Finding Thyme to Cook

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Archive for the category “snacks”

caramelitas

Caramel and chocolate!!  What can go wrong?  Nothing.   This is a quick easy and delicious combination of caramel, chocolate and of course . . . healthy oats.  I won’t mention the cream and butter if you don’t.  Since I have discovered these, melting caramel is a breeze.  No more painstaking task of unwrapping each caramel . . . and they melt so  quickly.   I found them at Target after an extensive search of the markets in Southern California.

You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry and can try this tonight.

  • 1 package of caramel bits
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup butter – melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar – packed
  • 1  cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6-8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Prepare a 8″ square pan by placing non-stick foil in it with the sides overlapping about three inches.  This will ease the removal after baking.

Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda.  Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8×8″ pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust.

 Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips.

Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.

Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

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caramel crunches

Caramel bits – my new favorite ingredient.  This was my second recipe (featured on the bag) in less than two weeks after receiving a shipment of 12 bags from Amazon, not to mention just snacking on them.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop and just keep making decadent desserts using the cute little BB sized caramel treasures.  They are the perfect size, taste delicious and melt  quickly and easily.  Now I know why many recipes require you to “unwrap 60 caramels”  – a good deterrent against making too many caramel desserts.  However, I really can’t resist the convenience and seem to always have them on hand for recipes like this,  which is easy and versatile.  You could probably use any type of nuts or chocolate; add coconut or dried fruit – I think the combinations are endless.  I apologize for the unfocused pictures – photography isn’t my strong suit.

•    4 ½ graham crackers
•    1 package (11 ounces) caramel bits
•    2 tablespoons milk
•    ½ cup roasted and salted peanuts
•    ½ cup mini marshmallows
•    ½ cup pretzels – coarsely chopped
•    1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line an 8 inch baking pan with foil, with the ends extending and grease the foil well.  Place graham crackers on bottom, cutting to fit.

Put caramel bits and milk into a small bowl and microwave for two minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted.  

Pour caramel over graham crackers and spread with an offset spatula to cover.

Top with marshmallows . . .

then peanuts. . .

then pretzels.

Melt chocolate chips in microwave or double boiler and drizzle on top. 

I think next time I will use semi-sweet chocolate (not chips) which will probably drizzle easier.

Refrigerate for at least one hour. 

Cut into squares

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sausage pancake sticks

Sometimes our neighborhood seems like it is straight out of the 50s and we have great neighbors.  We often see kids playing in the yards, riding skateboards, bikes, and scooters down the street, with parents close by keeping a watchful eye on everyone – we even have Block Parties!!  On our frequent walks, many neighbors stop to chat, pet the dog and see what is going on with our lives.  The Los Angeles area isn’t known for “Leave it to Beaver” neighborhoods, and we know how fortunate we are to live in one.  Our next door neighbors are probably at the top of our list.  They are kind, generous and always make time for everyone, including us.  Whether it’s helping us unload a 53″ TV into the house, providing us with the best Gumbo around courtesy of dad who is from New Orleans, or visiting on Sunday evenings with the twin girls – the youngest of their six kids.   I don’t know how they always have time for anyone, since the children are home-schooled and seem to be involved in every activity under the sun, including choirs, plays, church, music camps, sports, science camps . . . it’s amazing to me how they keep up with everything!!  They often go to Lake Arrowhead for family trips, and on one visit, they brought us back a gift from The Belgian Waffle Works in Lake Arrowhead.  I don’t think they know how much my husband loves waffles – it was the perfect gift.   For this recipe, I used it in place of the pancake mix.  When I saw the Pioneer Woman make these on TV, I knew I had to try them that weekend . . . which I did!!

Here is the recipe . . . it makes a lot (best suited for our next door neighbors), so I cut in half and still had leftovers!!

