Tag Archives: kitchen adventures

Chocolate Mint Brownies

I played another round of “what-can-I-make-from-things-in-my-cupboards” last night. I actually have a market about 3 blocks from my house, so playing this game is pretty unnecessary. But I had already been to the store in the morning when I realized my cats were out of food and I refuse to go the store twice in one day. As it is I think I am there every other day. So I played my favorite kitchen game. When I spied a couple of squares of unsweetend chocolate, a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and another handful of milk chocolate chips I knew that I wanted to make brownies.

One of the (many) things that I love about chocolate is that it pairs so well with so many other flavors. Peanut butter, citrus, fleur del sel, raspberry, cinnamon, caramel – the possibilities are almost endless. I won’t even try to pick a favorite. But a chocolate combination that I adore is chocolate mint. Classic. It reminds of being a kid and on the rare occasion that my parents would take my brother and I to the ice cream parlor and I would without fail, always, always get mint-chocolate chip.

So I made chocolate-mint brownies.

Chocolate-Mint Brownies

makes 16
**********
Brownie layer
1/2 cup butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon creme de menthe syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mint Layer
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon creme de menthe syrup
1 tablespoon milk
Chocolate layer
2 tablespoons 1/2 and 1/2
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
**********
 

Melt chocolate and 1/2 cup butter in double boiler. Set aside to cool.

In stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs until very light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.

Add chocolate, flour, creme de menthe and vanilla extract.

Mix until just blended.

Pour into foil-lined 8x8x2 glass pan. Spread evenly and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly.

For the mint layer:
Beat sugar, butter, creme de menthe syrup and milk until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Spread over baked brownies. Let stand until set, about an hour.


Chocolate layer:
Heat 1/2 and 1/2 over low heat until simmering.

Take off heat and whisk in chocolate until melted.

Whisk in butter.

Transfer chocolate mixture to a ziploc bag (or piping bag) and snip corner of bag and pipe chocolate over mint layer.

Let stand until set, about an hour.


I’d say I won this battle of Meleah v. the kitchen cupboard.

Back in the Kitchen

It hasn’t been a secret that I have been less than thrilled with winter.  To add insult to injury, my stove was shut off for a week due to a gas leak.  While it was out of commission (during a record-breaking snowfall) all I could think about was all of the things that I wanted to cook and bake.  Due to all of the craziness from the last snow storm the public transit system has been crippled and it’s taking me on average about an hour to make a 4.5 mile commute.  Needless to say, when I finally get home, I am not in the mood to cook.  Until last night.  All day I had been craving some super-duper comfort food and decided that I would whip up one of my all time favorite (and easy) dinners.  Pasta with bacon and asparagus.

Now that a happy kitchen ...

Pasta with Bacon and Asparagus

It starts with bacon, as all amazing things do.  I went ahead and chopped up and fried an entire package, although you probably only need about half a package (as for the other half, I have plans for a baked potato soup).

While the bacon is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta (I prefer penne).

Chop a onion and cut asparagus in 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces.

Once cooked, remove bacon and drain off some (but not all) of the fat.  Add the chopped onions to the remaining bacon fat and cook until soft.

Add asparagus to the pasta pot after the pasta is cooked halfway through and cook until asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes.

Drain noodles and asparagus and add to the onions.  Add about 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese and cook until cheese melts.

Top with bacon crumbles.

I enjoyed mine with a cranberry martini.  Add that to a Skype date with my beloved and it was a pretty fantastic end of the work week.

Jammin’

As much as my pseudo-Southern self wants to deny it, autumn is here in the Twin Cities.  And I’ll admit, I am a little bit excited for it.  Fall means cool, crisp mornings and lightweight sweaters.  It means an abundance of root vegetables and winter squash at the grocery store (butternut squash on my counter – I have some delicious plans for you later this week).  And it means stocking up the pantry for the long (and I mean long), cold (and I mean cold) winter ahead by preserving the tastes and smells of summer.

Now, I’ve never actually made preserves before.  Sure, as a kid I would watch my mother can just about anything she could get her hands on … peaches, pears, applesauce, green beans, zucchini relish … and to be perfectly honest, that pressure cooker scared the living daylights out of me and I have since avoided all sorts of canning activity.  But, as I have just discovered, you don’t actually need a pressure cooker to make jams, jellies and preserves.  So I decided to try my hand at some spiced blueberry jam this cozy Sunday afternoon.  I think it was a great starting point into the world of canning – although, I do admit, to having made a couple of emergency calls to my mother…

I like how few ingredients can go into making a jam.  This particular recipe (found in the book aptly named Jams and Preserves by Gina Steer) called for 1 1/2 pounds of blueberries, 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about two small juice oranges), a cinnamon stick and vanilla bean and about 2 1/2 cups of sugar.  First, simmer the blueberries, orange juice, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean over low heat for about 20 minutes. It will turn your wooden spoon and pot a lovely shade of purple…

Next, add sugar until it dissolves.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes.  Take off the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of pectin (aka Sure-Jell or Certo and good luck finding it in your grocery store – it may be hiding in the baking aisle, the kitchen gadget aisle or with the tupperware and lunch bags).  Let cool slightly before pouring into sterilized glass canning jars (place right-side up in a 285 degree oven for 15 min).  To ease the pouring process, I first put the jam into a large batter bowl with a handle and a spout and that worked really well.  My batch made about 5 1/2 cups.  Cover with lids and screw on the caps.  After a few minutes you should a hear a “pop” indicating that the lid has sealed.  Hopefully the jam will set in a day or so and you will be good to go.

I think I might try mine with some baked brie and walnuts…