December 26, 2011

... Cranberry Bars

Happy Holidays!  My (beautiful) sister made these for our family to snack on during Christmas weekend and they were delicious.  Perfect for a late-night snack, breakfast on Christmas morning, or, well, breakfast the day after Christmas.


I couldn't resist making them for my (amazing) neighbors.  Hence the reason I don't have a picture of these actually cut into bars.  It's all I could do to not dive into one... especially when they were hot out of the oven.


I hope you all had the merriest of holidays and have a happy happy happy new year!

Cranberry Bars
serves 15 (at least!)

1 (12 ounce) package whole cranberries
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup water
1 package yellow cake mix
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries, white sugar, and water.  Cook, stirring occasionally until all of the cranberries have popped, and the mixture is thick, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, melted butter, and eggs. Stir in the oats, brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon.  Set aside about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture and spread the rest into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Pack down to form a solid crust, getting it as even as possible.  Spread the cooled mixture over the crust.  Pinch off pieces of the remaining mixture and place evenly over the cranberry layer.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top is lightly browned.  Cool in the pan for about 40 minutes before slicing into bars.

Taylor's Notes:
These are so easy, so good, and make your house smell amazing while they're baking and cooling.  Win. Win. Win.


I cooked the cranberries for 20 minutes and the bars for 35 minutes.  They're delicious cool and amazing when they're warm... say, for breakfast... with coffee.  Mmmm, now I'm wishing I had bought two bags of cranberries.


Enjoy!

December 7, 2011

... Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Cremini Mushrooms

I think we've established how much I love risotto and what a fan I am of Mark Bittman.  Seriously, there's nothing you can't learn from the man and risotto is just, well, perfect for anything you need it to be.  Tonight I needed it to be comfort food on a cold night and a perfect partner to a good glass of red and Florence's Lungs.  




As always, it didn't disappoint.

Simple Risotto
serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
large pinch saffron threads (optional)
1 1/2 cups arborio or other short- or medium-grain rice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
4 to 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
2 to 4 tablespoons softened butter or extra virgin olive oil
freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Put the 2 tablespoons butter or oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat.  (Allow the remaining butter to soften while you cook).  When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the oil and saffron and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with butter or oil, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add a little salt and pepper, then the white wine.  Stir and let the liquid bubble away.

Use a ladle to begin adding the stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition.  When the stock is just about evaporated, add more.  The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry.  Keep the heat at medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

Begin tasting the rice 20 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but still with a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage.  When it does, stir in the softened butter or oil (more is better, at least from the perspective of taste!) and at least 1/2 cup of parmesan if you're using it.  Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional parmesan at the table if you like.

Taylor's Notes:
Yes and Yes.  Follow this recipe and you'll be golden.  As I mentioned, I roasted a sweet potato and cremini mushrooms to add to the risotto.  Here's how...


Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet.  Add cubed sweet potato (washed, skin on or off), drizzle a little more oil over the potato and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes (time will depend on the size of your potato cubes.)  After 20 minutes, I tossed the potatoes, added the cremini mushrooms (some halved, some not, depending on size), drizzled a little more olive oil and popped it back in the oven for 10 minutes.  By this time, you should be adding your butter and parmesan to your risotto.  Toss the potatoes and mushrooms one more time and add a tablespoon or so of chopped fresh rosemary.  Roast for 5 more minutes and then pull it out of the oven and stir into the risotto.  


Top your amazing dish with a little more parmesan if you'd like (and who wouldn't?) and a sprig of rosemary if you want to be all fancy and stuff.


Enjoy!

November 29, 2011

... Easy Popovers

When I saw these guys in my latest Real Simple magazine, I knew I'd be making them soon.  I'd always heard that popovers were difficult to make, but these looked simple.  Hey, they came out of Real Simple and they even have the word 'easy' in the name.  How could I resist giving them a shot?

Sure, they don't look exactly like the picture in the magazine, but they were tasty and easy.  And, hey, I can work on the aesthetic.  If you enjoy bread as much as me, give these a try!


Easy Popovers
makes 12

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the cups of a 12-cup nonstick muffin tin with butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, eggs, butter, and salt until only a few lumps remain (do not overmix).

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups and bake until puffed and a deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.  (Do no open oven door before 30 minutes or the popovers will collapse.  Remove 1 popover to check that the underside is browned.)  Serve immediately.

Taylor's Notes:
As I said, these were really easy to make.  My only problem was that they stuck to the pan a bit when I tried to take them out.  Next time, I will definitely grease the pan more... maybe brushing it with melted butter would be better than trying to smear cold butter on the pan?  :)


Enjoy!


... Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

After all that eating over the last long weekend, I decided that soup would probably be a good idea for dinner. A hearty soup because, you know, after eating as much as you do over Thanksgiving, your stomach seems to think you're hungry every thirty minutes.  This one, though, this one is a light hearty soup.  Win win.


Funny, it doesn't look light...