•    16 breakfast sausage links – cooked

•    3 cups pancake mix
•    1 cup yellow cornmeal
•    sprinkle of cinnamon
•    ½ teaspoon vanilla
•    1 large egg – slightly beaten
•    3 cups water
•    canola oil for frying
•    maple syrup – warmed
•    wooden chopsticks

Cook the sausages. . .

Waffle and Pancake Mix!!!

In a large bowl, combine pancake mix, cornmeal and cinnamon. 

Stir to combine.

Add eggs, vanilla and water (½ cup at a time), stirring as you go.  Batter should be thick but manageable to dip.

Heat some canola oil in a large pot over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.

Insert chopsticks into cooked sausage links about 2/3 way through.

Dip the sausages into the batter and allow excess to drip off.

Carefully drop into oil (stick and all) and make sure they stay submerged.

You may have to hold them down carefully or use tongs.

When they are golden brown – about 3 minutes, remove and drain on paper towel.

Serve with warm maple syrup.

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Sweet and Spicy Nuts

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I am always trying new ways to make nuts special which are just a notch above plain roasted nuts in a bowl – not that anything is wrong with plain roasted nuts!!    In experimenting with zillions of nut recipes, I would end up with meteor size globs of nuts, spending an eternity five minutes breaking them apart.  Others were so sickly sweet that I needed a lemon to cut the sweetness.  And of course those that are so fiery hot, they numb your taste buds (at least mine), and I needed a gallon of milk to recover.  I was searching for balance – sugar and spice and everything nice!!!  Once again Smitten Kitchen has the perfect recipe.  Be careful though, you may find yourself consuming more than a handful without realizing it.  This recipe makes a big crazy big batch, and after filling a couple of mason jars for hostess gifts, we still had plenty of “handfuls” left for us.  It’s quick, it’s simple, it’s perfect!!!

  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound walnut or pecan halves or a combination
  • 1 egg white – room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix sugars, salt, paprika and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps – set aside.

Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff.

Add nuts and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle with sugar mixture and toss until evenly combined.

Spread in a single layer on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from oven and separate nuts as they cool.

When completely cool, pour nuts into bowl (or mason jar to store) breaking up any that are stuck together.

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Dreamy Creamy Lemon Squares

Dreamy Creamy Lemon Squares

Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

I know I am in the minority, but sometimes I find traditional Lemon Bars a bit too rich.  I love lemons.  I love crust.    I love butter.  I love sugar and all the other  ingredients that go into making them.   They always look terrific.  I want to love them.  I’ve tried to love them.  I just don’t.  It’s almost embarrassing when you don’t love something that so many people adore.  So I figured I should find a substitute so I too, can enjoy Lemon Bars.  I found this recipe on Pioneer Woman Cooks and since I am such a fan of an oat crust, I thought I’d give it a spin.  They are definitely yummy and not too rich.   They are extremely easy to make and once again, you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry.

  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick (1/2) cup butter  – softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 x 11 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.

Combine butter and brown sugar in large bowl and with mixer, mix until well combined.

Add oats and flour mixture to butter/sugar mixture and combine.  I used my hands at this point.

In separate bowl mix, condensed milk, lemon juice and zest until well combined.

Press half of crumb mixture into baking dish.

Spread lemon/milk mixture on evenly on top of crumb mixture.

Top with remaining crumb mixture evenly but do not press down.

Bake 25 minutes until golden brown.

Let cool on counter for at last 30 minutes.  Cut into squares and refrigerate a couple of hours.  Serve cool

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Go Bananas – Banana Nut Bread!!!

Banana-Nut Bread

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cookbook

banananutbread11

I prefer unripe bananas.  Those that are bright yellow with no spots and a green hue to each end.  When I buy bananas that way, they last about one day and then it starts.  The inevitable warp speed ripening process of the banana.  If only other fruits would ripen that quickly.   So there you are, you have purchased five bananas, you’ve eaten one and the other four are suspect (at least for me).  So, I give them a couple of more days and then, like we all do when this occurs, we make banana bread.  This is a pretty basic recipe with no bells or whistles, but it does the job . . . turning those inedible bananas into something incredible!!!

