SECRET RECIPE CLUB: PECAN-CRUSTED CHICKEN WITH HONEY-MUSTARD DRESSING

Not sure what happened, we were waiting for Spring to arrive, I blinked twice and October is about to end. As those who follow my blog know very well by now, I look forward to the last Monday of each month, because it is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club.  Food bloggers are paired in secret, choose a recipe to make from their assigned blog, and post about it on the exact same time.  This month I was assigned the blog hosted by Traci,  Burnt Apple.  Her choice of name for her blog gave me a huge smile – apparently she was not a very good cook, and had a tendency to burn stuff. Evidently, those are days left behind in her distant past.  Not only her site is full of great recipes, but she deals with a tricky situation as far as cooking is concerned: her husband was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when he was very young, so Traci adapts all sorts of recipes to accommodate his requirements.  I feel that I have it all so easy!  Both Phil and I can eat anything, so if I decide to bake something gluten-free, or opt for a Paleo-friendly recipe, it’s just for experimenting and for fun.  It is a totally different story when one deals with diabetes or serious food allergies.  I am in awe of her efforts, and the way she uses her blog to help others faced with the same type of problem.  Now, quoting a paragraph from her About page:

“I’ve become a master recipe manipulator. I can make anything healthier and still taste great. I’ve also learned how to eat healthy on a strict (aka teeny tiny) budget. I’ve taught what I’ve learned (and made) for stores like Whole Foods Market and Sunflower Market. I’ve even shared my creations and ideas on my local TV news programs”.

Isn’t that amazing? I was paired with a superstar!  Usually I decide on a recipe pretty quickly, but this month I went through a bit of a struggle.    I kept going back and forth, tempted by her Winter Squash Cheese Flatbread,  her Ham and Cornmeal Cakes,  her Greek Yogurt Lemon Drop Cookies,  and – this might surprise you – her Arby’s Beef and Cheddar Sandwiches.  It turns out that in one of my first road trips with Phil, we were in the middle of nowhere and stopped for a bite to eat at Arby’s.  I had never been to that fast food place, and ordered that exact sandwich.  My gosh, I loved every single bite of it, could not care less if it was fancy or not fancy, healthy or not healthy. In fact, just writing about it makes me crave one… Anyway, after a full week of indecision, I made her delicious version of boneless chicken breasts, and a tasty dressing to go with it.

PecanCrustedChicken

PECAN-CRUSTED CHICKEN WITH HONEY-MUSTARD DRESSING
(from Burnt Apple)

for chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup finely crushed pecans
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

for dressing:
1/4 cup honey
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp green onion, finely chopped (I omitted)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (or the juice of 1/2 lemon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish or use a dish with a rack to keep the pieces surrounded by air all around.

In a food processor, pulse grind the pecans, cornmeal, parmesan cheese, onion powder, rosemary, salt and pepper until fine. Pour mixture into a bowl. In another small bowl, mix together the egg and milk.

Dip the chicken pieces in the milk mixture, than into the pecan mixture, lightly coating both sides. Arrange chicken pieces in the baking dish.

Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, flipping the chicken once halfway through baking time. Make the dressing while the chicken is cooking:  whisk together all dressing ingredients until combined. Transfer dressing to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. Shake before use.

Remove the chicken from the oven when the center of the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Allow the chicken to cool for several minutes before slicing.

Drizzle with honey mustard dressing when you serve it.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

compositeComments:  This was a fun recipe to prepare, and the chicken turned out surprisingly moist for boneless pieces baked straight in a hot oven.  I guess the coating performed its beautiful magic.  I baked the pieces over a rack, and turned the pieces half way through baking time, as recommended.

The dressing went perfectly with it, at least for my taste. Phil preferred his chicken without any extra flavor, he thought that just the breading with the nuts and cheese was perfect to showcase the natural taste of the meat.  You will have to make it and decide if you side with me or him…  Of course, if you side with the hubby, this shattering blow to my ego will not affect my relationship with you. We will still be friends.  I promise.

