I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

October 26, 2011

Addictive, but in a good way

You know it's good when no less than a half dozen people tell you it's like crack. Dad showed up this morning for our daily walk telling me I should never make them again because they are addictive. Emily had 7 before dinner was even served. And Patty was up until 4:00am because of the sugar rush. Yet every last one of them took a plate home with leftovers and everyone wanted the recipe.

Once again my Dad grew a pumpkin patch and threw a party just because he wanted those pumpkins carved. We had about 20 adults and a dozen kiddos over to the ranch for sloppy Joe's and nibbles and of course....the carving of the pumpkins. The adults helped as always, but these kids had some serious fun delegating what they wanted carved on their pumpkins. :)

Here are some of this years winners!



I was in charge of at least one dessert and of course had to make something I hadn't done before to test drive on all our friends. I searched and searched online for something new and fun and before long I found it on http://www.melskitchencafe.com/ which is a very fun food blog for any of y'all who like that kind of stuff. :) The only changes I made to Mel's recipe was to make my own toffee bits and leave out the nuts in case of an unknown allergy. I picked up a package of Heath toffee at the store and one of the first ingredients was palm oil...another was artificial flavor and you know how I feel about that!

Warning: These are crazy good and super addictive for those of you with a sweet tooth.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars
Adapted from melskitchencafe.com

2 1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, soft
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Toffee Bits
Or you can buy them if you want to, just do 1 package
1 Stick Butter
1 C Sugar
1/4 C Water
1/4 tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9X13-inch pan with aluminum foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Put all ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan and cook on medium heat until it is golden brown. Pour out on to a marble slab or a piece of aluminum foil on a sheet pan. Let cool completely and then shatter in to bits inside a Ziploc bag with a mallet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and brown sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture is crumbly. Add eggs and mix well with a wooden spoon or your hands. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips. The mixture will be fairly stiff, so again, you may need to use your hands to get everything combined.

Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the dough. Press the remaining dough into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crust. Top with all but 1/4 of the toffee bits. Pinch pieces of the reserved dough and scatter over the top. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Bake for 25-30 more minutes until golden brown. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup toffee bits on top. Cool completely before serving.

October 24, 2011

Sharing the wealth

Every once and a while I get presents in the form of food from friends. It ranges from the insane amount of figs I've received this year from Lauren that I've made in to so many jars of jam to fun seasonings and spices from Sarah who gets all manner of samples from her work to random produce from people who just have too much of one good thing.

I have a friend who I met through my job....she started out as a just cool lady who owns a rental company so I work with her a LOT. We got to know each other through industry mixers and events we worked on and after while I realized that this is someone who I would love to have in my life outside of work....and I was right. We've vacationed together and dined together and I've gotten to know that Heidi shares so many of the same things that I absolutely love in my life.....family, fun and food. She gardens and owns chickens (even though she doesn't eat the eggs) and loves to share her bounty with the people in her life.

In this case, Heidi showed up at my office to pick up leftover event goodies from a recent party and while she was there brought me up a cardboard box full of goodies. A honeydew type melon the size of a large grapefruit, a crookneck squash, a few lovely lemons and a handful of beets...yanked from the ground with dirt still clinging to them.

I love beets. I love the red ones, the yellow ones, the pink ones and the candy stripe ones. I love them roasted, pickled and grilled (yes, grilled!). They are amazing on salads or on their own, sweet and earthy and if made right with none of the rubbery texture that comes from the canned variety. Beets pair really well with cheese, you will often find them with goats cheese, bleu cheese, brie cheese and anything else that is creamy and or pungent.

Tonight we had one of the more perfect salads that I have had with beets, simple as heck, but the end result was fantastic. Thank you Heidi for contributing to an awesome dinner!

Beet Salad with Pistachios & Goats Cheese
Serves 4

4 Medium Beets
1/2 C Pistachios
1/4 C Goats Cheese
Butter Lettuce
1 Small Shallot (about 1/8 C)
1 T Lemon Juice
1/4 C Orange Olive Oil (or 1/4 C Olive Oil with 1 tsp Orange Zest)
Salt & Pepper

Toss Beets with a little olive oil, salt & pepper, place in tin foil and seal. Bake at 400 for about an hour. Depending on how big the beets are the time can vary. Cool and peel.

Slice beets in to 1/8" slices and distribute among 4 plates in a single layer, dot the beets with goat cheese and sprinkle the pistachios over the top.

Mix olive oil, shallots, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette and place on top of the beets.