Thursday, September 18, 2014

Layered Bean Dip (Best Ever)



I volunteered to bring a "cold dip" to the middle school for the teachers to enjoy prior to a long night of parent/teacher conferences. I don't usually volunteer for food items, and as of late prefer the simple assignments - usually the hearing and vision screening or working the book fair. For whatever reason (a near-empty sign-up genius form), I volunteered.

I always envision things going easily. Thursdays are generally a good "free" day for me, and the only other thing on my calendar was a YW meeting in the morning. I made sure I had all the ingredients, purchasing sour cream, cilantro, and green onions (and I couldn't resist the buy-2-get-3-free 7-UP products deal) the night before from the Safeway directly connected to my salon that I had tirelessly worked at all day. Safeway's entire system was down, which I was unaware of until I graced the check-out line. "Cash or check only," I was told. Luckily I hadn't made my deposit for the night (at the credit union directly connected to the salon on the other side), and had some cash on hand. The cashier calculated totals in her head, gave me a grand total of $18. That was easy.

In the middle of the YW meeting my phone rang. It was Lex, so I excused myself and took the call. She had been sent home from her new job because she didn't have her social security card. If she didn't bring it back to her new place of employment by 5pm that evening, she no longer had a job. I felt sick. I had sent the card to her in the mail on Monday, but I have had numerous experiences with the Provo post office that make me question their ability to properly handle the mail. I told her to go home and wait for the mail - maybe it would come today. I rejoined my meeting, but immediately texted Bill and Britt for backup. We were so thrilled that Lex had a job that she needs so desperately to save money for her next school year, and I felt devastated that there was a real and probable chance that she was going to lose it.

Long story short (okay, semi-short), Billy-my-hero found a place where Lex could obtain her birth certificate TODAY, a mere 1.1 miles from her Provo residence. She drove there, paid her $20 fee, picked up the certificate, and headed back to work. Phew. Catastrophe averted. 

Needless to say, my meeting ran long, I had to make an emergency run to the bank to transfer some moo-lah to my destitute Lex (that's why she needs the job so darn bad), then ran back home to throw together my bean dip. Of course my day couldn't run as smoothly as I had imagined it when I volunteered to help.

In the midst of the chaos, I snapped pictures. That's how I do. I had to post this, my favorite bean dip recipe, originally found here:
 Another one of my wedding gifts, this time from my MIL.
(This cover isn't really connected either)

Here's a portion of the recipe (the rest is on the back and I didn't see purpose in taking a picture of it:

I will be sharing my modified version.

THE BEST 7-LAYER BEAN DIP EVER

Start with 2 (15oz) cans refried beans. Mix them together and smooth onto a platter. I prefer round, and find great pleasure in the smoothing part of the layered dip process. An offset spatula is my best friend.

Mash up two large ripe avocados with salt to taste and 1 to 2 tsp. lemon juice. Yes, I used lemon juice from a bottle. Sometimes I skip this step when 1) I don't have any avocados on hand, 2) I can't find any ripe avocados for purchase, or 3) avocados are ridiculously priced. It's still really good, I promise. Spread the avocado mixture over the bean layer, leaving a slight edge so your next layer will completely cover it and prevent it from turning a nasty brown color.

This is the layer that makes this dip THE BEST. In a bowl, combine 1 cup mayonnaise with 1 cup sour cream. Add 1 pkg. taco seasoning mix. I don't buy taco seasoning mix, so I always use my own mix, which I prefer BUT either tastes great. I have included my seasoning mix recipe at the bottom of this post. You're welcome. The 1/3 tsp. chili powder from the original recipe seems like a typo to me, so I've always just added another tsp. chili powder to my mix. Whisk together, then spread on top of the avocado layer, making sure to cover edges.

Next add the cheese. I like the big shreds (v the finely shredded cheese) because I like to TASTE the cheese.

Slice up a can of black olives and sprinkle them on (this may be a can minus about... 5 olives).

Then chop up some roma tomatoes (I try to de-juice them a little by scraping out the juicy seeds) and sprinkle them on.

Since I was kinda in a hurry, I forgot to take a picture of the final dip before I wrapped that baby up to deliver to the school. I decided to make my final layer some cilantro leaves, since I figured the teachers may want to avoid onion-breath for their conferences. You can use either cilantro or green onions, or both. I really prefer both.

Since I had gone to all the effort to take pictures along the way, I figured I could sacrifice one or two minutes to un-saran the dip for a decent finished product. (I may have sprinkled on a few green onions once the saran was off before re-wrapping... post picture.)

I'm telling you, it's the best.

Here's the recipe in short form:

2 (15oz) cans refried beans
2 large, ripe avocados
salt, to taste
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayo
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix (my mix below)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 cup + shredded cheese
1 can black olives, sliced
3 roma tomatoes, diced
2 green onions, chopped
cilantro (optional)

Mix refried beans and spread on platter. Mash avocados with salt and lemon juice, then spread over bean layer. Mix sour cream, mayo, taco seasoning mix and chili powder together and spread over avocado layer. Sprinkle on cheese, olives, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro if using. Serve with corn chips.

