Monday, February 27, 2012

Granola Bars

You absolutely have to make these Granola Bars. They are so easy, five minutes max. Seriously. Check out her recipe, I love it!

Lauren only uses seven ingredients. Just seven! Check the box of bars in your pantry, I'm pretty sure there are more than seven ingredients in those puppies.

If nothing else convinces you, check out Alton Brown's view of of all of these "bars", he has some excellent ideas! Lauren's recipe is actually really similar, the quick oats take out the toasting.

I used Quaker Whole Hearts cereal instead of Rice Krispies. Who wouldn't enjoy a little extra love in their granola bar?

The best part of this recipe is that you can create any flavor combination you want. Nuts, dried fruit, spices, use your favorites!

Be sure to really press these down into the pan. You all would have laughed at me me standing on a footstool for extra leverage.
A short girl's gotta do what she's gotta do.

Make up a batch and pack them all in snack-sized zip bags for a fast and easy breakfast or a quick grab for a lunch bag.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Italian Sausage Artichoke Pizza

Italian Sausage Artichoke Soup Pizza

My Granny used to make the most wonderful Italian sausage and artichoke soup. I don't know a thing about where the recipe came from, or how on earth it came to us. When it did, it was pretty much life-changing. You can guarantee everyone's attendance if you mention you'll be making this soup for any occasion. Our family loves it so much, we've made it our traditional Christmas Evening dinner.

However, if you're anywhere in the Midwest, you know we haven't exactly been having "soup weather". Winter has skipped out on us, and we're practically headed straight for Spring. (Our tulips and daffodils have even had a peek out of the soil to see what's going on.)

Instead of soup, I've put a spin on this old favorite: everything that makes the soup so wonderful in pizza form. Ohh how I love pizza. The whole wheat crust, sweet and savory tomatoes, spicy sausage, soft artichoke hearts, sweet onions and salty parmesan, everything is right here. The hubby had first bite, immediately saying that it was terrible, that he would have to sacrifice himself and eat all of the pizza so I wouldn't have to suffer.

This is good stuff.

There are a lot of things going on here -- fresh pizza dough, a quick sauce, and then building this deliciousness. Let's get started!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough:

First things first, let's start with the dough. The recipe below makes four 12-14 inch thin crust pizzas, or two 12-14 in thicker crust pizzas. (If you only want 2 thin crust pizzas you can freeze the remaining half of the dough or keep them in the fridge for a couple of days. You can also halve the recipe. My thought is thin crusts just mean more pizza.)

If homemade dough isn't your thing, snag a couple of pre-made whole wheat crusts from your deli. 

1 1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

If you have a bread machine, layer the ingredients in order in the machine and select a normal dough cycle.

Otherwise, stir the yeast into the water and allow it to foam for just a few minutes. Stir in the oil, and combine with the flour and salt. Knead the dough until smooth, 10-15 minutes.

Cover the dough and let it rest in a warm but draft-free place until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes. When the dough has doubled, divide it into four equal parts and allow it to rest while you prepare everything else for the pizza.

Pizza Sauce:
This sauce is so easy and fast you have no reason not to make your own. The recipe below makes enough for two pizzas. Sacrifice your breath for the garlic. You will not regret it. The sausage in this recipe is fairly salty, so there is no additional salt in the sauce. If you are going to use this recipe for another pizza with a meat choice that isn't quite so salty, feel free to add a pinch.

1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, grated (use a microplane or garlic press) or 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil

Stir all the ingredients together. Seriously.

Now let's get to the construction. Get that oven heated to 500 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, get that in there, too, otherwise heat your baking pan along with the oven. This will help ensure a crispy crust.

Italian Sausage Artichoke Pizza:
2 thick or thin pizza crusts from recipe above
1 batch pizza sauce
1 pound to 20 ounces hot Italian sausage (I used Jennie-O turkey sausage), browned and drained
1 14 oz can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Roll out your pizza crust as desired, thick or thin. If you're going with thick crusts, pre-bake the crust for 5-6 minutes.

