Salted Caramel Brownies with a Pretzel Crust

There’s a story to this recipe, friends.  And that story is that I basically found the most labor intensive ways to complete the recipe, and went for it.  Case in point – I crushed the pretzels in a plastic tupperware using a potato masher.  I also did all the mixing by hand, which afterwards I yelled at myself about because I HAVE A MIXER.

At least I got an upper body workout in.  I even switched arms halfway through the mixing time, because, balance guys.  It’s all about balance.

These are the sort of crazy brownies that look like an unnecessary amount of work, but actually come together pretty easily.  I’m usually put off by fancy crusts, but this one is really pretty simple, and the salty reward is well worth the extra ten or fifteen minutes.

If you love salty-sweet foods you will love these brownies.  Even if you don’t love salty-sweet foods I’d say you’d be hard pressed to not like these.

By the way, I thought I’d show you how all these desserts end up looking when I cart them to school for my SBA peeps.

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I feel like some of the allure of treats like this is ruined when you just plop them in a big ol’ tupperware.  But…it does make carting said treats to the law school easy.  And, I think putting parchment paper between the layers makes it not a total loss for presentation.

Salted Caramel Brownies with a Pretzel Crust

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Ingredients:

For the crust:

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup pretzels, crushed

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

For the brownie:

1 1/3 cup flour

3/4 cup butter

7 ounces semi sweet chocolate

1/4 cup water

3/4 cups brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

Cocoa powder for dusting

For choco-caramel drizze:

3 oz of chocolate

3 0z caramel

Directions:

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper. In a bowl, combine all ingredients and press evenly into the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.

For the brownies:

In a medium sauce pan heat the chocolate, water and butter.  Heat until the chocolate has melted and pour into a large bowl.  Let cool for 10 minutes and then add the sugars.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix for two minutes.  Add the flour, salt and cinnamon and mix just until combined.

Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

For the choco-caramel drizzle

Make sure to wait until the brownies are fully cooled.  Melt the chocolate and caramel separately and drizzle over the brownies.  I found it easiest to dip a spoon into the melted candies and then drizzle it by swinging the spoon over the brownies.  Maybe not the most efficient way, but it worked for me.

Finish with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Source:  Bakers Royale

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Sautéd Kale, Mushrooms and Cranberries

Most of the pictures I took of this side dish make it look like the most drab and depressing veggie dish out there, but I promise you it is not!  Look at this live-action-cooking picture I took…

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See how bright and vibrant it is?!?! I blame the fact that I took these photos at 7:00 at night (the one above was taken with the stove light on) for the dark vibe.  Or maybe it’s because I made it while watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II – arguably the darkest HP movie.

That’s it, actually.  I blame Voldemort.

But, honestly guys, this is a bright and cheery side dish.  If you’ve never had kale before, this is the perfect way to try it.  Kale goes deliciously with the tender mushrooms and sweet cranberries.  I’ve had kale a lot of different ways, and this just might be my favorite way!

Sautéd Kale, Mushrooms and Cranberries

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter, room temperature

1 tbsp olive oil

1 leek, only the light green and white parts

1 shallot

8 0z. mushrooms, sliced

12 oz kale, de-stemmed and chopped

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup chicken stock

salt/pepper

Directions:

Melt the butter and the oil in a large sauté pan.  Slice the leek and shallot thinly and add to the pan with the mushrooms, stirring frequently.  Cook until the vegetables are softened, around 6 minutes.  Add the kale and cook until wilted, around 8 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and cranberries, and bring to a boil.  Scrape the browned bits of the bottom and cook for another one to two minutes. Salt and pepper the dish to taste and serve warm.

Source: Giada’s Weeknight Meals

Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies

Mother Nature, I have some beef with you.

First, you bring the initial polar vortex.  I was going to be angry with you then, but it was winter break so I didn’t actually have anywhere pressing to be.  I could sit indoors every day wrapped in a blanket with a mug of tea, and that was perfectly acceptable.  But I felt bad for all those poor souls who had to traipse out into subzero temperatures and roads so slick that my dad literally slid through a red light.   You still screwed those people over pretty bad, Mother Nature.  Still, though, I was willing to give you a free pass.