... but it is, and it's delicious!  Now, I don't know that the same could be said for the popover and wine (light, no; delicious, yes), but hey, it evens out, right?


Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
serves 8

1 cup uncooked quick-cooking wild rice
cooking spray
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cubed peeled baking potato
3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
10 ounces light processed cheese, cubed (such as Velvetta light)
2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 breasts)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add onion and garlic; saute 3 minutes.  Add broth and potato; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until potato is tender.

Combine milk and flour, stirring well with a whisk.  Add the milk mixture to potato mixture; cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.  Stir in rice, chicken, pepper, and salt.  Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Taylor's Notes:
A few tweaks to this one... to begin with, I used shredded 2% mild cheddar and shredded 2% sharp cheddar instead of the Velvetta.  It didn't melt as well as the Velvetta probably would have, but it's also not overly processed goop.  Another switcheroo I made was to use rotisserie chicken instead of the chicken breasts.  I removed the skin, of course, and only used the white meat from the breast.  


I also added mushrooms and carrots to the mix for a little extra color and flavor.  I put the carrots in with the potatoes and then added the mushrooms after the milk mixture had thickened.  After I added the cheese, I let the soup simmer for a while until the mushrooms were tender and then served it with a little parsley on top, which added a great, bright fresh flavor to the soup.


Enjoy!

... Cranberry-Pear Relish

What's Thanksgiving without cranberry relish?  Ok, to be honest, I'm not sure that we've ever actually had cranberry relish at our Thanksgiving dinner, but the tradition of it always makes it seem nice.  And, no, I'm definitely not talking about that stuff from the can.  (my apologies if that's your thing...)  So this year I set out to find a tastier version and, thankfully, I did just that.


Cranberry-Pear Relish
serves 6-8

1 small navel orange
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 Bartlett pear, cored and cut into large chunks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
pinch kosher salt
3 tablespoons pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Wash and dry the orange.  Cut the orange into small wedges, including the peel, and put in a food processor.  Add the cranberries, pear, sugar, and salt.  Pulse until coarsely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.  Just before serving, stir in the pecans.

Taylor's Notes:
First things first... this makes a lot.  I'm not sure how much a serving technically is, but I doubled the recipe for our Thanksgiving gathering of 25 people and I bet we took down one-quarter of the relish.  Not that it wasn't good, it was!, but most people just don't need that much cranberry relish.


Based on the reviews of the original recipe, I was a little concerned about the bitterness of the orange peel.  Since I was doubling the recipe, I included the orange peel from one of the oranges and removed it from the other.  I really liked the end result, so maybe that's the way to go.  I'm sure it would be great without the peel, too, but I think the bitterness balances the tartness of the cranberries.


I've had leftovers a couple of times and am freezing the rest for Christmas dinner.  I'll let you know how it turns out!


Enjoy!

... Peanut Butter & Nutella Swirl Cookies

How could I possibly not make these cookies after reading the name of them?  Peanut Butter... Nutella... Cookies... how could anything be bad about that?  Well, let me tell you... nothing, that's what.  Absolutely nothing.


Are you on Pinterest?  If you aren't, save yourself.  If you are, I'm guessing you're as addicted as I am.  I've made a few things that I stumbled across on that site, but this by far takes the cake cookie.  

Peanut Butter & Nutella Swirl Cookies


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed 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 oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.  Mix until well blended.

Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Drizzle Nutella on top of the dough, then swirl it through the dough with a butter knife.

Chill dough 15 minutes in the refrigerator.  Roll into balls by hand.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheet.  Using a fork, press down the balls to flatten slightly.  Bake until edges are very lightly browned (about 7 to 10 minutes).

All to rest 2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring cookies to a cooling rack.

Taylor's Notes:
The only thing, and I mean the only thing, I would change about this recipe would be to add more Nutella.   Not a lot more, maybe 1/3 cup total, but I would definitely add more.  I mean, really, how can you have too much Nutella?


Enjoy!


October 31, 2011

... treats, not tricks

I don't know about you, but I've always been a 'treats' girl myself.  They're so much nicer than tricks, don't you think?  Last year I made these little gems and the year before I topped them with a candy corn... cute, right?  Whether you have a lot of time to spare or just a little, there are a lot of fun ways to treat the special people in your life... and if you do, maybe they won't trick you!


Ghost Cookies
1 package Nutter Butter cookies
1 package vanilla Almond Bark
mini chocolate chips

Dip each cookie in melted almond bark to coat and shake off the excess.  Place the covered cookie on a sheet of wax paper to harden, being sure to add two "eyes" before it does.

Taylor's Notes:
I really have no idea where I learned this, but these little ghosts are always a hit when I make them.  Here's my one bit of information, though.  Definitely use Almond Bark.  It melts better and tastes better than the other brands and it's cheaper, too.  Win Win.  When you're melting the bark, do it over a double-boiler and you'll have a smooth coating on all your cookies.  Just put a bit of water in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer.  Put the Almond Bark in a glass bowl and place it on the saucepan (make sure the bowl is larger than the saucepan and don't let the water touch the bowl).  Stir it occasionally and you'll be good to dip in no time.