Traci, now that the secret is out, I will be following your blog adventures, your style of cooking matches mine quite well…

For those who want to see a nice collection of recipes from my friends over at The Secret Recipe Club, click on the funky frog at the end of the post. She is funky, but nice, and loves to be poked…

ONE YEAR AGO: Bewitching Kitchen on Fire!

TWO YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

THREE YEARS AGO: Chiarello’s Chicken Cacciatore

FOUR YEARS AGO: Donna Hay’s Thai-Inspired Dinner

FIVE YEARS AGO: Panettone

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: BUTTERMILK-BLUEBERRY BREAKFAST CAKE

This semester is shaping up as one of the busiest for us. I even flirted with the idea of sitting out of the Secret Recipe Club for a month, but I would be miserable watching everyone else posting their tasty recipes and not joining the party. No, not skipping it. My approach then is to jump on the assignment pretty much the day I get the email, on a rapid-fire stalking mode.  The blog I got this month was “Making Miracles“, hosted by Rebekah. I urge you to read her About page, she has lived in many places in the US, including Alaska, but also spent a little over two  years in Senegal back in 1995. A fascinating experience, even if at times not easy. If the subject of surrogacy interests you, she has a lot of experience with it as a surrogate mom herself, and also from helping families reach their dream of having a baby. That’s what the title of her blog, “Making Miracles” is all about.

I decided to go back to sweets for this month’s assignment, and had blueberries on my mind.  Two recipes were begging to be featured, her Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins, and her Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake.  The husband spoke. Breakfast cake won. So here it is!

BlueberryCoffeeCake

BUTTERMILK-BLUEBERRY BREAKFAST CAKE
(from Rebekah’s Making Miracles)

½ cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp lemon zest
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, separated
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour, separated
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups blueberries
½ cup buttermilk

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, lemon zest, and 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour. In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining 1 + 3/4 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Remove excess flour from the blueberries, then fold the blueberries gently into the batter. Batter will be thick.

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Check with a toothpick to make sure is cooked through. If necessary, return pan to oven for as long as 10 more minutes.   Let cool at for 10-15 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

batter-side

Did I mention we’ve been overly busy these days?  At the risk of boring you to death with trivia about growing bacteria, I will share some of the sordid details. For some experiments, we need to start cultures growing around 11pm, and then take care of them again before 5:30am. Usually Phil goes late at night, and I play the early bird.  It’s not that bad, these late night and early morning visits to the lab are short, we prepare everything beforehand to make it easier. I can quickly drive back home, swallow a much-needed cappuccino, take a shower and we go back to work on our regular schedule. Soooo, back to food.  I decided to bake this breakfast cake in of those hectic mornings and take to the department still warm from the oven.

Knowing I would be sleepy and prone to making mistakes, I lined up all ingredients the night before (the blueberries slept in the fridge, together with the buttermilk). Mis-en-place, mes amis. Mis-en-place.

ingredients

Before I left for the lab, I turned the oven on.  Arriving back, Phil had my cappuccino ready, all I had to do was drink the batter, mix the cappuccino… ooops, I guess it was the other way around… What matters is that our department got a freshly baked blueberry cake. Mission accomplished!

pieces

Lots of blueberries make this cake moist and quite crumbly. Make sure to bake it long enough so that pieces will be easy to cut.

Rebekah, I hope you are having a wonderful Reveal Day, I loved cooking from your site!

For all my readers, have fun checking out what the other members of my group prepared for today’s Reveal Day by clicking on the blue frog at the end of my post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Silky Cauliflower Puree with Almond Milk


FOUR YEARS AGO:
 Popeye-Pleasing Salad 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Summer’s Finale

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: TACO SALAD

This is the last Monday of August.  We are about to say goodbye to Summer, and I cannot stand the thought of it.  Only Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club can bring me some joy under the circumstances. My assignment this month was Flying on Jess Fuel, and I had a blast stalking it and making a list of possibilities to blog about today.  Jess met her husband Nick at a Mexican restaurant, and apparently he went nuts over her jalapeno-eating skills. What a great way to fall in love! They lived in many different places while Nick went to flying school for the Navy, including Enid, a location quite close to Norman, our former home in Oklahoma.