You brought us those 40 degree days, and I happily watched my previously snow-filled front lawn show patches of green.  I should have known that was just a tease, because 40 degree days in January can only be a lull in what will still be a pretty shitty winter.  But, I figured we’d just go back to the mid-20s or 30s.  I mean, we live in Illinois, not Minnesota.  But no, then Polar Vortex: Act II rolled on in.

Today it is supposed to be one degree as a high.  Which means it will probably hover more around 0 or a few degrees below zero for most of the day, and why is this winter going and pulling a Snape on all of us?  Are you our friend or are you not?  I just want to know.  Because some days I think, hey, this winter isn’t that bad, and then other days it’s a real big you-know-what.

So, Mother Nature, get your act together and make winter behave.  Because I don’t think my wardrobe can handle any more of these crazy weather fluctuations.

On a less frustrating note, I made these cookies for a surprise birthday party on Friday and then – SURPRISE – promptly forgot to bring them.  Luckily, I had a dinner party in my calendar for the next night, and just brought them to that.  I’m happy to report that they were a hit!

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These cookies include my absolute favorite ingredient – browned butter!  There is not one cookie made with browned butter that I do not love.  There something about the flavor that I think just adds so much to an otherwise simple cookie.  Here, the combination of the browned butter and brown sugar gives it almost a touch of a molasses taste.  It’s delicious, and the perfect winter cookie!

Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies

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Ingredients:

14 tbsp butter

1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 1/2 tbsp vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the 1/4 cups of sugar and brown sugar, and set aside for later.

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan and heat until it turns a golden brown and smells nutty.  Whisk occasionally to keep the butter from burning.  When it is browned, pour it into a bowl and let it cool for 15 minutes.

Add the sugars to the butter and whisk until well combined.  Add the egg and egg yolk, mixing it well.  Add the vanilla and mix again.

Stir in the flour mixture until a dough forms.  Scoop the dough into about 1 and 1/2 tbsp sized balls, and roll the dough in the sugar mixture you made before.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.

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Source:  Joanne Eats Well With Others

TV Show Thursdsay

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post where I wax and wane about my TV loves.  It is no surprise to anyone who even remotely follows this blog that I love television.  It keeps me sane and endlessly entertained.  This year there has been a whole crop of new shows that I absolutely love.  Some of them have even creeped ahead of my tried-and-trued-favorites in the TV rankings!  I’ll start with my most recent discovery.

Intelligence

I was adamantly opposed to this show when I first saw the promos.  The basic concept is that an esteemed military officer gets this smart chip implanted in his head that connects him to the entire communication and information grid, and craziness ensues.  It sounded too much like my beloved Chuck (which was axed too soon) and I wrote it off as a cheap knockoff.  Spoiler alert – I was wrong.  Interesting characters are paired with smart, and fast-paced writing.  I can’t wait for the next episode to air.

The Crazy Ones

I am CRAZY for this show.  You really can’t go wrong when you have Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar (yeah, Buffy!) on the same screen.  Just when you think it can’t get any better, add in the amazing supporting cast and the fact that it is set at an advertising agency in Chicago, and it does just that.  It’s good.  CRAZY good.

Sleepy Hollow

I’m not the only one to write glowingly about this show.  It’s just me and pretty much everyone else on the interwebs.  A revolutionary war veteran suddenly wakes up in current day Sleepy Hollow and works with a delightfully brazen and frank police officer to fend off literal evildoing.  It’s creepy.  It’s gripping.  It’s full of Ichabod Crane in period clothing.

So, there’s that.

What shows are you guys watching this season?!

Ree’s Dreamy Apple Pie

Winter driving is new to me.  I didn’t drive until I was 18, and then my car stayed at home all through college.  It was only on the rare occasion over winter breaks where Mother Nature graced us with a fresh coat of snow that I even experienced a bit of what winter driving entails.  Today I had the pleasure (sarcasm alert!) of driving back to school after a moderate winter storm, and while it could have been much worse it still meant two hours of white-knuckle-driving and an excess of curse words.  At one point I tried to stop and slid a terrifying four to five feet before finally stopping just short of the SUV in front of me.  About 50% of my excessive curse words were said in that five seconds of slippage.