TACO SEASONING MIX:

2 Tbs. dried minced onion
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. dried oregano

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Favorite Lemon Bars


I've used this recipe forever. On occasion I have tried other lemon bar recipes and then wonder why I did. These, in my humble opinion, are the best. Flat out. No need to search any longer.

Here is where the original recipe came from:


My mom gave this to me when I got married... pert near 27 years ago. It's been well used and well loved, can you tell? (That cover page isn't actually ON the cookbook - I just keep it because I'm an obsessive compulsive memorabilia keeper on a sentimental journey - haha.)

Here's a glimpse of the actual recipe:


Have I mentioned I'm a messy baker? If not, I confess. I am. Did the cookbook page give it away?
A big THANK YOU to Ida and Nyla (don't you love those names?)!


Here is a slightly modified, simpler-to-read recipe for

MY FAVORITE LEMON BARS

2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup (2 cubes) butter (I have NO IDEA what "oleo" is!), slightly softened
Pinch of salt

Blend well together (I use a pastry blender) and pat into a foil-lined 9x13" pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.

4 eggs, slightly beaten
6 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
grated rind of 2 lemons (or more)
2 cups sugar
5 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Mix eggs, lemon juice, and grated lemon rind in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, sift together sugar, flour, and baking powder. Add the egg and lemon mixture to the flour mixture, then pour on baked crust and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, lift out of pan, and cut into bars.


Notes:  (1) A friend of mine mentioned that she puts the lemon rind in the crust mixture. I have tried it, but felt like the rind adds more flavor in the filling. If you have plenty of lemon rind, you could add some to both. I love a TART lemon bar, so might try that the next time I make them.

(2) This recipe is oh-so-similar to Paula Deen's, which is where I learned about the foil-lined pan. The foil totally makes cutting them into perfect bars so much easier (and the delectable edges don't get stuck to the sides of the pan). That's a hot tip.

(3) I can't tell you how many times I have burned myself on the pre-baked crust pan. Remember that it just came out of an oven. It's hot. Once you've pour on your cold-ish filling it's easy to forget. Just sayin'.

Enjoy a mouth full of sunshine!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese

I made this last night in an effort to put dinner on the table FAST. I've used various mac-n-cheese recipes over the years, but thought I would try something different and I knew I had pinned a few recipes on Pinterest. They all, however, called for cream cheese or cream, of which I had neither. I also wanted to avoid the lengthy second step of many recipes that call for baking in the oven. I needed FAST. After spending too much time looking for a recipe, I turned to good ol' reliable google.

"best stove top mac and cheese"

This recipe popped up on top of the list, so I glanced through the ingredients. Hmmmm... interesting. It called for eggs. No flour roux, no cream, no cream cheese. I figured I might as well give it try.

I used this pasta
and doubled the recipe, planning for summer-day-lunch leftovers.

Bill's comment: "I think this is the best mac-n-cheese you have ever made."

Shilo's comment: "I need this recipe for college. This is so good."

Mauri's comment: "I ate more than I thought I would." (She had just had a pancake an hour before dinner - go figure.)

I didn't snap a pic of my final product, and figured a pic of the refrigerated leftovers might not do it justice. Imagine cheesy, creamy deliciousness. Next time I make it I'll try to remember to memorialize it.


The Best Mac-n-Cheese I Have Ever Made (a la Alton Brown)

1/2 lb. elbow macaroni (I used Cellentani, and doubled the recipe)
4 Tbs. butter
2 eggs
6 oz evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (I used Cholula)
1 tsp. kosher salt (I used slightly less)
Fresh black pepper
3/4 tsp. dry mustard
10 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded (I used medium cheddar, since that's what I had on hand)

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta al dente, then drain. Return to the pot and melt in butter (I pre-melted the butter in the microwave to speed things along). Toss pasta to coat.

Whisk together eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy and smooth, at least 3 minutes.

Note: This was super creamy and rich, which my family {loved}. My personal preference (from growing up on milkier/runnier mac-n-cheese) is a slightly "looser" texture. In my double batch next time I'm going to try eliminating one egg, and slightly increasing the milk quantity. I'll post the update.

Easy.
Yummy.
Quick.

Happy family.

Gotta love that.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Best S'mores Bars EVER


I work with a fabulous baker in the Young Women organization at my church. She seriously makes the best treats EVER. A few months back she made these for one of our Priest/Laurel activities and I couldn't get enough of them (not good for my not-really-a-diet-but-I-need-to-lose-weight regime). I had texted her for the recipe, then asked her in person a week or two later, and finally sent a text a week or two later that I wanted it NOW, if possible (obviously my first two attempts were too gentle).