For some reason, I usually pick sweets for my Secret Recipe assignments, but this time I took the road less traveled and went with her Taco Salad, considering that Mexican food would be a fun way to celebrate the way they met.  I find it amusing that some recipes that I order in restaurants on a regular basis are never part of my own cooking at home. Taco Salad is one of those.  For the most part, Tex-Mex restaurants offer dishes over-loaded with cheese, and served with a humongous portion of rice, beans, plus a few flour tortillas for good measure.  Taco Salad is my default request to avoid feeling like a bloated whale as I leave the restaurant.  I made just a few changes in her recipe, and decided to pump up the presentation by making my own tortilla bowls.  Now, that was a ton of fun, but some unexpected problems were encountered.  As I was frantically trying to figure out which cups would be appropriate to shape the tortillas, one of my custard cups fell from the cabinet and crashed on the granite (yes, glass flew everywhere), but not without first hitting my head. OUCH!  And, going on with my usual modus operandi in the kitchen, I burned myself not once, but twice baking those tortilla bowls.  Sometimes I even amaze myself… However, I can tell you it was all worth it!  This recipe rocks, my friends….

TacoSalad

JESS’ TACO SALAD
(slightly modified from Flying on Jess Fuel)

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 cup salsa
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 lb ground beef
2 tablespoons bulk taco seasoning mix (or 1 packet)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large head romaine, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Black kalamata olives, chopped (to taste)
Shredded Mexican blend cheese (to taste

To make the dressing, combine sour cream, yogurt and salsa in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat the oil on a skillet and cook the meat for a few minutes. Season with salt (in case your taco seasoning doesn’t have salt already), then add either a packet of store-bought taco seasoning or 2 Tbs of a bulk product such as Penzey’s. Cook for a couple of minutes, add the amount of water recommended by the mix, and cook further just to thicken it slightly. Add the beans to the pan in the last 2 minutes of cooking.

If serving cold, let the meat and bean mixture cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, place half the lettuce, half the tomatoes, half the scallions and half the olives. Top with half the dressing. Top with the meat and bean mixture (you can reserve a little bit for decorating the top, if you want to be fancy). Sprinkle half the cheese on top. Add the rest of the veggies, dressing, and cheese (and meat mix if you reserved some). You can also serve it warm, adding the cold ingredients to the hot meat/beans mixture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

IMG_5215

Here you can see some photos of my burning adventure with tortilla cups. You can do this in several ways, but I recommend the muffin tin + custard cup combo.  Using the two custard cups nested together requires that they both fit just right not to tear the tortilla, and also makes it a lot harder to remove the top cup to brown the tortilla in the final moments of baking.

compositeShells

MAKING TACO BOWLS:  Warm a corn tortilla very quickly over an open flame on your stove (I heard you can also use the microwave, but I haven’t tried it).  Spray both sides of the warm tortilla very lightly with canola or olive oil spray.  Immediately place in the muffin tin (or over a custard cup), and place another container on top to keep the shape.  Bake in a 375 F for about 15 minutes, removing the custard cup in the final 5 minutes. Let cool over a rack.

We loved this recipe!  Actually, Phil was raving about it non-stop, and begging me to make it again, and do it soon.  The tortilla cups make it very festive, but the taco stands on its own without any problem, it is fresh, bright, the dressing mixing sour cream and salsa was incredibly tasty!  I used a home-made salsa given to us by Mr. and Mrs. K (thank you, guys!), and it had just the right amount of heat.  Use any store-bought salsa you are fond of, or make your own if you have a chance.

Jess, I loved being assigned to your blog!  This has been one super busy month for us, but I made sure to compose this post within one week of getting the email notification. I fell in love with this recipe right away, and you can bet this will be in a regular rotation in our Bewitching Kitchen! 

