Monday, November 20, 2017

Scandinavian Almond Bars


I am not exaggerating when I say these are one of my favorite cookies of all time. They are SO good. And SO addictive. And also, so attractive. Thin, crispy but also chewy, topped with an almond-extract laced icing, you will not be able to eat just one.


I also love that they are a different shape from other cookies. They look great on a cookie tray, and even though they're not "technically" a Christmas cookie, I tend to make them around Christmas because of that reason. They're also not fussy at all; so in a season when you want a great cookie that's not a lot of work, you can turn to these beauties!


If you're planning your Christmas cookie baking fiesta, be sure to add these lovely and delicious Scandinavian Almond Bars to the list!


For more great ideas, visit Inspire Me, Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me 2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Show and Share.

Scandinavian Almond Bars

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. milk

Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup milk

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and almond extract; mix until fluffy. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt; mix well.

Divide dough into 4 pieces, and roll each one into a log about 12 inches long. Place 2 logs per cookie sheet 4 to 5 inches apart. Flatten each roll by hand until it is about 3 inches wide. Brush flattened roll with milk and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake at 325 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are slightly browned.

Meanwhile, prepare icing: in a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract, and milk until smooth.

While the cookies are still warm, cut them crosswise at a diagonal, into slices about 1 inch wide. Cool slices on a wire rack. When cool, drizzle with almond icing.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Sweet Chili Chicken {Instant Pot}


When I served this last week, a teenager at my house said "this is my favorite experience eating chicken." That's a pretty ringing endorsement. And it was deserved - this is a great way to cook chicken - swimming in sauce in the instant pot, then finished off under the broiler to brown and crisp it up. I can imagine all kinds of other sauce options that would work well with this same method. Chicken thighs cook beautifully in the Instant Pot, and the few minutes under the broiler really makes all the difference, texture-wise.


If you want to make this more mild, leave out the crushed red pepper flakes. But even with them in, this was about the right amount of spice for my family - some of whom think ketchup is spicy. Ha!

There are many more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us, Whisk It, Foodie Friday, Weekend Potluck, Awesome Friday.

Sweet Chili Chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup of chicken broth
3/4 cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. crushed garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Lightly rub each piece of chicken with the Cajun seasoning. In a measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic and red pepper flakes.

Add the oil to the Instant Pot and set it for Saute. When it's hot, add the chicken a few pieces at a time and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side to lightly sear. Remove chicken to a plate.

Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pot so the excess brown Cajun seasoning blends in with the broth. Stir in the sweet chili mixture. Stir and bring to a boil. Cancel the saute setting.

Add the chicken back to the pot. Secure the lid and set the pressure cooker for 10 minutes. Preheat the broiler on your oven, and then quick release the pressure when it is completed.

Transfer the chicken onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce and the honey. Generously glaze each piece with the sauce. Sprinkle sesame seeds over each piece of chicken.

Broil the chicken for about 3-5 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and baste with any additional sauce. Serves 4-6.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Pressure Luck Cooking

Monday, November 6, 2017

Miso Meatball and Noodle Soup


It's definitely soup weather. More often than not in this transitional season, I want to eat soup. It's just so comforting, not to mention, it's warm. So I love finding new ways to prepare soup. This summer, I introduced my family to pho on a family vacation and it was a big hit. So I knew I had some room to add soup that was a little more ethnically diverse into the dinner rotation.

This is not truly pho, but it's pretty similar. You start with a great garlic and ginger base, add miso, and wonderful meatballs that are both spicy and sweet. Throw in some soba noodles and you've got a super delicious meal that's just a little different, but not "too" different, if you know what I mean.

You can make this more spicy by throwing in the jalapeno pepper earlier in the process. My family prefers things a little more tame, so those that wanted to used the pepper as a garnish.

You should be able to easily find both miso and sambal oelek in the Asian section of your grocery. I find that sometimes Target doesn't carry miso, but two other large grocery chains in my region do. It comes in a rather large package, but it lasts a while and can be frozen, too. (Need another recipe that calls for miso paste? Try these awesome Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps!)

With soups like this in my arsenal, I'm not scared of the cold weather. Bring it on! (Ok, well, don't bring it on too strong.)


Find more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us, Full Plate, Wonderful Wednesday, Foodie Friday, Weekend Potluck, Awesome Friday.

Miso Meatball and Noodle Soup

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 cup diagonally sliced green onions, divided
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 (1-in.) pieces ginger, thinly sliced
9 cups chicken stock
6 ounces uncooked soba noodles
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 pound lean ground pork
2 Tbsp. white miso paste
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 red jalapeno chile, sliced

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup green onions, garlic, and ginger; sauté 6 minutes. Add stock; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook noodles separately according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.