Another Fall / Halloween staple is Candy Corn & Peanut Mix.  Does anyone have a better name for this?  I know there are several variations that include M&M's or other tasty candy, but I prefer the simple mix best. And, if you ask me, the perfect ratio is two peanut halves to one candy corn.


A new favorite I learned this year (thanks to my sister!) is the S'mores Mix.  Put equal parts Golden Grahams cereal, mini marshmallows, and semi-sweet chocolate chips in a bowl, stir them up and Voila! S'mores!  No campfire necessary.

I'm pretty sure these two mixes went over much better with all my friends than a bunch of tricks would any day!

Happy Halloween!

October 29, 2011

... Risotto with Mushrooms and Asparagus

Risotto is something that, if it's on the menu, I'm ordering it.  I love it and I've been saying for a couple of years now that "this is the year I'm going to learn to make risotto."  And now, like most times, I'm wondering what took me so long.  It's really not difficult, just a little time consuming.  So pour a glass of wine, prep your ingredients, and get ready to enjoy a restaurant-quality meal right at home. 


You know me and my love of veggies.  Add anything you want to this, though.  Risotto is so versatile!


serves 4-6

1/2 cup dried procini mushrooms
4 to 6 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio or other short- or medium-grain rice
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 to 5 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
1 cup sliced shiitake or portobello mushroom caps
freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Rinse the dried mushrooms one or twice, then soak them in hot water to cover.  Put 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat.  When the butter is melted, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with butter, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add a little salt and pepper, then the white wine.  Stir and let the liquid bubble away.  Drain the porcini and chop them, then stir them in, along with about half of their soaking liquid.

Use a ladle to begin adding the stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition.  When the stock is just about evaporated, add more.  The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry.  Stir frequently, keeping the heat at medium to medium-high.  Meanwhile, put the remaining butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  When the butter is melted, add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and almost crisp, about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Begin tasting the rice 20 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but still with a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage.  When it does, stir in the cooked mushrooms, with their butter, and at least 1/2 cup of Parmesan if you're using it.  Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional Parmesan at the table.

Taylor's Notes:
This is another recipe from my main man, Mark Bittman.  This time, though, I used his awesome iPad app (oh, did I mention i got an iPad? love it.  seriously.  and this app is absolutely worth the $9.99 it costs.  so if you, too, have an iPad, buy it.  like now.)  Ok, anyhoo... Mark is awesome and so are his apps, obviously.  

I followed his recipe for the most part, but as you can tell from the recipe titles, I changed just a few things along the way.  I didn't use the dried mushrooms, instead adding fresh asparagus along with the fresh (baby bella) mushrooms.  I cooked them in the skillet along with the mushrooms - for about 10 minutes or until everything was tender.  

I set out to halve the recipe, so guesstimated the amount of most of the ingredients.  I ended up using just under a cup of rice and about 3 cups of chicken stock.  I think the key to risotto is adding liquid as needed and stirring it often.  I cooked it for 20 minutes and it was perfect.  I bet I used 6 oz of mushrooms and 8 stalks of asparagus.  And, let's be honest, who wouldn't add the Parmesan?  

As with most things, add the ingredients that you like and chances are, you'll like it in the end.  If not, tweak it next time... it's all about adventure!

Enjoy!

October 13, 2011

... Linguine with Zucchini

How can you not want to make a recipe with a rhyming name?  I mean, come on, it just sounds fun.  And when it looks like this, it's even better.


Linguine with Zucchini and Goat Cheese
serves 4

12 ounces linguine (3/4 box)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound zucchini, sliced into thin half-moons
kosher salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
5 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the zucchini, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Cook, stirring, until the zucchini is tender and any liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Add all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese into the pasta.  Add the reserved cooking water, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Stir until creamy.

Serve the pasta topped with the zucchini, lemon zest, and remaining 2 tablespoons cheese.

Taylor's Notes:
I tried one reviewers recommendation of using Laughing Cow cheese instead of the goat cheese.  I know, I'm shocked, too, but this girl needs to watch her waistline and she's not too interested in seeing it expand.  And thanks to that review, I don't have to... at least with this recipe.


Enjoy!

October 9, 2011

... Fried Rice

Oh sure, I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking "Taylor, you're supposed to be on a diet and you're eating fried rice?!"  Well, sure, fried rice isn't very diet friendly... unless you make this recipe that's delicious and filling and only ten points on Weight Watchers... booyah.


Tofu Fried Rice
serves 4

2 cups uncooked instant rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 (14-ounce) package reduced-fat firm tofu, drained and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices green onions
1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon bottled minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
thinly sliced green onions (optional)

Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

While rice cooks, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add tofu; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Remove from pan.  Add eggs to pan; cook 1 minute or until done, breaking egg into small pieces.  Remove from pan.  Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to pan.  Add 1 cup onions, peas and carrots, garlic, and ginger; saute 2 minutes.