To my readers: if you want to see what the other members of my group cooked up this month, poke the blue frog at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Semolina Sourdough Boule 

TWO YEARS AGO: Forgive me, for I have sinned

THREE YEARS AGOCracked Wheat Sandwich Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Au Revoir, my Bewitching Kitchen

FIVE YEARS AGO:  French Bread

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: MINI-CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BITES

August is already knocking at the door, this year is flying by.  But before a new month starts, there’s always the excitement of the last Monday of the month, with Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club. For those who are new to this concept, bloggers are paired in secret, have a few weeks to stalk their assigned site, and everyone in the club blogs about their recipe on the exact same day and time. Nothing cooler than that, you must admit…  This month I was paired with Colie’s Kitchen.  Nicole, who hosts the site, is a full-time college student, with a full-time life of organized chaos.”  Ha!  I can totally relate…  She is married and a “bonus mom”, what a great expression, much better than step mom,  I guess I can relate to that too.  I had quite a few options selected as possibilities for my assignment, like her Lasagna Rolls, her Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins (great idea!),  her Oh My God Macaroon Pie, and her Cauliflower Cheddar Fritters.  But, as is often the case with The Secret Recipe, I took the sweet path, and ended up with these super cute single bite (ok, a couple of bites) desserts…

MiniCheesecakeBits

 

MINI CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BITES
(from Colie’s Kitchen)

3 Packages of Neufchatel, softened
1 + 1/4 cups sugar
1 (8 ounce) container of dairy sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
28 Oreo cookies halves, removing the cream center
28 cupcake tins/liners

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until blended. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat until fully mixed.

Beat in cocoa and flour. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until well blended.

Remove Oreo filling with a butter knife and add one half of a Oreo to each cupcake tin. Fill each tin with one large spoon full of cheesecake filling until you have filled all 28 then go back and top off each tin with any extra filling.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours. Store covered in refrigerator or in the freezer.

 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I cannot tell you how much fun I had making this recipe! The toughest part was discarding the filling of the Oreo cookies. Part of me wanted to throw caution to the wind and behave like my former self of decades ago: shamelessly open the Oreos, scrape them clean, and try to sneak the cookie halves to the trash can without my Mom realizing. That never had a happy ending.  At most, I could get by with a couple of cookies, then pay a price for my behavior. Waste not. Ever. Do you know how many kids in the world went to bed hungry last night?  Apparently, I did not. (sigh)

The idea of using Oreos as a base for these cheesecake bites is a strike of genius!  Perfect size for cupcake liners. Because the recipe made so many and I only have one muffin baking pan, I got the disposable aluminum pans at the grocery store, and was quite pleased by how well they worked.  No difference in quality of baking, although in the name of full disclosure, I confess that I dropped one of the disposable pans while taking them out of the oven.  Huge big mess, coupled with language even more colorful than the cupcake liners. I am glad there are no hidden cameras in our home…

rack

If you follow my blog, you know that I never add the caloric content of any of my recipes for the simple reason that I don’t pay attention to it. But, since Nicole provided that info, I will share it with you: one of these babies has only 134 calories, which, as far as dessert is concerned, sounds pretty moderate to me.  Keep in mind this interesting linear fit, though. It can be cruel to your waistline.

cheesecake

 

Nicole, thanks for such a cute recipe that was very appreciated by our colleagues at the department…  I hope you had as much fun as I did with my assignment this month.

As usual, if any of my readers would like to see all assignments for my group, click on the blue amphibian at the end of this post, and enjoy the ride through the blogosphere…

ONE YEAR AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: A Taste of Yellow to Honor Barbara

THREE YEARS AGO: Gratin of Beefsteak Tomatoes

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tour de France Final Stage: PARIS

FIVE YEARS AGO: Snickerdoodles with a Twist

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: QUINOA FRIED RICE

Did you miss my Bewitching party? Click here to enter the giveaway… 

The month of June brought with it a ton of activities. School is out, so a lot more work in the lab, my blog turned 5 years old, and the World Cup of Indescribable Ordeal is on.  I used to root for one country only, but now two teams make me shout expletives at referees and goal keepers, as well as scream instructions to the players, fuming like a mad woman because they simply  do not listen. But, let’s leave soccer behind and concentrate on things that don’t have the potential to induce a fatal coronary.  Like Reveal Day of  The Secret Recipe Club, always a pleasure, always something I look forward to. This month I got one of the most entertaining food blogs ever!  Starting with its name, 84th and 3rd. Here’s what JJ, an American living in Sydney has to say about it:

84th & 3rd is an ordinary corner, not particularly remarkable, in the most remarkable city in the world. But it was only meters from that corner that a seed was planted, a dream of doing something that she loves and being able to share it with others. 84thand3rd.com is that something.

