Monday, June 28, 2010

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars - Ina Garten

***Sure...fancy, gourmet sandwiches might be tasty, but it's still hard to beat a yummy peanut butter & jelly sandwich.  There's just something about them that takes me back to my childhood and puts a smile on my face.  I still love them!

So, when I saw this recipe in Ina's cookbook, Barefoot Contessa at Home, I was thrilled.  I knew that I HAD to make, yesterday!  I couldn't wait.

The results were just what I expected from an Ina recipe...Scrumptious!  Ina has definitely done it again with these bars.  Of course, the flavor combo is pretty unbeatable.  They'd be perfect to make for a party...Everyone is sure to ask you for the recipe!

The only change that I made was a decrease in the butter.  Instead of 2 full sticks, I only added about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 sticks.  I'm sure my hips will thank me later.  ;-)

Bon Appetit!***

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Source:  Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (18 ounces) creamy peanut butter (recommended: Skippy)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (18 ounces) raspberry jam or other jam
2/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.

Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don't worry if all the jam isn't covered; it will spread in the oven. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and cut into squares.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

B-L-T Pasta

***This pasta is fabulous for several different reasons:
1.  It's light. 
2.  It's Easy.
3.  It's SO delicious!

Almost everyone loves a good B-L-T sandwich, stacked high with savory bacon, crisp lettuce and fresh tomatoes.  This pasta dish is a different adaptation of an old favorite, that you are sure to adore! 

The first bite that I took of this dish had the most amazing flavor...the bacon permeates every bite, making it perfectly savory.  The tomatoes and spinach add just the right amount of freshness.  I can't think of many better ways to use up all of those vine-ripened tomatoes that are sure to be around in the coming months!

Bon Appetit!***

BLT Pasta
Source:  Cuisine at Home magazine


2 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup leeks, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 oz dry bucatini or spaghetti
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
1/4 tsp minced fresh thyme (or a pinch of dry thyme)

Garlic Bread Crumbs:
1 clove garlic
1 cup French bread, cubed (about one 1/2 inch thick slice)
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Mince the garlic for the bread crumbs in a food processor, add the cubed bread, and process until coarse.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium: add crumbs and toast until golden, 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and set aside.

Saute the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook until crisp, then drain on paper-towel. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp drippings.

Caramelize the tomatoes and sugar in the drippings over medium heat.  Cook until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the leeks, saute until wilted, 3-4 minutes.

Deglaze with wine; simmer until liquid is nearly evaporated.  Add the broth, vinegar, and pepper flakes and simmer until reduced by 1/3, about 5 minutes.

Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions.

Add the spinach, thyme, and bacon pieces to the sauce.

Transfer the cooked pasta from the pot to the pan using tongs.  Toss to coat.  Season with salt, then transfer to large serving platter or individual plates.

Sprinkle with garlic bread crumbs before serving.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Scrumptious Strawberry Crisp

***Ahh...The sunshine-filled days of summer are upon us!  The first official day of summer will be here before we know it...June 21st!  And you know what that means - Beautiful strawberries, juicy blueberries and perfectly plump cherries line the shelves at your local grocery and farmers markets...just to name a few of the things that are in season.  Not to mention fresh corn, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash and peaches...oh my!  I just love this time of year.

Here's the P.E.R.F.E.C.T. fruity crisp for summer!  Brad and I were craving a fruity dessert the other night, and I had a big bowl of gorgeous strawberries hanging out in the fridge.  I came across this scrumptious crisp in a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, and it sounded absolutely perfect!

The rolled oats really add a great heartiness to the dish, and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream is the ultimate finishing touch.  You'll notice that this recipe also calls for rhubarb, however, I left it out completely.  I simply added extra strawberries to the filling, to make up the difference.  Feel free to substitute any of your favorite berries, or use a combination....maybe strawberry + blueberry!

Bon Appetit!***

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Adapted from “Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking”
Makes 8 servings

•6 medium stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I left out the rhubarb...see notes above)
•2 cups (8 ounces/250 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
•1/2 cup (4 ounces/125 grams) sugar

•1 cup (5 ounces/155 grams) all-purpose flour
•1/2 cup (1.5 ounces/45 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
•1/3 cup (3 ounces/90 grams) sugar
•1/3 cup (2.5 ounces/75 grams) firmly packed golden brown sugar
•1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1/4 teaspoon salt
•1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1.Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Have ready a 2.5 quart ceramic or glass pie dish or baking dish.

2. For the Filling: In a large bowl, stir together the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar until well mixed. Pour into the baking dish, and set aside.

3. For the Topping: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, rolled oats, sugars, cinnamon and salt until well blended. Stir in the melted butter until evenly moistened crumbs form. Spoon the crumb mixture over the filling.

4. Bake the crisp until the rhubarb is tender when tested with a toothpick, the juices are bubbling, and the topping is golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Note: The crisp can be cooled, covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. Rewarm in a 250-degree F oven for 15 minutes before serving. Preferably with a substantial scoop of vanilla ice cream.