While vegetable mixture cooks, combine sake, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and sesame oil.  Add cooked rice to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add tofu, egg, and soy sauce mixture; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.

Taylor's Notes:
What a great recipe that allows you to make it your own.  Use whatever protein suits your fancy - tofu, chicken, shrimp - and whatever veggies you love.  Instead of frozen peas and carrots, I used frozen edamame, red bell pepper, and mushrooms.  Don't love fungi?  Toss in some broccoli.  Adverse to bell peppers?  (it's ok, I used to be, too)  How about sugar snap peas?  The possibilities and combinations are endless.  


This was the first time I'd cooked with tofu and it was really easy.  Just follow the directions and you'll be golden... just like the tofu.  


Enjoy!

October 2, 2011

... Tortellini with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, and Fontina

I may have said this last year about this time, but I love Fall.  Fall colors, Fall weather, and especially Fall flavors.  Although I switched up the ingredients a little bit in this recipe, I still think it was a great one to welcome in the new season.


Instead of using butternut squash, I used a sweet potato... or is it yam?  Apparently it depends on what part of the country you're from, so go with what you know.  I halved the recipe so I wouldn't feel like I needed to invite the entire on-duty crew of local firemen to dinner, although I'm thinking that may not be such a bad idea after all...


... next time, boys.

Tortellini with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, and Fontina
serves 4

1 small butternut squash (2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and halved if large
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
2 ounces Fontina or Gruyere, grated (1/2 cup), plus more for serving

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  On two rimmed baking sheets, toss the squash and mushrooms with the sage, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Roast, tossing once and rotating pans halfway through, until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the tortellini according to the package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the tortellini and return to the pot.  Add the vegetables, Fontina, 1/4 cup of the cooking water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss gently to coat (add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry).  Sprinkle with additional Fontina.

Taylor's Notes:
As I mentioned before, I used a sweet potato instead of the butternut squash... mostly because I wanted to make a smaller recipe.  If you follow in my footsteps, though, you won't need to roast the veggies for quite as long, maybe more like 15 minutes.  I'm not quite sure roasting the sage for the entire time is a great idea either, as it tends to crisp up a little too much.  Maybe add it halfway through the roasting time.


I couldn't find Fontina at the store, so used Asiago.  Truth be told, I'm not sure that's a truly equal substitute, but hey, delicious cheese is delicious cheese and the Asiago was good in my book.  Really, you could use anything you like.


Enjoy!


September 26, 2011

... Argentinean Pork

Hi there... remember me?  Perhaps it just took an excellent recipe to get me back in gear... maybe it's the cooler weather that has me anxious to be in the kitchen... regardless of the reason, I'm back!  This recipe is really quick and easy - perfect for a weeknight meal or one of those weekend days when the weather is so beautiful you can't imagine wasting a minute of it indoors.


Marinate the pork in a fresh and flavorful combo of herbs and spices, then toss it on a hot grill until it's perfectly pink and moist.


After it's sliced, top it with an amazing pesto-like concoction that would be just as delicious on chicken, steak, or a Portabello mushroom as it was the pork... and you'll be trying it on each of them because it's so good.

Argentinean Pork
serves 4

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, divided
2/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (1 pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
cooking spray
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 shallot, chopped

Combine 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 cup parsley, 1/3 cup cilantro, cumin, and red pepper in a shallow dish.  Add pork.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate one hour, turning once.

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Sprinkle pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper.  Place pork on a grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 8 minutes.  Turn pork over, and grill 7 minutes or until a thermometer registers 145 degrees.  Remove pork from grill.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Slice pork crosswise.

Combine 3/4 cup parsley, 1/3 cup cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon salt, oregano, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; pulse 10 times.  Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil through food chute with food processor on. Serve with pork.

Taylor's Notes:
I marinated the pork for just about 2 hours since I had the time.  I always think meat is better the longer you let it marinade, but the good thing is that you can get away with just an hour if you're short on time.  The pesto-like sauce had a bit of a bite to it from the lemon and garlic... which I loved.  If you're not a huge fan, you can always add a little at a time, tasting along the way.  


I served it with mashed red potatoes that may have had butter, milk and garlic in them... maybe.  Hey, sometimes the whole dinner doesn't have to be healthy.  Amiright?


Enjoy!

July 24, 2011

... Corn and Pasta Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

It's the age-old dilemma... do you take a green salad or a pasta salad to a Summer BBQ?  Or am I the only one who questions these things?  Just me?  Ok then.  Well, should you ever find yourself in my shoes, here's the perfect solution... both!


With fresh, bright colored veggies, crisp bacon, and sweet Summer corn roasted to perfection, this recipe will be the perfect addition to your backyard barbeque... or dining room barbeque if you're suffering the sweltering heat like we are.


The homemade ranch dressing was really easy and added the perfect creaminess and tang to this side.  And, lets be honest, anything that has pasta in it is good with me.


So next time you're pondering what kind of side salad to make, just think What Would Taylor Do? and you'll have your answer.

serves 6

4 ounces gemelli pasta
1 small garlic clove
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 scallion, minced
2 small ears fresh corn
8 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 cups baby arugula
2 sliced bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions; drain and run under cold water to cool.

Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic clove on a cutting board; sprinkle with salt.  Using the blade of a chef's knife, press down onto garlic, smashing it to make a paste.  Add the garlic paste to a large bowl with the sour cream, buttermilk, cider vinegar, and scallion; season with salt and pepper.  Whisk the dressing until smooth and reserve.

Cut the kernels from the corn (breaking sheets of kernels into about 2-inch pieces, if desired).  Add the corn, tomatoes, onion and arugula to the bowl with the dressing; gently toss to coat.  Sprinkle with the bacon.

Taylor's Notes:
It's always surprising to me to find an incomplete recipe.  Like the one above... what are you supposed to do with the corn?  Just put it in raw?  That doesn't seem quite right...  And when does the pasta go in?  Here's my take on it, they just want us to all be creative and explore new ideas with the ingredients they've given us.  Pretend like you're on an episode of Chopped... only if Ted Allen ever shows up in your kitchen you better call me.  Pronto.

I digress... I decided to roast the corn before adding it to the salad.  My first thought was to grill it on the cob and then I remembered it was over 100 degrees outside and the oven practically turned itself on.  Thanks to my good buddy Mark Bittman, I found quick directions to roasting corn.  Put it on a baking sheet in a 500 degree oven for 10-20 minutes, rotating every few minutes.  What that meant to me was 15 minutes, rotating every five.   I put it in the oven as the pasta was boiling and then cut it from the cob and added it to the dish once everything else was finished.  As for the pasta, just toss it in with the veggies and dressing and you'll be good to go.  

And there you have it.  A quick summer side salad perfect for any occasion, whether you're in the mood for pasta or greens.

Enjoy!

July 9, 2011

... Maple-Glazed Salmon with Panzanella Salad

Well, hello Summer!  We're officially in the heat of it here in Kansas City (heat of it... get it... ba dum dum)  and it's about all I can do to bring myself to turn on the oven.  So why not fire up the grill instead?  Hey, at least it stays cool inside that way.

Once my friends Ben and Kim of Four Foodies posted their Panzanella Salad recipe, I knew I'd need to make it soon.  Pairing it with salmon and zucchini just seemed to be a great healthy match-up.


All of that accompanied by a couple of bottles... glasses, okay... bottles of crisp white wine and we had a great Summer meal.  Hey, when you have a healthy meal like this one, you can afford to treat yourself a little.  Amiright?


serves 4

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
cooking spray
1 teaspoon maple syrup

Prepare grill, heating to medium.

Combine first 5 ingredients.  Sprinkle fish with salt; rub with paprika mixture.

Place fish on grill rack coated with cooking spay; grill 7 minutes.  Drizzle fish with syrup; grill 1 minute or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Taylor's Notes:
This recipe was super simple and easy considering I had everything besides the salmon in my pantry.  No wait, I didn't have ancho chile powder and couldn't find it at the store, so I just added a little more chili powder and cumin to make up for it.  I did half this recipe, as in I only grilled two salmon fillets, but I bet I used a full recipes worth of seasoning.  Next time I'll try to heat it up a little more... it was good and we liked the spicy-sweet thing it had going on, but the spice factor could have been taken up a notch or two.

Click on the link above for the Panzanella Salad - you'll love it.  It was really tasty, super easy, and will definitely become a staple for these Summer months.  

For the zucchini, I just sliced 'em up, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled them with a little s&p and put them on the grill with the salmon.  

In case you're wondering, we drank Sauvingon Blanc from both Kim Crawford and Dashwood.  Delish.

Enjoy!

June 19, 2011

... Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

Here's a tasty little twist on your standard Rice Krispie Treat straight from one of my favorite bloggers, Smitten Kitchen.  Kid- (and, who are we kidding, adult-) friendly with a semi-sweet chocolate and peanut butter layer plus a more grown up dark chocolate icing.  So rich you'll try your best to eat just one... good luck with that.


Peanut Butter Crispy Bars


For the crispy crust
1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted

For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer
5 ounce good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter

For the chocolate icing
3 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72 percent cocoa), coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons salted butter

Make the crispy crust
Lightly spray a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan.

Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.

Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan.  Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined.  Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan.  Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees.

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and pour the mixture over the cereal.  Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, the pour it into the prepared pan.  Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides).  Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.

Make the milk chocolate peanut butter layer
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter.  Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth.  Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly.  Pour the mixture over the cooled crust.  Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.

Make the chocolate icing
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter.

Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth.  Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly.  Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and roll it around until coated smoothly.  Put the pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour or until the topping hardens.

Cut into 9 or 16 squares and serve.  The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.

Taylor's Notes:
I followed Deb's recipe exactly, but I doubled it and used a 9x13-inch pan.  Be careful when pressing the crispy crust layer into the pan... it's very hot and you'll burn your little fing fings!  


I would definitely recommend cutting these into smaller squares as they are very, very rich.  Plus, if you cut them into smaller squares, you can have more than one without feeling guilty... right?  


Enjoy!

May 31, 2011

... Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette

After the mass amount of meat I ate this weekend, I figured it was high-time for a veggie salad.  So maybe I missed Meatless Monday by a day, but hey, better late than never, yes?  This recipe was right up my alley : Mediterranean flavors plus light, quick and easy to make.  Done and done.


Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette
serves 4

1 cup uncooked orzo (about 8 ounces)
2 cups bagged prewashed baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
3 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
3/4 cup (3 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled and divided

Cook the orzo according to package directions, omitting the salt and fat.  Drain; rinse with cold water.  Combine orzo, spinach, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl.

Drain artichokes, reserving marinade.  Coarsely chop artichokes, and add artichokes, reserved marinade, and 1/2 cup feta cheese to orzo mixture, tossing gently to coat.  Sprinkle each serving with remaining feta cheese.

Taylor's Notes:


This was a perfect weeknight meal.  Do I say that a lot?  If so, it's only because I love easy weeknight meals.  And really, who doesn't?  Anyhoo... this would be perfect as a side with chicken or fish, but was really great on it's own too.  


Those of you who know me well will be very surprised that I actually used the sun-dried tomatoes.  But I did and I liked them.  I know, shocker.  I'm becoming such a big girl.  I also added capers... a salty little twist that, quite frankly, I'm surprised wasn't in the original recipe.  But, like I often say, make it your own.  Add what you want, leave out what you don't.  Double the amount of olives, cut the onions in half (hello, thank goodness it's not date night!)  Whatever you do...


Enjoy!

May 29, 2011

... Memorial Day 2011

I'm really not sure there's a way to introduce the following so let's just get into it, shall we?

- Stuffed Mushrooms with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Gorgonzola - 

Clean and dry Baby Bella mushrooms.  Remove the stem and, using a spoon or small melon baller, hollow out the cap to make room for the good stuff.  Fill each cap with a spoonful of sun-dried tomato pesto and top with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.  Drizzle the caps with a little extra virgin olive oil and top each one with a small basil leaf.  We found this great Greek Column Basil at the Farmers Market which has small leaves and, we're told, will survive in a pot year-round.  I'm not sure it'll last that long though... especially if I make Grapefruit Basil martinis this weekend.  Pop the caps on the smoker at 230 degrees for about 40 minutes.

- Fresh Tomato Salad with Balsamic and Gorgonzola -

We also found this gorgeous Beefsteak Tomato at the Farmers Market.  It was huge (a whole pound!) and so delicious.  We sliced it, sprinkled it with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt, drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic, and tossed on the leftover Gorgonzola crumbles.  Now this is what Summer is all about. 

- The 'Fatty' -

Meat Lovers unite!  I'm not even one of them and I can definitely get down with this guy.  Three kinds of meat - Italian sausage, ground pork, and ground turkey - melded together.  (My apologies for the images of raw meat above... I don't think it's all that appetizing either, but I think it helps to understand the process...)  You'll need about a pound and a half.  We used one pound of Italian sausage (take it out of the casings if you buy it in links) and a quarter of a pound each of the pork and turkey.  Mix it all together in a big bowl, then spread it out on a large sheet of plastic wrap.  You'll want to flatten it out to be about 8"x11" and between 1/4" and 1/2" thick.  Now comes the fun part - choose what you want inside.  We used green and red peppers, green onions, garlic, and white cheddar.  We sauteed the veggies for just a few minutes until they were just tender and then layered them in the middle (lengthwise) of the meat.  Top the veggies with a little cheese and then, using the plastic as your helper, roll one side of meat over the veggies and then one more roll to create one large meat 'fatty'.  Sprinkle it generously with seasoning - I think we used something along the lines of Lawry's seasoning salt.  Throw it on the smoker around 230 degrees for one and a half hours.  

- Baby Back Ribs with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes -

Farmers Market to the rescue again!  We found these great purple and Fingerling potatoes at the same stand that we got the tomato and, like the tomato, they didn't disappoint.  Slice them in half - the larger ones in quarters - and place them on a cookie sheet.  Give them a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good sprinkle of salt & pepper, thyme, and oregano.  Slide them into a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes and they are the perfect pairing for the ribs.  If that sounds easy, try this on for size.  Sprinkle a couple racks of ribs with your choice of seasoning - we used the same one we used on the Fatty for one rack and a hot & spicy version for the other.  Place them on a grill rack in the smoker at 230 degrees for four hours and dinner is served.  

I hope you all have / had a terrific Memorial Day weekend!  I'm sure you'll understand if my next month's worth of posts are of salad.  

Enjoy!

May 22, 2011

... Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream

What a find this recipe was!  Fresh and delicious, quick and easy... what more could you ask for?  (unless a reminder to not leave a tortilla browning in a skillet when you go out on your balcony to chat with your neighbors...)  Not that I would know personally, of course.


The cilantro slaw and avocado cream were so tasty and I'll definitely be incorporating them into other recipes in the future.  Fish tacos... no brainer.  Nachos... absolutely.  


Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream
serves 4 (2 tacos each)

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips
3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
cooking spray
1/8 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
1/2 ripe peeled avocado, diced
2 cups packaged angel hair slaw
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Sprinkle chicken evenly with chile powder, garlic salt, and cumin.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove chicken from pan.

Combine zest, 1 tablespoon juice, and next 3 ingredients (through avocado) in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

Combine remaining 1 tablespoon juice, slaw, onions, cilantro, oil, and salt, tossing to coat.

Heat tortillas according to directions.  Divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas.  Top each tortilla with about 1 tablespoon avocado mixture and 1/4 cup slaw mixture.

Taylor's Notes:
With the weather we had today (aka terrific), I had to grill the chicken instead of cooking it inside.  Either way would be great, of course, but the grill added that extra bit of oompf.  Instead of slicing the chicken and tossing it with the spice mixture, I just rubbed the mix onto a couple of chicken breasts and put them on the grill.  Other than that, I played by the rules.  I warmed the tortillas (and yeah, ok, charred one or two) in a hot skillet for just under a minute on each side right before the chicken came off the grill.  


We had black beans and chips as sides, but it was a brilliant move when we added the beans to the tacos.  Well played.  Now, if only there were leftovers...


Enjoy!

May 9, 2011

... Chocolate Malt Sandwich Cookies

First off, I'm baaaaacckkkk!  Yea!  I don't know if you're as excited as I am, but I'm pretty pumped.  I'm not sure what happened to April, but it was a whirlwind of a month.  The 8 to 5, the 8 to 5 after-hours, a trip to the beach.  I know... it's tough.  ;)  And now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

When Mom sent me this recipe I knew I had to make it because, well, I.love.malt.  A lot.  So, how could I go wrong with Chocolate Malt Sandwich Cookies?  You're right, I couldn't.


Smooth chocolate malt whipped frosting sandwiched in between two chewy, chocolate malt cookies.  It's definitely not lacking in richness... or chocolate.  And you'd think with malt powder in both the cookies and the frosting, that'd be enough.  But I think I'll use a little more next time.  What, did you think I was exaggerating my love of malt?


And what's even better is that I could celebrate Taylor Made's 100th post with these tasty little numbers. Yea!


makes 24 cookies

For the cookies:
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plain malted milk powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons hot water

For the filling:
10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup plain malted milk powder
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, baking soda, and salt.  With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Mix in egg, sour cream, and hot water.  Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture.

Space tablespoon-size balls of dough 3 1/2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake until flat and just firm, 10 to 12 minutes.  Let cool on parchment on wire racks.

To make the filling:
While the cookies are baking, melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring.  Let cool.  With an electric mixer, beat malted milk powder and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth.  Gradually mix in half-and-half, chocolate mixture, and vanilla.  Refrigerate, covered, until thick, about 30 minutes.  Beat on high until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  (After chilling, the filling will be very thick and dark, but as soon as you start to beat it, the color will begin to lighten and the filling will become very fluffy.)

To assemble the cookies:
Match up cookies of similar sizes into pairs.  Using a tablespoon-size cookie scoop, scoop a heaping tablespoon of filling onto the bottom of one cookie.  Sandwich with another cookie until the filling pushes to the edges of the cookies.  Repeat with remaining pairs of cookies.  Cookies can be kept at room temperature between layers of parchment in airtight containers up to 3 days.

Taylor's Notes:
Although a little time consuming, these are really easy cookies to make.  They're really tasty, too, but so rich that one will do the trick.  Ooh, did I just admit that one usually isn't enough?  Well, come on, who are we kidding?  When is one cookie ever enough??  I digress... great, easy, rich cookies.  Make them, especially if you're a fellow malt lover.

Enjoy!

April 3, 2011

... Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa

The near 90 degree temps in Kansas City today really made me want to fire up the grill.  Then I remembered that the winds were near 90 mph.  This recipe was the perfect solution to that and the fresh avocado salsa (plus the fresh mango I added, thankyouverymuch) was great for a pre-summer summer-like day.


Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa
serves 4

coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Hass avocado, pitted and cut into chunks

In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cayenne; rub all over chicken.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium.  Add chicken, and cook until browned on the outside and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine onion and lime juice; set aside.  Just before serving, fold avocado chunks into onion mixture; season with salt and pepper.  Serve chicken topped with salsa.

Taylor's Notes:


As I mentioned, I added mango to the mix and it was such a great partner to the creamy avocado and sharp onion.  The recipe was quick and easy to make... for one, or many!


Enjoy!

... Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Blueberries, oatmeal, and muffins.  Three foods I love separately, but even more together.  These were really easy to make and, although the recipe indicates they're for 12- to 18-month olds (something I'm still trying to figure out), I think they're perfect for breakfast or a snack... whatever your age!


As soon as I finished making the batter, I realized I only had snowman muffin liners.  Considering I'm so completely over winter, I couldn't bring myself to use them.  I've always seen muffins wrapped in pretty folded parchment paper, so after a quick Google search for 'parchment muffin cups', I found this tutorial and decided to give it a shot.


It really was pretty easy (considering I only had 16 to make) and I think the end result is much better than a snowman liner any old day, but especially in April.


Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
makes 16 muffins

1 2/3 cups quick-cooking oats
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
2.33 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 large eggs
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (only needed if using frozen blueberries; omit if using fresh)
cooking spray
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place oats in a food processor; pulse 5 to 6 times or until oats resemble coarse meal.  Place in a large bowl.

Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Add flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to oats; stir well.  Make a well in center of mixture.

Combine buttermilk and next 3 ingredients (through eggs).  Add to flour mixture; stir until just moist.

Toss berries with 2 tablespoons flour, and gently fold into batter.  Spoon batter into 16 muffin cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle 2 tablespoons granulated sugar evenly over batter.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center.  Remove from pans immediately; place on a wire rack.

Taylor's Notes:


I know that with baking you're supposed to be very exact in your measurements, hence the actual weights of flour.  I haven't ever gotten into it that deeply, but I do make sure that my measurements are right on and I've never had any problems.  But, there they are just in case...


If you should choose to take on the parchment muffin liner challenge, here are a few tips I learned.  Spray the muffin tins lightly with non-stick spray.  Ironically, this will help the parchment stick.  It's not perfect, but it does help.  The downside is that the outside of your liners are then a little greasy when you take the baked muffins of the pan.  Be sure to make your folds flat so that the batter doesn't seep between the paper.  And finally, I used a scoop to put the batter into the cups.  Using one hand to hold the paper liner in place and the other to scoop the batter into the cup.  Two scoops per cup was the perfect amount.


These muffins came out very moist and the fresh blueberries are so delicious.  I think I'll attempt to freeze a few because, although they're not too bad for you, I don't think I should polish off 6 or 8 muffins before they go bad.  Swimsuit is just around the corner, you know.


Enjoy!



... Toasted Bittersweet S'mores

Who do you think invented s'mores?  I'd like to meet them and give them a big gooey, marshmallow-covered  high five.  It's always the simple things that are the best... chocolate, graham crackers, marshmallows... that's the stuff.


What I also love are bloggers like the very cool Carrie & Morgan of Ampersand Design Studio who lead me to great recipes like this.  Who wouldn't want a version of a s'mores that you can eat at any given time of day?


Toasted Bittersweet S'mores
makes 18 bars

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
6 ounces chocolate (bittersweet or semisweet), chopped
18 large marshmallows, cut in half crosswise

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil, leaving about 1 inch hanging over two edges.  Lightly coat the bottom and sides with cooking spray.  Make room in the fridge.

Put 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium, heatproof bowl and heat in a microwave or over simmering water until melted.  Add the cookie crumbs and stir until the crumbs are moist and well blended.  Dump the crumbs into the prepared pan and, using a flat-bottomed cup, firmly press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom.  Bake until fragrant, about 12 minutes.  Set on a rack to cool.

Put the chocolate and the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a medium heatproof bowl and heat in a microwave or over simmering water until melted.  Whisk until smooth and blended.  Pour into the baked crust (it's ok if the crust is still warm) and spread evenly.  Refrigerate until almost firm, about 30 minutes (for faster chilling, slide the pan into the freezer).  Arrange the marshmallow halves, cut side down, evenly over the chocolate, pressing lightly.  Cover and refrigerate until very firm, about 40 minutes or for up to 2 days.

Just before serving, adjust the oven rack to the top level and heat the broiler on high.  Using the excess foil as handles, lift the s'more square from the pan and set on a cookie sheet.  Pull the foil away from the sides and slide the cookie sheet under the broiler.  Broil until the marshmallows are browned, about 20 seconds.  Set on a rack and move the foil and s'more square to a cutting board.  Cut into 18 rectangles.  Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.  Serve slightly chilled.

Taylor's Notes:


I went the semisweet route, but definitely think the bittersweet has its merits.  I'll try that next time, along with these other tweaks...


I'll leave the graham / chocolate step in the refrigerator for a shorter amount of time... maybe only 15 minutes.  Long enough to get the chocolate to harden a bit, but still have it be soft enough that the marshmallows will settle into the chocolate rather than just sitting on top of it.  


I'll also try broiling the bars on low rather than high and maybe put the rack on the second-to-highest spot instead of the highest one.  I think this will allow the marshmallows to get a little gooey-er without getting too brown too quickly.  Another option, would be to skip the broiling all together and  use a kitchen torch to brown the marshmallows.  Of course, that would only work if I had a kitchen torch... 


Other than that, these are really easy, quick, and a good substitution for the real thing when you're craving the simple things.


Enjoy!