It also was exceedingly windy, which made for a wonderful time on the highway.  I have a taller car, and the entire time I felt like my car was going to blow away like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz.  I’m pretty sure I tempted fate at least twice by the time I got back to Champaign.

Accurate

After the drive from hell, I would have really loved a slice of this apple pie.  I used to never like apple pie.  I thought it was boring next to its more adventuresome pie cousins, like french silk or Oreo cream, not to mention lemon supreme.  Don’t even get me started on my love for lemon supreme pie.  I mean, it literally states its superiority in its name.

This apple pie is a game changer, though.  A cross between a pie and an apple crumble, this pie takes the the best features from both desserts and creates something truly unique, and has pushed its way to the top spot in my pie ranking.

Step aside, Lemon Supreme, there’s a new supreme in town.

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Side note – I just searched a good fifteen minutes for that “supreme” GIF.  I really need school to start up again.

Dreamy Apple Pie

Ingredients:

1 whole unbaked pie crust

For the fillings:

3 large apples, cored and sliced thinly

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 tbsp flour

1 cup heavy cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp cinnamon

For the topping:

7 tbsp butter

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup pecans

dash of salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put the apple slices in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together the cream, brown sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tbsp flour, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Pour into the bowl with the apples and mix until the apples are coated.  Put the apples in the pie crust.

For the topping, combine the butter, flour, sugar, pecans, and salt.  Pour on top of the pie, pressing down gently.

Cover the unbaked pie with foil loosely.  Place the pie on a rimmed cookie sheet (some of the filling will probably ooze out during baking) and bake for one hour.  Take off the foil, and let bake for another 15-20 minutes.  The pie is fully baked when it is bubbly and golden brown on top.

Source:  The Pioneer Woman

Rainbow Veggie Pasta with Sausage

There is nothing my dad loves more than a good bargain.  Last summer there was a sale at a local grocery store where they were selling 1 pound bags of pasta for one dollar each.  Naturally, my dad bought out the entire stock.  Which means I have a constant supply of pasta.

Thank you, Dad!

With enough pasta to satisfy the Corleones for weeks, it should come as no surprise that my go-to dinners are pasta dishes.  Beyond my pasta abundance, I just love the versatility of pasta.  There are so many different ways you can serve it, and each way has its own unique flavor profile.  I grew up with heavily sauced pasta, but when I started to cook I experimented more and more with lighter sauces or no sauce at all.  This recipe features no sauce, but there is so much else going on you won’t even notice that the sauce is missing!

Rainbow Veggie Pasta with Sausage

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Ingredients:

1 1lb pasta

1/2 1lb ground sausage

olive oil

zucchini, 4

peppers (any color), 3

mushrooms, 8 0z

3 garlic cloves, minced

red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

Directions:

For the roasted vegetables:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Chop all the vegetables into bite-size pieces.  Pour them into a large baking dish and add olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss until the vegetables are coated in oil.

Roast for 45-60 minutes, tossing the vegetables occasionally.

For the pasta:

Cook the pasta according to the package’s directions.  Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a sauté pan and then add the sausage.  Cook the sausage until browned and juices form, around 12 minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta and roasted vegetables to the skillet and put in the parmesan.  Toss gently until combined.

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Source: Slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and The Wednesday Chef.

Candied Pecans

This is the easiest thing ever, guys.  I almost wish that I didn’t know how easy these were to make, because now I’m going to make them all the time and ruin my salads.  A friend of mine said that I am notorious for making normally healthy foods unhealthy, and at first I was all ready to deny the accusation.

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But then I realized she was right, and this is the perfect example.  I love making harvest salads with greens, apples, walnuts and cranberries.  I could eat them for lunch every day and be a very happy girl.  I made these candied pecans for a harvest salad I brought to a holiday dinner, and now I know my homespun version just won’t taste the same without those candied pecans.  Why eat regular old walnuts when you can have pecans caramelized in butter and brown sugar?  That’s crazy town.