She divulges just enough to perk my curiosity, and make me want to be there right now. In fact, Australia is one place I long to visit, and hope that one day our adventures will take us there. When I got my assignment, I thought about taking a quick look at the site, but instead I literally had to drag myself away from the computer, because I could not stop reading. Just to give you a small taste of her writing style, here’s a paragraph from one of her posts, in which she talks about her partner…

.… When I met RJ he used to eat at least 4 slices of white bread a day. Not necessarily as part of a meal mind you, but just because. Toast for breakfast, toast before dinner [no matter what or when dinner was], bread with dinner. Sliced, white, from a plastic bag, every time. It appalled me just a bit – as did putting ketchup/tomato sauce on beef stew but we’ll save that one for later… *waves at RJ* hi mate, yes, I’m talking about you again –

 Isn’t she a hoot?  She also describes herself as someone who “Practices yoga to stay calm[ish], runs to stay sane[ish], and does both to eat cake”… I must say I detect some similarities here, although I would substitute bread for cake.  ;-) So, after spending a lot of time amusing myself with her stories and recipes, I assembled a list of possibilities for this month’s assignment.  Here they are:  Mushroom-quinoa meatballs with Rustic Pasta Sauce, Strawberry Cucumber Coconut-water Slushy,  Rocket Parsley Pepita Pesto,  Spiced Pear & Red Wine Chocolate Cake, Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde, and this chocolate tarte that I swear I am making before the month of July is over. Yeah, public commitment, you guys and girls better be ready for it… But now it’s time to reveal the recipe that crossed the finish line of this month’s culinary marathon…

Quinoa Fried Rice
QUINOA FRIED RICE
(slightly modified from 84th & 3rd)

2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled (I used red quinoa)
a little olive oil
4 slices ginger, sliced into thin strips
1 small Serrano chili, finely diced
1 bunch of cilantro leaves, minced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
large handful green beans, cut into small lengths
2 medium zucchini, diced
3 scallions ,white and light green part only, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil

Add a small splash of olive oil to the hot pan. Fry ginger and garlic for 30 sec stirring constantly, add chili and cilantro and fry for a further 30 sec.

Add bell pepper and beans, toss or stir for a couple of minutes. Add zucchini and green onions and toss for a couple of minutes more.

Push veggies to edges to make a hole in the center. Drizzle in 2 tsp sesame oil, wait for it to heat up and dump in quinoa. Stir in center of pan for 30 seconds then toss with veggies to mix everything together.

Drizzle in tamari and toss to combine. Serve with extra scallions, and cilantro.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Ingredients
Comments: This was absolutely delicious!  As you can read on her original post, this is the type of recipe you can use to clean up your fridge of all those veggies that wave at you when you open it, begging for attention. It is also a perfect use for leftover quinoa, although I cooked some earlier in the day just to have this side dish as our dinner. Asparagus would work great, but really any veggie could work, even chunks of roasted butternut squash, or eggplant.   Just keep the soy, the sesame oil at the end, and don’t leave out the fresh ginger.

Zucchini-side
I close this post with another excerpt from JJ, which expresses exactly how I feel about blogging.

