Friday, April 1, 2016

Triple Chocolate Brownies

When it is time for chocolate, no substitute will do.

So, today we will talk about the MOST chocolate brownie I have ever made, tasted, or offered to loved ones.

The Pioneer Woman's Dark Chocolate Brownies are my go to for that nothing-but-chocolate-will-do craving, and I only made a couple very mild changes.  
However, I think you will agree that the changes didn't hurt one bit, and that these brownies  definitely have the ability to enhance your life experience.

So, let's get started on "My version of the Pioneer Woman's Dark Chocolate Brownies".

First things first... go forth and gather the following ingredients:

1 cup Butter
4 oz, weight Unsweetened Chocolate 
1/4 (plus a Tbsp more) Unsweetened Cocoa
2 cups Sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1 tsp Instant Coffee Granules
3 Large Eggs
1-1/4 cups Flour
3/4 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Powdered sugar for sifting

To begin, add butter & the Unsweetened Chocolate Bar to a medium saucepan.
Over low heat, whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted.

Once chocolate and butter have happily become one, it is time to add the second layer of chocolate goodness.
Cocoa powder will add that deeper, darker chocolate flavor we are looking for, so throw in 1/4 cup plus about a Tbsp more.

Whisk the cocoa powder into the mix until smooth.
Add the teaspoon of instant coffee granules (NOTE: a touch of instant coffee really enhances chocolate dishes, without changing the flavor.  It isn't a bad idea to keep some around for the next time you are whipping up a batch of any or all things chocolate.)

Whisk the instant coffee into the mixture until smooth, then remove from heat and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.

Once the chocolate mixture is slightly cooled, add the sugar.  The sugar will help to further cool the chocolate.

Wait to stir until we have added the vanilla. Omgosh, vanilla.  How I love thee.
Sorry.  Food thrills me.
Especially when I get to combine food with my really cool Mickey whisk, and my bright & shiny bird measuring spoons.
Hellloooo, happiness.
Moving onward.  Vanilla.  Throw it in there.

Stir until just barely combined.  No need to get all stir-happy up in there.  Brownies don't like to be messed with too much.

Now that the sugar and vanilla have helped to lower the temperature of the chocolate, you can safely add the eggs without accidentally cooking them.

If you want to do more than one egg at a time, just be sure to break up each egg individually before you begin whisking them into the mix.

Once the eggs have been mixed in, it is time for the flour.

Stir it until it is just barely incorporated and then throw in the third chocolate layer: the semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Stir to combine.

Still don't want to get all stir-happy....keeping in mind, brownies are sensitive.

Once you have them pretty much combined, add them to your well-greased 9x13....

Smooth out the mixture with a spatula.
Place in oven set to 350 F, and allow to bake for 30-40 minutes while you wait... with or without patience.  It makes no difference to me.
I usually go for the "without patience" approach, but it can get kinda weird around here with me talking to the oven about how I really need my fix.
Probably best to not be like me, and just go with the whole "patient" approach.
Watch Netflix or something.

Once the brownies have baked and are slightly springy to the touch, allow to cool in pan for what will seem like forever.  Basically, you just want them WAY cooled completely cooled down.

I didn't want to tell you that, because I know it makes it more difficult, but we really are going for completely cooled here, people.  
Completely cooled allows you to dump the brownies out onto a cutting board, so that you can do this.

Cut them into the sweetest, smallest squares of dark chocolate happiness, and sift powdered sugar over them until the angels sing.

At which point, people in your house will hear the singing and come to investigate.
And they will do this to your brownie stash.

But, not before you have reserved some to pile on a plate.

Or set some larger pieces aside to heat and serve with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce.

It is all about having options.  Options are where it's at.

So, until we cook again....


Click HERE for printable.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Tomato Sauce Pork & Veggies

If you like pork.
And you love tomatoes.
Then come with me.
I have something to show you.  Something that will very likely change your life forver, and at the very least, greatly improve your week.

It doesn't really have a name, other than pork and tomato sauce wonderfulness.
With veggies.

Give it a chance, and thank me later.