I’m not exaggerating when I say these are ridiculously easy.  All you do is melt some butter, add the pecans and sugar, and then let the caramelize-ing magic happen.  The only tricky part is making sure they don’t burn, but with minimal attention you end up with deliciously crunchy and sweet pecans.  You can swap in other nuts, too.  We’ve got an equal opportunity recipe here.

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You’re welcome.

Candied Pecans

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Ingredients

2 cups of pecans

4 tablespoons (half a stick) of butter, salted

4 tablespoons of brown sugar

Directions

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the pecans and toss to coat.  Next, add in the brown sugar and toss to coat again.  Cook until the sugar has caramelized.

Spread the nuts on wax paper to cool.

Source: Food.com

Grandpa’s Sicilian Pasta

This pasta is fantastic and it is not even remotely healthy.  I think that’s one of my favorite things about it.  So many dishes these days try to pass as healthy.  Add some kale!  Slip in some flaxseed oil!  Swap in whole grain pasta!

No whole grain pasta here.  No kale.  No flaxseed oil.  Nothing but regular old pasta, breadcrumbs, olive oil, marinara sauce, and a large handful of cheese.  This pasta means business – delicious business.

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Do you hear that?  Do you hear that sound?  That’s the sound of health gurus whimpering at the carb overload.  But…there’s another sound emerging.  A wonderful, beautiful, happy sound…

Carblovers

Carb-lovers rejoice, this recipe is for you!  And, sure, you could probably make it healthy with some spinach or broccoli thrown in.  There’s always room for a small salad on the side.  Or, you can release your inner fat kid and just hunker down with the bowl and go to town.  You can always be healthy tomorrow.

Grandpa’s Sicilian Pasta

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Ingredients:

1/2 pound of pasta

1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup asiago cheese

1 cup marinara sauce (or meat sauce if you’re feeling like a carnivore)

Directions

Cook pasta according to the package’s instructions.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the breadcrumbs and cook until they are browned, tossing the breadcrumbs occasionally.  Make sure not to move them around too much, though, or they won’t brown.

Once the breadcrumbs are browned add the pasta sauce and give it all a good stir.  Next, pour in the cooked pasta and toss to coat.  Finally, add the asiago cheese and give it another good stir.

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Kreacher’s French Onion Soup

Today’s soup is brought to you by this charming house-elf.

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This is another winner from my Harry Potter cookbook.  I’m having way too much fun with all of these recipes.  It’s even more fun now that I’m doing my Harry Potter re-read and I’m coming upon a lot of the different dishes in the books.  What can I say, I’m a nerd.  But, you all knew that already.

I’ve been having a major craving for this soup lately, but the screwy Chicago weather has left me house-bound without any onions.  As you can imagine, it’s pretty difficult (I’d even say impossible) to make french onion soup without onions.

When I first made this I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the french onion soups I’d gotten in restaurants.  My main worry was that I didn’t have gruyere to melt on top – and as this was during Champaign’s ridiculous snow storm, not to mention finals, there was no way I was driving to the grocery store just for some cheese.  Besides, impromptu grocery store trips are mid-semester shenanigans.

I realized, though, that what makes french onion soup taste the way it does is not the cheese, but the richness of the broth from simmering the onions in it for all that time.  I was not disappointed with this soup in the least, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something different to make during these cold weeks!  As it’s -10 here (bbbrrrrr) I’ll definitely be enjoying some.

Kreacher’s French Onion Soup

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Ingredients

4 medium onions

1/2 stick of butter, melted

salt/pepper

1/4 tsp sugar

1 tbsp all purpose flour

6 cups beef stock

Parmesan cheese, for serving OR gruyere cheese

Directions

Peel the onions and slice them as thinly as possible.  In a heavy soup pot, melt the butter.  Add the onions and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the sugar and cook until the onions have softened, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the flour and gradually add the stock, constantly stirring while you bring the soup to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls (oven-safe if you are going to melt gruyere in the oven) and if you are going the parmesan route, simply sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the tops and serve with crusty bread.  If you are melting gruyere on top, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of slivered gruyere and 1/2 tsp of raw onion on each bowl.  Broil in the oven until the cheese is browned and bubbly.

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