“Blogging is an interesting beast. It is a person sitting in front of a computer expressing things in pictures and words, terribly solitary from the outside peering in… or so you’d think. But when you look a bit closer you realise that many of those people sitting at their computers have formed little communities. Sometimes online, sometimes in person, generally with people they never would have met otherwise, and it really doesn’t matter how the community works or where it came from but simply that it is there.”
(JJ, from 84th & 3rd)

That’s it, folks.  Could not have said it better!  JJ, it was great to receive your blog as my assignment this  month, I will be following you from now on, looking forward to your adventures! As usual, if you want to check what my fellow secret bloggers cooked up this month, poke the frog below. She is cute and loves attention…

ONE YEAR AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette
TWO YEARS AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars
THREE YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini
FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto
FIVE YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: DULCE DE LECHE CHEESECAKE BARS

Where is 2014 going in such a big hurry?  It acts as if it’s desperately searching for 2015 or something, hard to believe we are in the end of May already!  Still, each month closes with the secretive deliciousness of Reveal Day in the Secret Recipe Club. For those who may not know, it is that super fun event in which bloggers pick are assigned a blog in secret, choose a recipe to cook from it, and blog about it on the exact same day (and time!).  This month I went through several cycles of hyperventilation from the moment I got my assignment. Why, you may ask?  Because I received the blog of our group’s moderator!  Can you imagine that?  It’s like having to present a seminar on the research topic of the Head of your department!   Hummmm, come to think of it, I’ve done that a few times in the past couple of years.  No wonder I hyperventilate so much…  (inside joke, laugh if you get it).

Our moderator, Sarah, is the gorgeous hostess of the blog Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. She is the Mom of two kids, 7-year-old Matthew and 6-year-old Cambria, and also has two kittens, Bella and Muffin. That seems busy enough for me, but she talks about getting a dog to join the fun! Let’s hope she will think twice before getting a Jack Russell Terror…  ;-)  Apart from taking care of two young kids, she also supervises 37 grownup kids in Group D of The Secret Recipe Club. For the most part, I suppose we are well-behaved,  but undoubtedly there’s a lot of responsibilities on her shoulders. I went through her site with desserts and sweets in mind, hoping to bake something to take to our graduate students.  But a lot of savory options tempted me like her Atomic Hashbrowns (with a name like that, they gotta be awesome!), her Tamale BallsPhilly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls (fusion cooking, anyone?), and her Jalapeno Popper Turkey Chili.  After struggling with several options for sweets, I could not decide between her Blueberry Breakfast Braid. and the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars.  I tossed a coin. Yes, I did.  And here is what the coin told me to do:

Bars1

 

DULCE DE LECHE CHEESECAKE BARS
(from Fantastical Sharing of Recipes)

for the crust:
1 sleeve graham crackers
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

for the filling:
12 oz. dulce de leche
2 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

for the glaze:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. corn syrup
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

Prepare an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper and non-stick spray.

Grind crackers with sugar in a food processor. Stir in butter. Cover the bottom of the pan pressing the crumbs well with your fingers. Bake at 325* for 10 minutes and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Pour dulce de leche on the crust and refrigerate.

Make the filling:  beat cream cheese for 3 minutes. Add sugar and beat another 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat just until incorporated. Spread filling on top of dulce de leche layer. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool for 2 hours.

For glaze: Heat all ingredients in a saucepan or double broiler, stirring until smooth. Cool for 10 minutes and pour over cooled filling. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Let sit at room temp for 10 minutes before cutting.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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 Comments:  This was my first time making a cheesecake type dessert, so I was excited to try it, but a bit worried about my inexperience. My goal was to take these bars to our lab meeting, which happens early on Thursdays.  I laid out a nice schedule to make everything the evening before, taking in account that I had to meet Phil and a guest speaker for dinner at 8pm.  On my way home I stopped at the store to get the ingredients, arrived home and got busy. Each step was planned to the minute,  I was following along flawlessly. Flawlessly? Not so fast, Silly Sally… not so fast.  When making my list for the grocery store, I did not notice the recipe called for TWO cream cheese packages. TWO. I brought home only one.  Can you imagine the shiver up and down my spine? Can you picture my kitchen at that very moment? Can you, really?  Yeap.  Best laid plans.

Considering all my options and how fast the clock was ticking, I rushed back to the grocery store, faced the same cashier with a sheepish smile, and brought the second package of cream cheese home.  Drove like a maniac to the restaurant, joined the gentlemen for dinner, and…  found myself baking way past bedtime.  Best laid plans. Story of my life.