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter – room temperature – plus extra for greasing
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 very ripe bananas – coarsely mashed – about 1 ½ cups
  • 3 large eggs – lightly beaten
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (plus extra for flouring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (always optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and lightly flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

bananabread2

In stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy – about two minutes.

banananutbread4

Add the mashed bananas and eggs and beat until smooth. Add buttermilk and beat on low until just combined.

In a separate bowl, stir flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, salt and nuts.

banananutbread6

Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and beat just until combined. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

banananutbread5

Pour batter into prepared pan.

banananutbread7

Bake for 55-60 minutes until loaf is dark golden.

Let rest in pan for five minutes then turn out on wire rack and cool completely.

banananutbread8

Slice and serve!

banananutbread12

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Lighten Up!! Chili

Quick and Easy Chili


So after 29 years of marriage, I come to find out that I have been under a misconception.  I had thought all these years that my husband did not like chili.  I am quite sure I made it soon after we were married and he was not impressed.  Now it’s hard to wreck a bowl of chili, so I don’t think it was the me, but apparently it was.  So I casually mentioned that it would be nice if he liked chili because it’s just so easy to make.  He told me that he never said he didn’t like chili.  Go figure!!  It was that very day that I made my second pot of chili in 29 years and this time . . . he was impressed.  I have since made three more pots since we have a lot of catching up to do.  This is a pretty easy and delicious recipe and it’s great over grilled hot dogs with onions and cheese. . . which is what we do with the leftovers.  

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or ground chicken (even more light)
  • 1 medium onion – chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery – chopped
  • 1 16 ounce can kidney beans – rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 jar salsa
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1/2 can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 – 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can beef consomme
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons steak sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic power
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a large dutch oven, brown ground beef or chicken, onion and celery over medium heat until meat is browned and vegetables are tender. Drain.

Stir in beans and remaining ingredients.

Bring to boil

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour or until chili reaches desired thickness.

Ladle into serving bowls and serve with shredded cheddar cheese and onions, if desired.

Serves 6-8

1 1/2 cup serving – 350 calories

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Graham Cracker Chewy Bars

Graham Cracker Chewy Bars

Adapted from Celebrating with Jullienne

Oh my goodness!!!  You have to make these bars NOW!!!  I made them last night and  brought them into work today and felt I was the Queen of Baking.  And if you know me, I am more like the “Joker” of Baking.   But, I am learning and getting better — I submit into evidence these Graham Cracker Chewy Bars from Top 10 Recipes of 2009 in the Los Angeles Times.   When reading some of the description . . . “– rich toffee, chewy center and a crunchy bottom – make everyone smile,”  I thought who cares about the other 9 recipes!!!  Actually, I may try the Potato Gratin with Caramelized Onions and Prosciutto.   Now back to the bars — they looked easy to make (first criteria for my baking attempts) and you probably have all the ingredients on hand!!  I used cinnamon graham crackers which gave them an extra hint of flavor and everyone tasted the cinnamon.  Spoiler Alert – Spoiler Alert – I warn you, do not try to cut them before they are completely cooled — no matter how incredible they smell, no matter how incredible they look, no matter how incredible the crumbs taste!!!  They are very very gooey and sticky even when they are completely cooled.   I cut most about 2 hours after cooling, but left the rest for the next morning and it was much easier.  Now if you compare the picture to the one in the LA Times article, you would think I made a completely different bar, but I assure you, they are the same bar, and the bottom line, they taste terrific!!!

Crust

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used cinnamon)
  • 3/4 cups butter – room temperature (1 1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Topping

  • 2 1/2 cups brown sugar – firmly packed
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 2/3 cups graham cracker crumbs (again, cinnamon)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup pecans – chopped
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 13X9 inch baking dish.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar and flour until moist and well blended. 

Press the mixture firmly and evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

While baking, whisk brown sugar and eggsuntil well blended.