It was a Sunday evening, and I was craving something sweet, and Bill wanted to take some treats to a couple of families in our ward. My friend Kristen responded in a very timely manner (so sweet of her to take time out to do it for me), and I started to whip up a double batch. Since she has an iphone and I have an android, the texts came in all jumbled (could somebody fix that, please?), so I was trying to decipher the recipe while using what I had on hand.

They still turned out seriously so good!
These went a little long under the broiler, but my family thought they were more "s'mores-y" with some dark brown anyway (thankfully no BLACK). YUM!

I told Kristen I was posting the recipe so I could share it with my family and friends (and, selfishly, so I can access it wherever I may be at any given moment without having to figure out the text puzzle).

Here it is:

Kristen Jorgensen's S'mores Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (I used salted)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (I used regular brown)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (very close to 1 full sleeve of graham crackers)
1 bag of mini marshmallows (I only had large, so cut them in fourths)
3 to 4 full-size Hershey chocolate bars broken into pieces (I used Guittard milk chocolate chips)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and mix until incorporated. Add the vanilla, salt and baking soda; mix well. Mix in the flour and graham cracker crumbs until the dough comes together.

In a 9x13 pan, press the dough evenly on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 13 minutes. Take pan out of the oven and spread enough mini marshmallows to cover the top of the dough. Stick small pieces of the Hershey chocolate bar all over the top in between the marshmallows. Bake for an additional 3 minutes. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before attempting to cut into bars.

Kristen's notes:  It is better to let it cool before cutting into bars. (My note: if you are serving out of the pan, they are divine served warm!!) I also put mine under the broiler for just 30 to 60 seconds for a little browning of the marshmallow. If they don't start browning quickly, pull them out before they start getting melted completely. Also, when you pull the bars out after 13 minutes (before putting the toppings on), it will look jiggly in the middle but set up around the edges - that's how it should be.

I only had these cake pans to make the bars in that we were giving away, so I divided the dough in half and baked everything at the same time. I think they worked out perfectly. Obviously I didn't broil at the same time, and didn't intend to get our pan so dark, but they were still delicious either way.

If you like s'mores, I promise you will LOVE these!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Parker House Rolls a la Bobby Flay

I love these rolls.

Thank you, Bobby Flay.


PARKER HOUSE ROLLS A LA BOBBY FLAY

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups milk
1 stick butter, cut into pieces, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast (I used 1 Tbs.)
1/2 cup warm water
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 tsp. salt
6 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:
Place milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, then stir in the butter and sugar and let cool. (I placed the milk and butter in the microwave until the butter was melted, then stirred in the sugar and let cool.) Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit until foamy. Combine milk mixture, eggs, yeast, salt, and 1/2 of the flour in a mixer with the dough attachment (I used my KitchenAid) and mix until smooth. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until a smooth ball forms.

Remove from the bowl and knead by hand on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. On a floured surface, punch down the dough and shape as desired. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet; cover again and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter before serving.

I tried shaping the rolls (pictured above) using a technique by Alex Guarnaschelli I saw in a Food Network magazine. I like it! Here is a link if you're interested (slide 11-17).

(If you go to the Bobby Flay link there is a video of him making rolls, and after watching I have concluded that he has no idea how to shape rolls.)

Italian Sodas

We served these for Shilo & Cheyenne's graduation party and they were a huge hit.

You can buy the syrup online direct from Torani, and if you order over $59, the shipping is free. World Market may have them also, you are just limited to the flavors they carry. We like to use the syrup for slushies and shaved ice all summer long.


ITALIAN SODAS

In a 16oz glass or plastic cup:

Pour 1/4 c. flavored syrup (if you are mixing flavors, you want them to total 1/4 cup) in bottom, then
Fill glass or cup 3/4 full of ice
Add 2/3 cup sparkling mineral water (or club soda)
Pour in 2 to 4 Tbs. heavy cream

Stir with a straw.
Enjoy.
And then enjoy another flavor.
Seriously, you may not be able to stop.

Lucky us, I slightly overbought for the party, so we have a stash that will last us (and our company) for a long, long time. Come see us and we'll serve you up.

Iced Hot Chocolate

I had to search for this recipe today on my family blog, so I thought I would quickly transfer it here where it is more easily found and accessible. I still have quite a few of these containers of Swiss Miss, so I think I'll share them with friends this summer along with this great recipe. YUM!


ICED HOT CHOCOLATE

Put in blender (my old $20 basic Oster does a great job - no need for a VitaMix):

2 cups cold milk
6 Tbs. hot cocoa mix (more if you like)
approx. 2 cups ice

Blend.
Pour into glasses.

Starbucks fancy style (unnecessary unless you are blending to impress):
top with whipped cream and drizzle with chocolaty syrup.

Drink with a straw.
Makes 3 servings.

Note: I have tried making this with another hot cocoa mix and didn't like it nearly as well as the Swiss Miss. I'm not saying you can't make it with another mix, I just can't guarantee you will get the same results ;-) If you get BETTER results with another mix, please, feel free to share!

HELLO SUMMER!