Spread half of the sauce on the pizza and give yourself a good layer of sausage. Add the artichoke hearts, breaking them up and top with half of the onion.
Almost there! Pile on half of the cheeses and slide that bad boy into the oven. Bake your pizza for 12-15 minutes, until the crust and cheeses have browned and the sauce is a little bubbly. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Let your pizza cool for a few minutes while you slide the next one into the oven. Remember, if you burn your mouth because you can't wait, you won't be able to taste just how delicious this pizza is. That would be terrible.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sweetheart Brownies

I love Red Velvet cake. We had it at our wedding, we have it on our anniversary. I thought I would be a genius and set out to make Red Velvet Brownies this week.

Chemistry got in my way.

What makes a great cake is the exact opposite of what makes a great brownie. I love the light, tenderness of a Red Velvet cake and the dense, fudgy, chewiness of a brownie. A true Red Velvet cake's greatness comes from chemistry -- the buttermilk, baking soda and vinegar reacting with the cocoa for that rusty red.

Not so much for a brownie. Each test came out dry and cakey, no where near the texture I was aiming for. I had to ditch the baking soda & vinegar.

These may not be a true Red Velvet brownie, but you will be pleased with the texture, a red touch for Valentine's day and a perfect cream cheese topping. Bake them low and slow to set the cream cheese without browning.

Remember that a brownie is only as good as your chocolate, be sure to look for quality baking chocolate with a level of intensity you like. Add as much food coloring as you like, but go a little at a time. The color will intensify a bit as the brownies bake.

Thankfully I've had some wonderful friends who have so willingly sacrificed themselves to help test brownies all week. Bake up these brownies to share with your sweetheart!

Sweetheart Brownies:

For the brownies:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) semi-sweet or dark chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon red food coloring
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the cream cheese topping:
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg white

Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Melt butter and chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave 30 seconds at a time until just melted. Stir in sugar.

Lightly whisk together eggs, vanilla, and food coloring. Fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture.

Sift together flour, cocoa, and salt. Fold into batter until just combined and pour into a greased 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan.

Cream the cream cheese and sugar together until well combined and slowly blend in the egg white. Spread the cream cheese on top of the brownie batter.

Bake until a toothpick comes out dry with crumbs, about 45-50 minutes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Super Scarf

My best girl requested a super scarf for Christmas this year. Such a super project wasn't completed for Christmas, but definitely in time for the rest of winter. Well, at least as much winter as we've had here in the plains.

Katie requested something twisty, something with pockets, something huge and squishy. She got her wish with this Super Scarf. Reversible cables are what makes this scarf super. 

Just long enough to slip your hands in!
Katie isn't enjoying this. At all.
The Cascade Magnum was a perfect choice. Plenty of wooly goodness for warmth, wonderfully squishy in the reversible cable. Loads of depth in the color.
This is one of my favorite projects. For one of my favorite people. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Holly Dip

Holly Dip just might be my favorite party food. Ever! Holly Dip is really Jalapeno Dip, my dear Holly is just always the one to make it for me, extra spicy. A creamy mix of cheese, green chiles and jalapenos.

Holly is graciously allowing me to share her dip so we can all enjoy the goodness. I added a little of my favorite cheese, gruyere, for an extra melty twist. Whip up a batch for your Super Bowl party and everyone will love it!

Holly Dip: 
16 oz low- or non-fat cream cheese
8 oz low- or non-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
2-3 jalapenos, diced
2 8 oz cans green chiles

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl mix together the cream cheese, sour cream and salt. Fold in half of the parmesan, gruyere, jalapenos and green chiles.
Spread the dip into a greased 8x8 or 9x9 pan. Top with remaining parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and finish baking, about another 10 minutes to brown. 
Serve with a sliced baguette or Stacy's pita chips. Enjoy a fast and oh so delicious Super Bowl snack!