurous eaters than I do, you could probably even double the coriander and nutmeg.

Sadly, my family’s reaction was less pleased than my own, so I don’t know if it’s worth making again for our household. That said, my son ate his required three bites without complaining or fussing and I can think of a number of extended family members who would enjoy this casserole. If you like lemon-pepper seasoning for fish and chicken, you’d probably like this casserole as well.

Hot Dog Bun Garlic Toast

I had a partial package of hot dog buns in my pantry that needed using and in my family we prefer wheat bread for our everyday sandwiches. So I turned to the internet for some ideas. Croutons were a popular option; sadly I’m the only salad-eater in the house. With the ridiculously hot weather we’vd been having, I liked the sound of a white bean panzanella salad; but again, I’m the only salad-eater. When I saw multiple recipes for turning these sandwich staples into garlic toast, I was pretty sure I’d found a winner, especially since I was already planning to make spaghetti tonight. You’ll find the recipe I used here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/154209/quick-garlic-breadsticks/

There were a number of recipes for this, so if this doesn’t work for you and what you have on hand, you should be able to find something that does. I made a couple tweaks. I didn’t have the dried basil, so I used a few dashes of dried oregano. I also used butter instead of margarine. Finally, my oven runs hot and this bread is already cooked, so I decreased the oven temperature to 385 degrees and pulled my garlic toast out before the 10-minute mark. The key really is to watch them closely and take them out when they are colored how you like your bread. 

These are less hearty than the store-bought garlic toast. However, I felt like that paired well with a carb-heavy dish like spaghetti. Everyone in my house liked them, including my son who is notorious for refusing anything that varies from how I usually make a particular dish. I’ll be making these again the next time I have leftover hot dog buns. 

Chicken Cordon Bleu

I wasn’t planning on blogging about this recipe, but when Vincent eats a new food without complaint or drama I have to share.

I looked at a variety of recipes for Chicken Cordon Bleu, including riffs like casseroles. They all looked tasty, but in my household simplicity is king. I took the basic ideas and techniques from my research and came up with the following recipe:

Ingredients

4 thin slices of chicken breast 

4 thin pieces of ham steak

4 slices of Swiss cheese

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup fine bread crumbs (I used garlic and herb flavor)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Season one side of each slice of chicken with salt and pepper. Do not over season with salt as the ham and cheese are salty on their own.

Place the egg and bread crumbs in two separate shallow dishes. Layer the remaining ingredients: first a piece of chicken, then a slice of cheese, then a ham steak. Roll from the short end. Dip in the egg. Roll in bread crumbs. Secure the meat and cheese with toothpicks and place.

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. 

That’s it! Do not use lunch meat for the chicken. I buy thin, raw slices of chicken breast. You can also pound breast meat, but you’d have to get it very thin (1/4 inch or so) or increase your cooking time. However, you could use thicker slices of lunch meat for the ham.
This is flavorful and moist. Moreover it’s full of things kids (and adults for that matter) love. I hope that this super easy supper brings some dinnertime peace to other moms of picky preschoolers.

Mug Cakes

Since our return from vacation I have been trying to nix unnecessary snacks in an effort to be healthier. That means the pantry and cookie jar are a bit bare. But sometimes I just need an early afternoon pick-me-up. In the past, I’d just whip up a batch of cookies; however, I know my weaknesses. I’d be the one to eat most of that batch.

Enter the mug cake. I’ve seen quite a few recipes for mug cakes, mug breakfasts, and mug entrees pop up on social media and I’ve saved a few that I was particularly curious about. My craving for one-serving treat yesterday made it the perfect time to finally try one of these cakes. You can find the recipe for the first cake I tried (chocolate peanut butter!) below: 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake

I didn’t do the peanut butter mousse or the chocolate syrup; I was in the mood for something a bit more simple and I wanted to be sure to taste the cake. The flavor was good, but slightly marred by the fact that I overcooked the cake. I checked it after one minute and it looked like the middle wasn’t cooked yet, so I continued cooking it. What a mistake! If I had stopped there, I would have had a molten cake. Instead, the texture was dry and crumbly… I still ate every bite with the help of the Cool Whip I put on top, but it wasn’t as decadent as it should have been.

The fact that this didn’t work out quite like I’d hoped inspired me to search for a vanilla mug cake. I also hoped to find an option for my husband when he randomly asks for cake after dinner. The recipe for a vanilla mug cake that I tried today can be found below:

Vanilla Mug Cake

This was a great success. I stopped at one minute, then only added 15 seconds to finish cooking it. The texture was super moist and gooey. The flavor was perfectly simple. I whipped up a basic buttercream icing that I put in a dollop on top so it melted down from the top into each bite. At the bottom, there was a creamy sauce. I’m not sure if it was more molten cake batter or melted icing, but it tasted delicious. I think I can wow my hubby with this recipe.

Just a few notes: one mug cake could easily be shared by two people. Also, be careful not to overcook your cakes. After that first minute, cook more in small increments. Finally, just because these are small, don’t assume they’re less complicated than regular cakes. You don’t just dump all the ingredients in a mug and cook. You will still have multiple dishes – they’ll just be smaller dishes!

What started as a treat just for me is now a dessert that I’m pumped to share with my husband.

Pork and Beans Bread… No, Really.

I recently found a new series of cheesy mystery novels that I enjoy. In part, like them because the main character owns a cookie shop and so they include some creative recipes for sweets. Usually, I just drool as I read them, but the book that I just finished included a recipe for Pork and Beans Bread. I wasn’t convinced by the title, but as much as my family likes baked beans, we never eat an entire recipe yield or the leftovers. I figured this recipe was worth a try since it would help solve that particular problem.

For the most part, I followed the recipe as it was written. However, I used homemade baked beans from dinner the night before. Since mine are a little less saucy and sweet than store-bought baked beans, I added a tablespoon of molasses to the batter. I also only had about ¾ cup of oil in the house, so in the end I added about ¼ cup milk.

Ingredients


1 can (15 ounce) of pork and beans (2 cups of leftover homemade baked beans works, too)

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F., rack in the middle position.

Prepare your pans. Spray two 9-inch by 5-inch by 3-inch-deep loaf pans with Pam or another nonstick cooking spray.


Don’t drain the pork and beans. Pour them into a food processor or a blender, juice and all, and process them until they’re pureed smooth with no lumps.


Place beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the pureed pork and beans and mix them in well.

Add the vegetable oil and the vanilla extract. Mix well.


Add the sugar and mix it in. Then mix in the baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir until everything is incorporated.


Stir in the chopped nuts.


Add the flour in one-cup increments, stirring after each addition.


Spoon half of the batter into one loaf pan and the other half of the batter into the second loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 to 60 minutes. […]


Cool for 20 minutes. Run the sharp blade of a knife around inside of all four sides of the pan to loosen the bread, and then tip it out onto the wire rack. Cool the bread completely.


(From Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke, Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2009)

Now for the interesting part: how did it taste? Pretty good, actually. The flavor mellows as it cools and you don’t really taste the baked bean flavor. Instead, the molasses and cinnamon come through nicely. The texture is thick and soft like banana bread, but lighter and not as dense. The only thing I didn’t like was how tough the bacon from my homemade baked beans became. It was like finding bits of plastic in some of the bites. Therefore, if you have bacon in your beans, consider picking it out or going with vegetarian beans.

My husband hasn’t ventured a taste, but since Vincent helped me prepare it, he tried some spread with a little peanut butter with his breakfast. One taste and he giggled with glee. That reaction alone means I’ll make this again.