CheesecakeBars22

 

But, as usual, it all had a happy ending, although I should have remembered to bring a good knife to the lab to cut the squares.  The knife available at the department was definitely not up to the challenge, and my production did not look nearly as good as that from Sarah. I think the best way to cut a cheesecake is a very sharp knife, dipping it in hot water at each cut, and cleaning the blade with a paper towel as you go. Keep that in mind if you make this decadent dessert.   Decadent is a good way to define it, we are talking major caloric intake, but a little piece should satisfy even those with a very sweet tooth…   I wish I had made my own dulce de leche from scratch like Sarah did,  but that will have to wait for another opportunity.

Sarah, I had a blast with my assignment this month, I know it was not a secret for you, but that is part of the life of a moderator, right?  I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for always sending the assignments very early, giving us more than enough time to stalk, cook, and blog. I know that everyone from our group certainly appreciates that… ;-)

If you want to check the labor of love of my fellow Group D members, click on the blue entity smiling at you at the end of the post.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Penne with Trapanese Pesto

TWO YEARS AGO: Superman

THREE YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB – TURKEY CHILI WITH ALMOND BUTTER

Last Monday of the month, and here I am once more sharing with you the recipe I chose to make from the blog Natural Noshing, which I was thrilled to receive as my assignment in The Secret Recipe Club.  Natural Noshing, as the name implies, is a blog centered on healthy cooking, whole grains, a lot of gluten-free recipes, but as will become clear as you browse Nora’s site, there is no compromise of flavor.  I love the way she describes herself:

I am an active, twenty-something “foodie” with a passion for nutrition and eating natural, real food — nothing too fussy, over-processed or complicated.  Growing up, I was the girl that didn’t read novels or magazines – I read cookbooks and recipes.

This was a super busy month for us for many reasons, including a trip to Arizona and wrapping up experiments to get a big manuscript ready for publication.  To make life easier, I concentrated my search on her poultry recipes, and had three serious contenders fighting for the spotlight in the Bewitching Kitchen:  her Chicken with Pepian Sauce, her Kickin’ Cashew Chicken, and this amazing Turkey Chili that ended up as our dinner.   I am unable to resist anything with almond butter these days.  ;-)

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TURKEY CHILI WITH ALMOND BUTTER
(slightly adapted from Natural Noshing)

1/2 lb ground turkey
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 small shallot, diced
1 zucchini, shredded
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp New Mexico Chile powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
cayenne pepper to taste
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can Pinto beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp creamy almond butter
salt and pepper to taste
minced fresh cilantro, to taste

In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey and shallots and saute until cooked through and shallots are translucent stirring frequently, about 5-6 minutes. Break up any large chunks of meat while stirring.

Add zucchini and spices and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, beans and almond butter and stir until combined.

Turn heat to low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until thickened. Garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, avocados, or other toppings of your choice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  This chili rocks. I was surprised by how much flavor it packed in such a short cooking time, making it doable on a weeknight. In fact, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home, grabbed the ground turkey and the zucchini (I had everything else at home), and in less than 45 minutes we were enjoying this meal.  The zucchini disappears during cooking, you won’t be able to see it, but it definitely contributes to the complexity of flavor.  And the almond butter, oh, my…  what a great addition to this chili!  Once you add it, you will see that the texture changes and the sauce gets that substance that normally you would get only with a long and slow cooking.   Awesome recipe.  We enjoyed leftovers for a couple of days, it only got better.  By the way, you can use any type of meat for this chili, as well as any type of beans, so go ahead and improvise. Keep the zucchini, and of course, if you skip the almond butter I might have to stop talking to you…  ;-)

Nora, it was great to stalk your blog this month, I hope you had as much fun with your own assignment!

For my readers: if you want to marvel at the productions of other members of my group, go poke a blue frog…  (now that sounds pretty nasty, but she is harmless, and enjoys the attention).

ONE YEAR AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Leek and Cheese Tart

TWO YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

THREE YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

FOUR YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken