Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Scrumptious

It's been way too long since I've updated this. My intention is to be more consistent for my readers, so my apologies. It's been a busy several weeks. However, I hope it's been worth the wait because today I'm featuring one of my very favorite dessert recipes--a recipe that combines two very good things: peanut butter and chocolate.

And really, how can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate? Both ingredients are amazing, and when combined together they are just--wow. These peanut butter bars, complete with a chocolate topping and peanut butter glaze, are definitely a crowd-pleaser and a tantalizing feast for your taste buds.

These are one of my tried and true recipes. I made them for my husband's birthday--the first one we celebrated together, back when he was my boyfriend. Lukas jokingly said I was trying to "fatten him up." Lukas is not a big dessert eater and yet he loves these peanut butter bars. I also made them for one of the first meals I cooked for my in-laws after Lukas and I moved into our new apartment. And I served them to family and friends at a game night we hosted recently. They are always met with raving reviews.

Peanut Butter Bars
Base of the bars
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup milk

Cream butter and sugars for the base of the bars, blend everything else in. Put in a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-13 minutes.

While it is cooking, gather the chocolate chips for the topping and blend the glaze ingredients together (you want the glaze to be fairly thick, but also at a consistency where you can drizzle it onto the bars). After removing the bars from the oven, sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Let stand 10 minutes. Drizzle with glaze.

Let cool (at least most of the way) before serving. They will keep their shape better this way. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Paella: Delicious Spanish Cuisine

Join me for a walk down memory lane and let me share a wonderful Spanish dish that I tried while studying abroad in Spain three years ago and recently decided to recreate in my own kitchen.

I spent a four months studying abroad in Seville, Spain (Sevilla as the Spaniards would say) during spring semester 2009. I still think nostalgically about that beautiful city, filled with art and historical sites almost around every corner. What a special opportunity it was to spend that time there, immersed in a culture so different from my own.

Sevilla was definitely a pedestrian city, and we walked just about everywhere. One Saturday, my roommate and I decided to wander around to some local shops and try a Spanish restaurant. Our meal of choice was the famous Spanish dish of paella, a sauteed mix of rice, vegetables, spices and meat or seafood. It was delicious and one of my favorite foods in Spain.

I was so excited when I found a recipe for paella in my Taste of Home cookbook. This recipe takes some time to assemble, but it's fairly straightforward and is well worth the effort. The original recipe was too big for just my husband and me, so the recipe below is my modified, halved version. It makes about 5-6 servings.

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1-1/4 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (or equivalent in canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

In a large saucepan, combine the broth, rice, onion, half of the garlic, salt, turmeric, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Meanwhile, in large skillet, saute the green pepper, green onions, parsley, thyme, hot pepper sauce and remaining garlic in oil for 2 minutes. Cook until green pepper is crisp-tender. Add tomatoes and peas; heat through. Discard bay leaf from rice mixture. Stir rice into vegetable mixture and keep warm.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook chicken in lemon juice. I also added a little olive oil. (The recipe also called for shrimp, which I left out because it is not necessary and I don't usually have it on hand. However, you can add it if desired.)

Once cooked, add meat to rice and vegetable mixture.

We served the paella with some garlic green beans on the side. Yum!

Buen provecho!