Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peanut Butter & Pecan Cheesecake Bars

This is the only new recipe I made for Thanksgiving this year.  It was a weird, rare holiday for us... we stayed home and just had dinner for two.  Usually we spend it with family, or we host it at our house for friends.   But we were invited to dessert and partyin' at a friend's house afterwards, so we told her we'd bring dessert.  I was inclined to make something pumpkin-based, but she said her roommate was making a pumpkin dessert.  So in a panic, I looked through my pantry and decided to go with peanut butter, pecans and cream cheese because that's what I had.  Admittedly, I got a little inspiration from a well-known indulgent southern cook... but I changed up her boring recipe, and it came out awesome.  (Plus, her cooking times were jacked up and anyone who would have used her recipe would have been eating her "cookies" with a spoon.)  Mine is like a peanut butter cup crossed with cheesecake.  WAY easy, too!

I'm not sure why, but I decided to go with some Gimmes for this recipe.  Peanut butter is always "fun" for me, and so are the Gimmes.  It was so hard to choose which song I wanted to use!  But what says peanut butter more than sailing?  Duh.  Me First and the Gimme Gimmes playing their live cover of "Sloop John B".  -jen


Prep Time:  20-25 minutes
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Serves: 12-15 

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
  • 2 packages (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky or creamy) 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, combine all of the crust ingredients.  Press dough into the pan, making sure it covers the entire bottom evenly and goes up the sides just a little.  Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth with an electric mixer.  Incorporate eggs one at a time.  Fold in by hand 1 cup pecans and chocolate chips and spoon over partially baked crust, smoothing it out until it's even.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until edges begin to brown and the center doesn't look wet and jiggly.  Let cool completely before cutting and serving.

Ha!  I tried to make it fancy... but it looks pretty globby.  I'm still working on the pictures, man!  I only have a point-and-click camera and some shitty kitchen lighting!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Creamy Roasted Garlic Soup

We love garlic in our house even more than we love bacon.  Massive quantities of garlic go into just about everything we cook.  I've been meaning to make some more soup recently because we had several containers of vegetable broth in the freezer as well as bags full of frozen veggies to make more stock, so I knew I had to use some up.  Roasted garlic soup is something neither of us had tried, but we've seen it on a few cooking shows and wanted to try it!  Lots of the recipes I saw online were for a completely smooth, creamy soup, but I wanted a little bit of chunky vegetable bite in mine.  Man, this soup came out great... we'll be making this one again soon, no doubt!

If you're not real familiar with the qualities of roasted garlic, I think it's important to explain that as the garlic roasts, it loses it's sharp, pungent taste and becomes much more mild and sweet.  So if you're not as into garlic as we are, don't let the 4+ heads of garlic in this recipe scare you away!  It's really got a pleasant, smooth flavour to it.

Thought I'd go with some F-Minus for this recipe... we'd just finished watching the movie/documentary "Give 'Em the Boot" again the other night, and I was thinking how I don't have many female singers posted on the blog here.  So F-Minus, performing "Light At the End".  -jen


Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Cook Time:  45 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Serves:  4-6 
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup finely diced onion (or 1 small onion)
  • 3/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper (or 1 small pepper)
  • 3/4 cup finely diced carrot (about 2 medium carrots)
  • 1 and 3/4 cup finely diced Yukon Gold potato (or 1 medium potato)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons flour (or 1/4 cup for a thicker soup)
  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
  • 4 bulbs of roasted garlic (see roasting instructions below, takes an hour to roast)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • black pepper to taste
  • shredded Parmesan cheese and lemon wedges for serving
To Roast Garlic:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Chop the tops of the garlic heads off.  Peel away the outer skins (leaving the clove skins in tact).  Place on aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.  Fold foil up around garlic heads and seal.  Place foil packet in oven, directly on rack, and bake for 1 hour.  Remove from oven, carefully open foil, and allow to cool.  To remove garlic from the garlic paper, just squeeze the whole head and the garlic will deliciously ooze out... just be careful not to mix any of the garlic paper in.
** For this soup recipe, I took about 1/2 a cup of the broth and the roasted garlic and blended it until smooth.  I highly suggest doing this.

In a stock pot, heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add diced onion, bell pepper, carrot, potato and minced garlic.  Cook until onion and pepper are tender, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in flour to coat vegetables and cook another 3-5 minutes.  Add stock and roasted garlic all at once and whisk so that the flour doesn't clump.  Add Worcestershire, sherry and thyme.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes.  Stir in cream and let simmer an additional 10 minutes.

To serve, place Parmesan cheese in bottom of bowl, ladle soup over the cheese, and squeeze the juice of 1-2 lemons into soup.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Red Kuri Squash-Leek Soup

We should have carved our traditional pumpkins last night because it was Halloween, but instead, I ended up carving up a Red Kuri squash.  Actually, I didn't carve it up, because I couldn't get my damn knife through the thing!  So I had to wait for Justin to get home from work to cut it for me.  There was intoxication involved and I figured I should give up while I was ahead and still had all my fingers.  Those suckers are thick (the squash, not my fingers... or maybe my fingers too)!

Thoughts on Red Kuri squash: my favourite squash we've tried so far!  I had to taste it after roasting it for the soup, and with just some olive oil, salt and pepper, it had this rich, delicious, buttery flavour.  Not as sweet as some squash is, and I knew it was going to be perfect in soup. 

Exploring different types of squash this fall has been a lot of fun, and this Red Kuri's been sitting on our table, waiting to be used.  Squash-leek soup sounded great, but I didn't really want the thickness of traditional squash soup, I wanted a thinner, brothy soup.  I just happened to have the other veggies in the fridge and they needed to get used up, but they were a really great addition, I liked having something to chew instead of a smooth soup and I would definitely recommend them (though you could easily leave them out if you chose).  If you're looking for a thicker soup, you could very easily just cut the chicken broth back by half (or more, depending on the consistency you're looking for).  The soup was quick and basic, but perfect for the cold, wet night we had.  I wanted it to have just a little heat in it, so I used some white pepper and cayenne pepper, but if you're not into heat, you can leave them out.

I've been on an Against Me! kick for the last two weeks, and I had several of their albums thrown on my playlist on repeat while making this... so it was a no brainer for music!  This is one of mine and Justin's all-time favourites, "What We Worked For".  -jen

Prep Time:  1 hr, 15 minutes
Cook Time:  5-10 minutes
Difficulty:  Medium
  • 1 Red Kuri squash
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • 8-oz crimini mushrooms, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup very small broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 large leeks, greens removed and whites diced
  • 2 quarts chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Quarter the squash and remove seeds and membrane.  Rub enough olive oil over the exposed flesh to coat, and then generously salt and pepper them.  Bake at 425 degrees for one hour.  Set aside.  Remove skin when squash has cooled enough to handle.

In a stock pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms, bell pepper, broccoli and minced garlic.  Saute until softened, 5-7 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in same stock pot, over medium-high heat.  Add leeks and saute until tender, 10-12 minutes.  Puree leeks, squash and broth together.  (If you have an immersion blender, you can add squash and broth to pot and blend.  If not, remove leeks from pan and place in a blender with the squash and enough broth to puree, then pour back into stock pot with any remaining broth.)  Add the sauteed mushrooms, pepper and broccoli.  Stir in sage, white pepper and cayenne pepper.  Heat to serve.