Whisk in graham cracker crumbs, vanilla, salt and baking powder until …

combined and smooth.

Stir in pecans.

Spread evenly over baked crust.  Return to oven and bake 20-25 minutes or. . .

until the top is slightly golden. 

Place on rack and cool completely before cutting  The bars are very gooey and sticky and it is best to wait until they are completely cooled or even the next morning!!

Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired, but you really don’t need it any sweeter!!

Cut into desired size and enjoy!!!!

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Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted a bit from Pioneer Woman

We all know that feeling when you’re working your way through a mall and all of a sudden you stop in your tracks. You take a whiff of that aroma and it brings you to Christmas morning when your mom finished up freshly baked cinnamon rolls.  Cinnabon does not play fair.  How do you ever resist those incredibly tender iced treasures?   It’s almost impossible.  I have never made cinnamon rolls, so I thought it might be a nice treat for Valentines Day (I know it’s been almost a month, but I forgot this post).  There are several recipes available, but this one actually looked the simplest (especially for a novice) and the cinnamon rolls turned out terrific.  There is also different types of yeast SAF Gold for sweet dough and SAF Red for other doughs.  Who knew?  My icing did not set as well as I would have liked, and it was more like a glaze, but it still was good.

Rolls

  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast or one envelope of active yeast
  • 4 cups all purpose flour (plus 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 scant teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Icing

  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 – 1 cup milk

I used two disposable foil baking pans, but you can use a regular baking dish, or pie plates.

I sprayed with cooking spray, but you can grease them with butter.

Rolls – Mix milk, oil and sugar in large pot.

Heat over medium high to just below boiling (scald). Turn off heat and let cool for 45 minutes.

When mixture is lukewarm, sprinkle yeast over and let it sit for 1 minute.

Add 4 cups of flour and stir to blend everything.

Cover and let it rise for one hour.

After rising, add 1/2 cup flour, baking soda, baking power and salt.  Stir to combine.

Transfer to oiled bowl and cover and . . .

let it rise another hour.

You can put the dough in the refrigerator at this point for a couple of days, or you can prepare the rolls now.  If you keep in the refrigerator, check it to make sure it doesn’t overflow and if it does, punch it down.

Roll out dough to a thin rectangle (or as good as you can get).

Spread melted butter on surface.

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle generously all over butter.

Start rolling from the opposite long end toward you, and keep a tight roll as you roll.  Pinch the seam at the end to seal.

Cut the ends off the roll and begin cutting the rolls about 1 to 1 1/2 inch.

Place them in the prepared pan close together.  At this point I covered them and put them in the refrigerator until the next morning.

In the morning, take the rolls out and let them come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

While baking, make icing by whisking confectioner’s sugar and milk until smooth and pourable, but still thick.

When the rolls are done, let them sit about 5 minutes before . . .

drizzling the icing generously on top.

30 delicious rolls

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Blondies Have More Fun

Blondies

Adapted from How To Cook Everything

I like chocolate and brownies, but I absolutely love the taste of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch so I love blondies.  This is an incredibly versatile recipe choosing your own additions, like nuts or dried cherries or butterscotch chips.  Of course, if you have to have your chocolate, you can even add chocolate chips to satisfy the craving.  These blondies are incredibly delicious and you only need one bowl and a hand held mixer.  This is such an easy recipe that I doubled it and did half with nuts and half without.

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter – melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • Optional ingredients – chocolate chips, toasted nuts, dried cherries, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease a 8×8 baking dish

Beat butter and sugar until smooth.

Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined

Stir in flour and salt and mix well

Add optional ingredients

I doubled the recipe and added 1/2 cup each of  white chocolate chips and  bittersweet chips to the entire  batch

I then put half of the batter in one prepared pan

I added 1/2 cup toasted pecans to the remaining batter and put into the other prepared pan

Bake for 20-25 minutes

Cool and cut into squares

Some like nuts. . .

some don’t

 

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