You will need the following ingredients:

2 Tbsp EVOO
1-2 Tbsp Butter
1/4 tsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp Soy sauce
1/4 - 1/2 cup Lemon juice
1 Tbsp Brown sugar
2 tsp Cumin
1-2 tsp Chili powder
2 Tbsp Cornmeal
2 cups Tomato Sauce
1 cup Unsalted chicken stock
1 lb Carrots
1 bunch Celery
1 large Onion
1 bunch Parsley
1 bunch Cilantro
1/2 cup of Half & Half
Cooked & buttered Extra Wide egg noodles

Let's start with some CHOPPING.  Chopping is just plain good for the soul, and cheaper than a therapist.  So, let's chop, shall we?

Chop the following:

Celery (medium sized chunks)
Onion (same as celery)
Carrots (medium sized discs)
Parsley (rough chop)
Cilantro (rough chop)

Now, set those glorious veggies aside and be ready to use them at a moment's notice.

Time for the SEARING:

I love to use the same ingredients for most of my searing, so if you have read very many of my main dish recipes, you are bound to be accustomed to this special searing blend......
In a large skillet, on medium-high heat, add the following:
EVOO, butter, 1 Tbsp Salt, 1 Tbsp Pepper, Sriracha, & Soy sauce.

Allow butter to melt, and roll the pan around a bit in order to get all the flavors blended.

Place pork in pan and sear each side for about a minute.

I like to salt and pepper the face up side while the first side is searing.
And throw a little lemon juice in there...mmmmmmmm.

After about a minute, flip the chops and sear the other side.

Once both sides have seared for about a minute each, remove them to a plate so that you can set to work at searing the veggies.

I like to start with the carrots because they won't accidentally cook through in a minute or two.
Get them slightly browned in whatever juices you still have left in the pan, OR throw in a little more EVOO/butter if your pan has gone dry.

Once a little bit of searing has happened (approximately 2 or 3 minutes), throw in a little white wine to de-glaze the pan a bit.

And let them simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

Omgosh.  This is so beautiful.  Are you happy yet??


Next we throw in the celery & onions.

And after a few more minutes of searing, it is time to add the chicken stock (keeping in mind that for this recipe, SEARING is nothing more than getting a little color & flavor to release from the veggies - so don't panic if you don't see searing marks on your veggies.  All is well.)

Back to the chicken stock.
Time to add it (approximately 1/4 - 1/2 cup)....

Lid the pan.

Turn the heat down to medium, and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.

Smell that.

Ok, let's add the chops back into the mix.

Be sure to get all those plate juices in there.
Add about 1/2 cup of Unsalted Chicken Stock, 2 cups tomato sauce, and a Tbsp each of Salt & Pepper.

Lid the pan, and allow to simmer at a medium heat (turning occassionally) until pork is cooked to an internal temperature of 145 - 160.
Plate the pork.

Time to finish the sauce.
This is the best part, friends, because...seriously...This is the most amazing sauce!
It is a combination of salty & sweet, as well as spicy with a hint of cornmeal.
I know.
Just trust me, please.

You won't regret it.

By the way, sorry for all the weird hand photos below.
Just trying to show you how much of each.
From top left, and moving clock-wise, add the following:
1-2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp cornmeal

Stir to combine, and add half a cup of half & half.

Stir well & allow to heat through.
Add the chops back into the mix, and toss in the chopped parsley & cilantro.

Stir gently.

Plate on a bed of hot-buttered Extra Wide Egg noodles.

And serve to happy people.

Until we cook again!


Click HERE for printable.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pot Roast

It is time to make pot roast, my friends.
It is time to be happy & comforted.
And very content.

When cooked properly (think SLOW COOKING), a pot roast can make your day all happily-ever-after, and all that jazz....So, if you're ready to have your life forever changed, let's get started!
(PS.... link to printable at bottom of recipe.)

You will need the following ingredients:

2 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp Salted Butter
1/4 tsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp (reduced sodium) Soy sauce
1 Tbsp salt (I like a Kosher & Himalayan blend)
1 Tbsp Pepper
Little extra Salt & Pepper to taste
3 - 5 lb Rump or Chuck roast (this time I used Rump)
1 (ish) cups of Red Wine
1-3 cups Unsalted Chicken Stock
1-2 lbs carrots (rough chopped into chunks)
1 large yellow onion (rough chopped into large chunks)

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Let the SEARING begin:
(*NOTE* Prior to searing, be sure that roast is not frozen.  Allowing roast to rest on counter for approximately half an hour is all the better.  The colder the meat, the more likely it is to seize up and become tough when introduced to the heat.)
In large Dutch oven, on med-high heat, combine the following:
EVOO, butter, Sriracha, soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp Salt, 1 Tbsp Pepper.

Use this glorious mixture to sear the roast on all sides.
Please don't skip this step.  It really goes a long way towards creating a rock-your-world roast that is absolutely fork-tender.  Whether you go with a rump or a chuck, a seared roast does a beautiful job of locking in all the juices before the cooking begins.
I apologize for all of the adjectives.
This recipe brings out my adjective side.

Once you have seared each side for no more than a minute or two, set the roast on a plate so that you can cook up some beautiful carrots & onions.

However, before you begin searing the veggies, be sure and de-glaze the pan with a little red wine.  I used approximately 1/4 - 1/2 a cup.

Look at all that flavor at the bottom of the pan. sure to use a spatula to scrape up all that goodness.

Next we add approximately one cup of the unsalted chicken stock.

Allow it to come to a simmer, and then add the veggies.
I like to cook them for just a few minutes to get some good color and flavor released.
Sorry no photo of the veggies cooking.
 I got a little sidetracked and failed to take one.

Once the veggies have some good color, you can add the roast, and those delicious plate juices, back in to the pan.  Try pushing the roast to the bottom of the pan as best you can.

Once again, I did a really bad picture job.  I took one, but it is super blurry.
I'm going to share it, because I can't stand to leave you without pictures.  However, please don't judge the photo quality, and know that I feel bad for not doing this meal the photo justice it deserves.

We are almost ready to start slow cooking.
Add a little extra salt & pepper for flavor (I used approximately 1-2 tsp each); and if your juices are mostly evaporated, pour in another cup or two of the chicken stock.
A little more of the red wine wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings either.  So, throw some of that in there if you are in the mood.
Lid the pan, and slide into an oven that has been pre-heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Allow to cook for at least 5-6 hours, or until meat is fork tender.

Rest for about half an hour.
Serve to happy people along with mashed potatoes & gravy and homemade french bread.

Until we cook again...

Click HERE for printable

Friday, March 11, 2016

Coq Au Vin(ish)

Recently I was eager to try something new in the kitchen; but it had to fit a certain bill.
It needed to be a comfort food.
It needed to feed a crowd.
And it couldn't break the grocery budget.

I scoured the internet looking for something that did all three, and after much studying and a bit of tweaking, I combined more than one or two recipes and came up with my version of Coq Au Vin - ish.
The "ish" allows me some creative license, and boy am I glad I played around with it a bit!  My kids have declared it one of my best dishes YET and there was some licking of bowls and asking for leftovers.
Needless to say, I'm a sucker for kid-love and I make the dish often, texting out promises of Coq Au Vin-ish anytime I feel lonely.
Yes, I'm shameless; but I don't feel the least bit guilty.
Combined, I spent approximately 62 labor hours bringing my four people into the world, and I feel I have earned the right to bribe and manipulate.
Ok, so let's get started, shall we?
I am willing to teach you my ways, as I'm sure you have people in your life too; and it never hurts to have a little something up your sleeve.

So, gather the following ingredients; and let's be very happy in the kitchen today!
(PS...printable below)

2 - 3 lbs boneless, skinless Chicken - trim some of the fat (I prefer thighs.  They have better flavor and are more likely to stay tender; however, this time I only had breasts, so you will see breasts in the pictures. Chicken breasts.  Sorry. NOT that kind of post.)
1 package bacon (the thicker the yummier, but thin is fine too)
1-2 bunches celery (think I used about 1 and a 1/2 bunches)
1 lb carrots
1 large yellow onion
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch parsley
Juice of 3 lemons
Approx 24 oz red wine
32 oz Unsalted Chicken Stock
Salt to taste (I use a blend of Kosher & Pink Himalayan)
Pepper to taste
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp ground thyme (OR 2 - 3 sprigs fresh thyme)
2-4 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 tsp Sriracha
1 quart half & half
Approx 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Hot buttered egg noodles

You want to pay very close attention, because I don't have all of the photos; however, I think we have enough to get the point across.

Here we go!

I start with all the chopping/dicing/slicing and all things that involve a cutting board.

Chicken (I like to leave it in larger pieces to begin with because it is easier to sear; however, I do trim off some of the fat, but not all.
Bacon - cut into pieces
Celery - cut into large chunks
Carrots - cut into discs
yellow onion - cut into large chunks
Cilantro - rough chop
Parsley - rough chop
Lemons - slice in half

Set all ingredients off to the side so that you can brown in sections.
Begin by browning the bacon in a large dutch oven or pan.

You don't want it to brown all the way to crisp, you are basically just rendering the fat.
Once the bacon is finished, remove it to a large roaster oven.  The remaining grease will provide a perfect place to sear the chicken; however, if there is an absolute lake of grease, feel free to discard some before adding chicken to the pan.

Before we start searing the chicken, sprinkle a little salt & pepper into the pan.  Probably about a half teaspoon of each.
Remember, we are just wanting to sear the outside of the chicken.
It shouldn't take more than a minute per side, and I like to use tongs so that I can maneuver the chicken around, getting all sides.

Once you have started searing the first side, sprinkle the raw side with a little more salt & pepper.
I also like to squeeze a bit of lemon on the chicken while it is searing.  (sorry no pic)
See to it that all sides are seared; and move the chicken from the pan to the roaster oven to sit.
You will probably have to work in batches.
Here you can see that I still need to sear a little on the inside of one of the pieces.

Once all of the chicken is seared, most of the bacon grease should be gone.  Any remaining grease can be discarded, AFTER removing any wonderful bits with a spoon.  Pour those bits over the chicken and bacon in the roaster.

There may still be a few beautiful pieces of browned chicken & bacon in the bottom of the pan.
Use a little red wine to de-glaze the pan, and just savor that smell.
You can be very happy that you are in the kitchen today.
I know I am.
Back to work...pour all liquid, wine, & scrapings over chicken and bacon in roaster oven.

And it's time for the veggies!
If pan seems dry, add a Tbsp or two of EVOO, and it wouldn't hurt to salt & pepper it just a bit.

Ok, here is where the pictures aren't completely honest.

See below.

Does this look like only veggies to you?

Me either.  And it is a complicated story.
The bottom line is this.
You want to sear the veggies for a few minutes so that you can get some good color and flavor out of them.
Feel free to toss the raw veggies (carrots, celery, and onion) into the hot pan in batches, searing each batch for approximately 3 - 5 minutes, and then returning the seared veggies to the same roaster oven the chicken and bacon are chilling out in.
you can do what I did which was cut the (slightly cooled) chicken into halves & thirds and then throw some of them back into the pan with the veggies for a little extra searing (all in batches).
Hopefully I am making sense.

Either way you go, squeeze a little more lemon juice into the mix while searing, moving all to the roaster once searing is complete.
Add the chopped parsley & cilantro, the thyme, and a generous amount of salt & pepper to the mixture ( I would start with a Tbsp of each, you can always add more after the cooking is complete).

Now for the broth.

Because you will probably have some more seared goodness on the bottom of the pan, take the rest of the red wine and use it to de-glaze all that goodness.
Add the unsalted chicken stock, and the tomato paste; and allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Boil for about 3-5 minutes so that you get a nice reduction.

Once it has boiled for a few minutes, pour the broth over the mixture in the oven roaster, and stir.
It should look something like this.

Toss in a 1/4 stick of unsalted butter, the remaining lemon juice, and Sriracha.  Cover with lid, and allow to cook for approximately 2-3 hours. forward 3 hours.
The chicken should be cooked through.
Check a few pieces to be certain all pink is gone, or be extra cautious and use a meat thermometer on some of the thicker pieces (remove them from the pan, and test for an inner temperature of at least 165).

It is time to add the best part.
The cream.

Hopefully you remembered to purchase that quart of half & half because it absolutely makes this dish.

Start with half of the quart, allow to heat for  a few minutes, taste and add more if needed.

This is also a good time to taste & adjust with a little extra salt & pepper.
Once you have it just like you like it, allow to heat all the way through, and get ready to eat.

You are about to be very, very happy, my friends.

Pour this amazing mixture over a bowl of hot-buttered egg noodles and be content.

And don't forget to enjoy with beautiful people because this meal is best when shared.

Until we cook again!

Click HERE for printable.