The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Happy Tuesday!! I’m very pleased to inform you I have officially discovered THE best chocolate chip cookie bar in existence. If you are a chocolate chip cookie fan, you are going to love these chocolate chip cookie bars. These bars are thick, chewy, buttery and loaded with chocolate chips. Our family devoured them and my boys declared them the best bars they’ve ever had. Gotta love a quick recipe you probably have all the ingredients for and they are great when you are short on time and need a delicious dessert. They transport well and are also wonderful with a scoop of ice cream on top or served alongside a tall glass of ice cold milk. Enjoy!!

Ingredients:

2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the melted butter and sugars together until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
Bake cookie bars for 25-30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool bars on a wire rack to room temperature. Cut bars into squares and serve.

Slow Cooker Sweet Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin

Oh. My. That pretty much sums up how I would describe this pork loin. Pure deliciousness! I am a bit obsessed with my crockpot these days. You cannot beat the convenience of throwing in a few simple ingredients in the morning, going about your day, and returning home to find a glorious meal waiting for your hungry family. I found this recipe on a favorite blog of mine (Mel’s Kitchen Cafe) and knew I had to try it. I am so glad I did. It was a huge hit with my whole family! The pork was perfectly seasoned, juicy, moist and falling apart tender. I have to say the sauce may have been the best part. A sweet balsamic glaze that would be delicious on chicken or salmon as well. I’m excited to share this recipe with you and hope you’ll try it soon. It definitely falls into the “impress your dinner guests with minimal effort” category!

Note: This recipe is easily doubled – increase all the amounts (for the pork or the glaze) if making a larger roast.

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

Pork:
2 pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of large fat pockets
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed
1/2 cup water

Glaze:
1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl, combine the sage, salt, pepper and garlic. Rub the spices all over the roast. Place the pork roast in the slow cooker and pour in the 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Near the end of the cooking time for the roast, combine the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens.

Remove the pork from the slow cooker, shred and place on a platter or plate. Drizzle the glaze over the pork and serve.

The Best Steak Fajitas

Happy Monday! It’s 10:00 in the morning, I’m running on nothing but a cup of coffee and staring at this picture is literally making my stomach growl. I can’t even begin to describe in words the deliciousness that’s before you. Can you see the beauty of the perfectly grilled steak up above? Slightly pink in the middle. Tender. Juicy. Perfection. Fajitas are fairly simple to make but can go terribly wrong. Please do not ever buy a packet of seasoning mix labeled “fajitas” ever again. Delicious steak fajitas are dependent upon a few factors. It comes down to the cut of meat you use, marinading properly to both season and tenderize, proper cooking method and using fresh, flavorful ingredients and toppings. This recipe is from Tyler Florence and I made a few modifications for our family. The original recipe calls for three chipotle peppers. Now I love super spicy food but for kiddos or adults that don’t, one chipotle pepper is plenty. I used just one the most recent time I made this with a bit of extra adobo sauce from the canned chipotles and it was mild enough for my boys. Now onto the toppings. The pico do gallo recipe is from Pioneer Woman and we really love it. And wonderful guacamole is an absolute fajita essential in my book and my recipe is linked below. I hope you get a chance to make these. They are easily in my top ten favorite dinner recipes list!

Ingredients:

Marinade:

1 orange, juiced
2 limes, juiced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1-3 chipolte chiles, in adobo sauce, depending on level of spice desired. I would start with 1 the first time you make this and then adjust from there.
3 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 pounds skirt or flank steak, trimmed of fat cut into thirds or 8-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
4 assorted color bell peppers (green, red, yellow, orange), thinly sliced
1 large white or red onion, thinly sliced
Lime juice, olive oil, optional
12 flour tortillas, warm
Guacamole , click for recipe
Pico de gallo, see below
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese

Directions

In a small 2 cup measuring cup, or something similar size and shape, combine all the marinade ingredients. Using an immersion blender, puree the marinade until smooth. Alternatively, you may combine all ingredients in a food processor or standard blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a re-sealable plastic bag and add the steak, seal and shake to coat. Refrigerate the beef for 2 to 4 hours to tenderize and flavor the beef.

Preheat a ridged grill pan on high heat.

Drain the marinade from the beef. Lightly oil the grill or grill pan. Season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the steak over medium-high heat and cook for 4 minutes on each side and then transfer to a cutting board and let rest. Depending on the size of your grill pan you may need to cook in batches.

Once the beef is off the grill pan and resting, add the bell peppers and onions tossed with lime juice and olive oil, if using. Grill the mixture for 5 to 7 minutes until the vegetables are just barely limp.

While the peppers and onions are cooking, heat up the tortillas. Turn any free burners on a medium low flame. Place a tortilla on each flame and let it char about 30 seconds to 1 minute, flip the tortilla and repeat on the second side. Once heated and charred remove the tortilla to a clean tea towel and wrap to keep warm. Repeat until you have warmed all of your tortillas.

You can also heat your tortillas in a microwave, lightly dampen a tea towel with some water, wrap the tortillas in the damp towel and heat in the microwave for about 1 minute. Check to see if they are warm, if not repeat the heating at 1 minute intervals until they are warm and pliable.

Thinly slice the steak against the grain on a diagonal.

To serve:

Spread some guacamole on a tortilla, top with a few slices of steak, peppers and onions, pico de gallo, sour cream and cheese. Roll up the tortilla to enclose the filling.

Source: Food Network

Pico De Gallo

Ingredients:

5 whole Roma tomatoes
1 small onion
2 whole jalapeno peppers
Cilantro
Lime juice
Salt to taste

Directions:

Chop jalapenos, tomatoes and onions into a very small dice. (Remove ribs and seeds from jalapenos unless you want it super spicy). Adjust amount of jalapenos to your preferred temperature. Next, chop up a nice-sized bunch of cilantro. Just remove and discard the long leafless stems before chopping. No need to remove the leaves from the stems completely. Place all of these ingredients together in a bowl and give it a good stir.
Squeeze the juice of half of one lime into the bowl. Add salt to taste and stir again.

Source: Pioneer Woman

The Best Buttermilk Biscuits

Did anyone else grow up on canned biscuits? I did! Then when I got married my version of homemade transitioned to the all purpose mix in the yellow box. I just never knew how easy homemade biscuits are to make. These particular biscuits are Paula Deen’s recipe and we love them. I also have a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that’s wonderful but these seem to be the ones I go back to over and over again. They are light, fluffy and buttery delicious. On a side note, buttermilk is such a wonderful thing and something I suggest you keep on hand at all times. Besides these biscuits you can make amazing waffles, pancakes, muffins and lots of other delicious recipes with it. These biscuits are delicious topped with butter and honey, jam or even gravy and make wonderful breakfast sandwiches. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the shortening with a fork until it looks like cornmeal. Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly until well mixed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly two or three times. Roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 2-inch cutter.
Place the biscuits in a greased iron skillet (I made mine on a baking sheet). Gently press down top of biscuits. Brush the biscuits with half the melted butter. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown. Brush the hot biscuits with the remaining butter.

Source: Paula Deen

The Best Hot Fudge Sauce

Hmmmmm hot fudge. Do those two glorious words send you on a trip down memory lane like they do me? My wonderful father would take me on ice cream dates as a little girl. And those daddy/daughter dates are still some of the best memories from my childhood. I suppose there is something a bit retro and simple about hot fudge in the age of salted caramel everything. But in my book it’s still a delicious ice cream topping and a recipe everyone should have in their repertoire simply because it’s so easy to make. And thoroughly scrumptious.

I love this particular recipe! I literally struck gold with the very first recipe I attempted. To me it’s the perfect flavor and consistency. It’s not super, sickeningly sweet like you find in most jarred sauces. And it’s not so dark chocolatey that your kids won’t like it. My oldest son celebrated his ninth birthday this past week and this was his request. Hot fudge atop a perfect brownie in the form of a sundae. What can I say? My boy has good taste! Everyone in our family loved this and I will never buy a jar from the store again. Here’s to retro. Here’s to simplicity. Here’s to heaven!

Ingredients:

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/4 tsp salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped or alternatively you can use bittersweet chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Bring cream, corn syrup, sugar, cocoa, salt, and half of chocolate to a boil in a 1 to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until chocolate is melted. Reduce heat and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Add butter, vanilla, and remaining chocolate and stir until smooth. Cool sauce to warm before serving.

Source: Epicurious.com

Homemade Cranberry Nut Granola

Happy Tuesday everyone! Let’s talk about granola. In the past few years, I’ve made many changes in our kitchen, making more and more things the homemade way rather than purchasing pre-packaged items. A favorite breakfast of mine is granola. I love it! I love it in the morning served cereal style. I love it over yogurt. I love it by the handful! Now to be honest my boys would much prefer Captain Crunch or Applejacks. And I’ll be honest again, I actually allow them a bowl of the sugary “goodness” once in awhile. I like to play the fun mom sometimes!
Over the last few years I’ve come across multiple recipes for granola and I’ve made quite a few of them. This recipe is my version of perfect. I took bits and pieces of different recipes I found and put together what I’m sure you’ll love. The wonderful thing about granola is that it’s completely versatile. Feel free to substitute whatever nuts, seeds and dried fruits you like or leave them out. I use coconut oil as my fat in this recipe because of its health benefits and sometimes I’ll add flax seed for the same reason. If you don’t have coconut oil, feel free to substitute vegetable or canola, And If you need a chocolate fix throw in dark or semisweet chocolate chips. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup sunflower seed kernels
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a non stick baking mat.
Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, sunflower seeds, coconut and nuts in a large bowl. Stir together the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat. Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until slightly crispy and toasted, about 30 minutes. Stir once halfway through. Cool, then stir in the cranberries before storing in an airtight container.

Blackberry Cobbler

I must admit that I am SO excited for fall!! Summer sure took its sweet time arriving in the Pacific Northwest this year and the hot summer days were a welcome change. But now that school has started, football season is here and we’re all settling into a routine once again I am ready for my favorite season. I love warm sweaters, boots, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin candles (see a theme here?), cooler temps and falling leaves. So this wonderful blackberry cobbler is my farewell to summer this year. We were playing at one of our favorite little parks when we spotted tons of delicious, ripe blackberries ready for picking. I turned them into this delicious cobbler that we all loved and will definitely make again each year for blackberry season. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cups white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed and drained

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/4 cup boiling water just until mixture is evenly moist.
In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in cold water. Mix in remaining 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blackberries. Transfer to a skillet, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Transfer to an 8×8″ baking dish and drop dough onto the top of berry mixture by spoonfuls.
Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until dough is golden brown.

PF Chang’s Spicy Chicken

I LOVE PF Chang’s! My three favorite things to order are their lettuce wraps, crispy green beans and spicy chicken. As I’ve mentioned before, with our family size and the ages of our young kiddos, eating out has become impractical. So I’m trying to recreate our restaurant favorites right at home. This one was spot on! I did have to laugh at myself as my husband and I were sweating a bit while enjoying dinner last night. You see, I read the recipe wrong and when it said 2 teaspoons of Srirachi hot chili sauce, I thought it said 2 tablespoons. I like things on the spicy side so I did two heaping Tablespoons. Oooppps! It was still amazing but definitely not for the faint of heart :)

If you’re a fan of PF Chang’s Spicy Chicken you are going to LOVE this!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds Chicken Breast
2 cups Vegetable Oil, for frying
1 cup Flour
½ teaspoons Salt
¾ teaspoons Baking Soda
1 whole Egg
½ cups Milk
½ cups Water

Spicy Sauce:

2 teaspoons Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons Garlic, Chopped Finely
3 Tablespoons Green Onion (chopped)
1 cup Pineapple Juice
2 teaspoons (or more) Hot Chili Sauce (Sriracha – found with the Asian foods in the supermarket)
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
4 teaspoons Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon Soy Sauce
¾ teaspoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Water
3 teaspoons Cornstarch

Directions:

Prepare the spicy sauce: heat oil, garlic and green onions over medium heat until soft. Add pineapple juice, chili sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and salt. Combine the water and cornstarch in a separate container. Mix the cornstarch/water mixture into the sauce and stir over medium-low heat until thickened. You can add more chili sauce if you want spicier spicy chicken sauce. Be sure to taste it as you go so you don’t overdo it. Reduce heat to low.

Prepare the chicken: cut the chicken breast into 1-inch cubes and season with salt. Begin heating the 2 cups vegetable oil over medium-high heat.

Prepare the batter: combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together. Batter should be fairly thin. Place chicken cubes in the batter to coat. Batter should be very thin on the chicken.

Once the oil is heated, reduce heat to medium and add chicken cubes a few at a time, letting the batter drip off before placing in the oil. Let them cook for 3-4 minutes and turn halfway through cooking. Cook until golden brown. Remove and drain on a paper-towel-covered plate. Repeat until all chicken is cooked.

Serve chicken over white or brown rice and cover with plenty of spicy sauce. Garnish with additional chopped green onions in desired.

Serves: 4

Cheeseburger Flatbread Melts

This is a quick, easy and VERY kid friendly dinner idea. It’s almost like a sloppy joe on a delicious, buttery flatbread. Gotta love quick meal ideas for the busy back to school season! Next time I am going to do a taco flatbread melt by simply seasoning my meat with taco seasoning and topping with shredded lettuce, tomato and sour cream.

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
1/2 cup water
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
1/2 cup ketchup
2 T mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T canola or vegetable oil
1 can Pillsbury thin or regular pizza crust
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Brown and drain ground beef. Add water, vinegar, onion soup mix, ketchup, mustard and garlic. Stir to combine and simmer over low heat. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp canola oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed skillet. Divide the pizza dough into 6-8 equal portions and roll into a round, tortilla-like shape. Fry the dough for one minute on each side or until golden brown and bubbly. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Top with beef mixture and shredded cheese.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

We love Chinese food around here! For some reason it’s one of the cuisines I’ve ventured into the least in my cooking. When the mood strikes we just order take out from our favorite local Chinese restaurant. One of our standard orders is sweet and sour chicken. We love the crispy chicken and tangy sauce. It’s a unanimous favorite at our house. As our family has grown to 6 eating out has become both inconvenient and really spendy. So there are certain things we love to order when we eat out that I’m attempting to replicate at home. This Chinese restaurant favorite was a HUGE hit with our whole family. The chicken was perfectly crispy and the sauce was spot on. My husband and I both agreed that it was better than any we’ve had. I just love when I find that I can often make our restaurant favorites even better right from home! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 large can pineapple chunks, drained (juice reserved)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 3/4 cups water, divided
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
2 drops orange food coloring
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into 1 inch cubes
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 egg
1 1/2 cups water
1 quart vegetable oil for frying
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
Hot Cooked Rice

Directions:

In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, vinegar, reserved pineapple juice, and orange food coloring. Heat to boiling. Turn off heat. Combine 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup water; slowly stir into saucepan. Continue stirring until mixture thickens.
Combine flour, baking soda, 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, salt, white pepper, and egg. Add 1 1/2 cups water gradually to make a thick batter. Stir to blend thoroughly. Add chicken pieces, and stir until chicken is well coated.
Heat oil in skillet or wok to 360 degrees F (180 degrees C). Fry chicken pieces in hot oil 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove chicken, and drain on paper towels.
When ready to serve layer bell peppers, onion, pineapple chunks, and cooked chicken pieces on a platter. Pour hot sweet and sour sauce over top and serve over rice.