Sunday, July 29, 2012

Popcorn Popping

I've been in a slump at work. The kids in my swim lessons don't seem to be as cute as normal, my patience is wearing thin faster, and I'm starting to burn out. It's horrible! So Sam, my Pavarotti-Superman, swooped in, rescuing me from my rut with a great movie and a foot massage. And you know what goes great with a movie? Popcorn. But not any plain old, buttery popcorn. Oh, no. I needed sugar. And maybe a little bit of caramel. And marshmallows, too!

Does that not look divine? (It was.) Don't you want to try some? (You do.) It's so easy, you'll never have regular popcorn ever again. Life-changing stuff, I tell you what.

Caramel Marshmallow Popcorn

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
10 marshmallows (regular sized)
12 cups (which is 2 bags of microwaveable) popped popcorn

***** Do not halve this recipe!!! You end up cooking it for too long and while it is tasty, it is a clumpy mess. *****

Microwave the butter and brown sugar for a minute and a half to two minutes. Stir well.

Now add the marshmallows. Microwave for another two minutes.

Pour it over your popcorn. Wait like, 10 seconds. Then dig in!

We got through the commercials and maybe 5 minutes of actual movie before the popcorn mysteriously disappeared. Seriously. It's that fantastic!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chubby Hubby, The Remake

Do you like ice cream? At my house, it's a big part of our balanced diet. ;) I love me some mint chocolate chip or peanut butter goodness (duh.). However, my hubby is a big fan of Chubby Hubby ice cream.

And let's face it: my other two favorite men in the world make some pretty amazing stuff. Oh, Ben and Jerry. How often I turned to them in times of heartbreak, stress, and wedding planning! The photo is from here, with a recipe for Chubby Hubby cookies that alas, I must save for another day. It did get me thinking of what else you could do with a pretzel, peanut butter, and chocolate combo! And that's when I stumbled upon a recipe for something Sam almost begged me to try. Here's a sneak peak:

Mmmm... Truffles! They're quite amazing, if I do say so myself! Let's get cracking!

Chubby Hubby Truffles
from BrownEyedBaker

1 1/2 cups pretzels (whatever shape, I just like snacking on the sticks best)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

A pinch of salt
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I suppose you could use milk chocolate, but I'm not a big fan...)
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (Decidedly not! Not after that last almost catastrophe. I used more peanut butter.)

Put the pretzels into a resealable plastic bag and crush them into very small pieces.

Now set that aside for a sec.

In a small-ish bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and salt. You want to make sure all the ingredients are completely smooth when you add the pretzels.

Pour in the pretzels and mix well.

Add the powdered sugar and mix until completely combined.

Here comes the fun part! Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Shape 2 tablespoons into a peanut buttery ball. I made mine on the smaller side to placate my future sense of guilt when I inevitably ate 3. Or 4. Now do that with the rest of the mix. Set them up on your cookie sheet, then put them in the fridge to chill for like 15 minutes.

When it's time to chocolate-cover the truffles, microwave the chocolate chips and peanut butter together in a small bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval. Make sure it's fairly liquidy.

Decidedly, you should do this one at a time. I know from experience. Dip each truffle into the chocolate. Make sure it's completely coated with chocolate.

Return the truffles to the baking sheet, and retire them to the refrigerator once more for about 30 minutes.

This part is optional, but for me, it's mandatory! Melt up some peanut butter and drizzle it all up on them truffles! And then some more chocolate! Oh, and then to make it even more awesome, why not sprinkle some pretzel crumbs on top of that deliciousness? Like this:

Om nom nom! Now eat up!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Peanut Butter and Nutella: Perfect!

Oh my holy heavens! I opened myself Pandora's box with that last peanut butter recipe, and now I can't seem to stop! I seriously went on the HUNT for more yummy things to try that feature peanut butter. I'm not joking. I have a list. And the one at the top of my list is this one:

Be not deceived by its rather ordinary appearance. That is not your average PB cookie. Oh, no. That baby has something awesome going on. You want to know what it is? Alright, fine, I'll tell you. Nutella! It's legen- wait for it -dary! (I'm having HIMYM withdrawals. I'm such a nerd.) So here we go!

Peanut Butter Nutella Swirl Cookies
from Sweet Tooth

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Nutella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium/large bowl, beat together the butter, peanut butter, and both sugars until light and fluffy, which is about 2-3 minutes.

Mmm... already so creamy!

Now, add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter mix until just barely combined.

As you can see, the cookie dough is kinda crumbly. Seems like your average peanut butter cookie, right? Just wait. Here comes the good part.

Microwave the wonderful, amazing, delicious, AWESOME (I like Nutella, okay???) Nutella for about 20 seconds. It shouldn't be too runny when you mix it into the dough.

 Now drizzle it over the dough.

Okay, so I didn't drizzle so much as plop, but it got the job done!

Fold the Nutella in with a rubber spatula until well-mixed throughout all of the dough.

Looks fantastic, right? Here's a close-up:

Pop that dough into the fridge to chill for 15 minutes. Watch some cheesy TV show that's no longer on the air (I picked Buffy.) to pass the time.

Once that's all over and done with, roll the dough into small balls on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet. Or you could just be old-fashioned and grease your cookie sheet, but who does that? Just kidding!

They kinda look like marbles, don't they? Albeit much tastier.

Now make the trademark crisscross on top with a fork. I never did understand why peanut butter cookies were marked like that. But they're sure cute!

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. Mine only took 8, but maybe I was impatient. The edges should turn a nice, golden-brown color.

Now it's time to eat! To be enjoyed thoroughly with a tall glass of cool milk.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beat The Heat With A Sorbet Treat!

I'm sure you were wondering what happened to the rest of those blackberries, since I most certainly did not use all of them. I have made cobblers and pies in the past, and I already made crumb bars, so Sambo suggested I venture outside of my comfort zone. I'm not too keen on that, since things tend to go badly (very badly) for me out of my box. But tentatively, I searched for something new to do. Then I stumbled upon a perfect summer recipe that I wasn't too terrified to try, and I think you'll enjoy it too! Especially if your summers get toasty!

Blackberry Sorbet
adapted from Joy of Baking

1 cup water
1 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 pound frozen (or unfrozen and fresh!) blackberries
2 tablespoons lime juice

First off, we need to make simple syrup. Before you get worried, it's a fairly simple process. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Once that happens, remove it from the heat. You just want it to be hot enough to dissolve the sugar quickly.

Now, add the sugar. Stir until it is completely dissolved.

Transfer the syrup to a heat-proof container, then place it in the refrigerator for about an hour, or the freezer for 15 minutes. You know me, though. Impatient as ever. So I put it into the freezer. You want the syrup to be completely cooled when it hits the blackberries.

If you're using frozen blackberries, make sure they're thawed out before using. If you're using fresh ones, you can skip that part of the step. Now, pop those babies into the blender, add the syrup, and purée!

Next up, we've got to get rid of those pesky seeds. Using a strainer, separate the seeds from the rest of the purée. My strainer happened to be minuscule, so this process took a very, very, very long time.

Try to push as much juice out as you can. Then add the lime juice.

Now, if you have an ice cream maker, this is where the fun starts. If not, it's still pretty fun, just more time-consuming. Place this yummy concoction in your ice cream machine and process it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once it's finished, transfer it to the freezer to store it. If it becomes solid, move it to the fridge for about 20 minutes so it's soft enough to serve.

If you do not have an ice cream maker, like me, there's still hope! Keep on reading.

Pour the mixture into an 8 inch stainless steel pan (I read that sorbets freeze better with stainless steel...), cover the whole thing with plastic wrap, and store it in the freezer. After about 1 to 2 hours, check on the sorbet.

When the mix has frozen to the point that a firm ring of ice has formed around the sides, and a soft slush is in the middle, remove it from the freezer.

Pour your partially frozen sorbet to a food processor or blender and grate until the mixture looks like a slurpee. This will break up the large ice chunks that have formed on the sorbet. (This is also what gives the sorbet its fluffy texture.)

Place the sorbet back into the pan, back into the freezer, and repeat the process at least two more times at intervals of 1 to 2 hours. After the third processing return the sorbet to the freezer for about an hour before serving so the sorbet can be firm enough to serve. It won't be quite as fluffy as if you were to put it into an ice cream maker, but it does the trick and hits the spot when you're roasting!

Now it's time to enjoy the heck out of your fancy homemade sorbet! Do you feel fancy? I know I do.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Recreating Disney Magic

Who likes Disneyland?? I know I do!

We've had some good times, Sam and I, that were only possible because of Disney. Before we were even dating, we went with a group of friends. I didn't have cash, so Sam paid for my lunch. (That still wasn't a date, Sam!) So I paid for his dinner, despite much complaint and protest. How was I supposed to know he was trying to be charming? At least the story has a happy ending, right?

Point is, Disneyland is one of our favorite places. Our passes are blacked out for the summer, but I thought a little taste of the park would tide us over until we can go again. And it's peanut butter and chocolate, so that makes it so much better!

Peanut Butter Sandwich
from Picky Palate

3 cups chopped chocolate (The recipe I used called for milk chocolate, but I'm a semi-sweet kinda girl!)
1 to 2 tablespoons shortening (Be careful how much you use. You'll make the chocolate taste weird. Also, next time, I think I'll just use peanut butter, like I've done in the past... Much better taste!)
2 cups creamy peanut butter
6 whole graham crackers

First off, cut your graham crackers in half, hamburger style.

Now melt your chocolate and shortening.

Dip each of the 12 graham cracker squares in the chocolate.

I didn't find a way to do this without being messy. So good luck!

Now set them on parchment paper to set for a while. You can toss them in the freezer to speed up the process.

You'll want to fix any bare spots before freezing, though. Like this one:

There! All better.

Once they're nice and set up, you can spread your peanut butter on top.

Back into the freezer they go! You don't want to skip this step, or the peanut butter won't stay in one place as you're spooning the chocolate over it.

Let the chocolate cool a little bit, so it's thicker than when you dipped the graham crackers in.

Once the peanut butter is nice and firm, you can spread the chocolate over the top, like so:

Aaaaand back in the freezer they go! (The reason this is such a time-consuming recipe...) 10 more minutes or so ought to be enough.

Is the chocolate firm yet? Good. :) If you have leftover chocolate, you can drizzle it over the top of the finished product for a snazzy garnish. Use a spoon or cut a tiny hole in a ziploc baggie. Just be careful with the spoon. It's harder to control your drizzle. Like this:

Oops. But it will still taste great (with a slight shortening taste. :S), so the appearance doesn't matter. I'll just give it to Sam.

After the drizzle has hardened, it's time to take a bite!

Make sure to store them in the fridge, to keep it all from melting. You want the peanut butter firm still.