Combine honey, sambal oelek, soy sauce and ground pork in a small bowl. Shape pork mixture into small meatballs.

Remove ginger slices from stock mixture; discard. Stir miso into stock mixture and whisk well. Add meatballs to stock; cook 6 minutes or until done. Add noodles. Ladle soup into bowls (I needed to use a fork to get the noodles!) and sprinkle with remaining green onions, mung bean sprouts, and jalapeno chile.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Cooking Light

Monday, October 30, 2017

Almond Pear Cream Cheese Tart


Well, it has already snowed here in Minnesota. But that won't stop me from posting another fall dessert. I'm back with another creation using pears, the unsung hero of fall fruit. I loved this tart SO MUCH. Frankly, the crust was my favorite part, but the whole thing together was just irresistible.

A sugar cookie crust, topped with cream cheese, pears and crunchy almonds - what is not to love? I even ate this for breakfast one morning as I admitted on Instagram. I didn't even bother to peel the pears for the recipe, although the original did call for peeling. But pear peels are so thin, that it doesn't really make a difference; just adds a lot more work. I'd rather save my energy for other pursuits - like making more pear desserts.


I'm sure pears are still readily available no matter where you live, so keep celebrating fall and make this dessert!

Find more great stuff at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us.

Almond Pear Cream Cheese Tart

Crust:
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 cups sliced pears (about 4 medium pears)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

For the crust, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the flour, and mix well. Spread onto the bottom and about an inch up the sides of a greased 9-inch round springform pan.

For the filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar until blended. (You can use the same bowl from the crust, no problem!) Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well. Spread evenly over the crust.

For the topping, toss pears with the sugar and cinnamon then arrange the pears on top of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle with almonds.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack. Loosen the sides from the pan. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. Makes 12 servings.

Recipe Source: Bake or Break

Monday, October 23, 2017

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta


If you're trying to eat less meat, this is a great dish to help you accomplish that. And even if you're not, this is a great dish. It's hearty and filling and packed full of vegetables. And it's tasty. The marinade from the artichoke hearts gives this pasta a great depth of flavor. Salty Parmesan and the traditional garlic and onions add to the mix for a delicious combination.


We really enjoyed this, kids and adults alike. I hope you will, too!

Find more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us.

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

12 ounces small pasta shapes
2 tsp. olive oil
1 - 8 oz. package sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
4 cups baby spinach
1 jar quartered marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. parsley

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the broth and cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low.

Drain the pasta, then add it to the pot along with the artichokes and half and half. Add in the spinach and sauté until it wilts, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese and the parsley until the cheese is melted. Serves 4.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Caramel Pear Streusel Bars


I really like pears. I think they play second fiddle to apples far too often. I love eating them, but I also like baking with them. They bake up deliciously and other textures and flavors really complement them well.


In these bars, we have a shortbread crust, topped with pears, caramel sauce and then a crunchy streusel. It's the perfect fall dessert!


Find more fall ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2.


Caramel Pear Streusel Bars

Crust:

6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flour

Pear Filling:

4 medium pears, cored and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping

Streusel:

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp. butter, cold and cubed

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving enough overhang on all sides. Lightly coat the foil with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

For the crust: Stir the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake at 300 for 15 minutes.

For the filling: Combine the sliced pears, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all of the slices are evenly coated.

For the streusel: Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two forks (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Remove the crust from the oven, and turn the oven up to 350°F. Evenly layer the pears on top of the warm crust and press them down to fit. Pour the caramel sauce evenly over the pears. Sprinkle with streusel and bake for 30–35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight). Lift the foil or parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. Makes 16 bars.

Recipe Source: Inspired by Sally's Baking Addiction

Monday, October 9, 2017

Pork Chops in Mushroom Gravy {Instant Pot!}


My favorite thing about the Instant Pot? It can deliver delicious meals of things that you haven't had a lot of success with otherwise. Case in point, pork chops. (Second case in point - POACHED EGGS! Coming soon...)


Pork chops are really hard to cook well, in my opinion. They dry out easily and no amount of barbecue sauce can make you want to chew forever on them. (Ahem.) But in the Instant Pot? Pork chops come out beautifully tender - you don't even need a knife! - and maintain good moisture. No dry meat here! I particularly love this mushroom gravy - but if you aren't a fan of mushrooms, just leave them out. Mashed potatoes are a must here, too. They soak up all the delicious gravy. This is the perfect autumn comfort food. And this is the way I'll be making pork chops from now on!


I've heard that if you have a "tall trivet" you can even make potatoes in the IP WHILE YOU COOK THE MEAT. Get out! That sounds fantastic. I do love my IP for mashed potatoes (no more potato water all over the stove!), but at the same time? I will have to investigate one of these tall trivets and I will report back. Even if you have to make the potatoes on the stove like I did, still make this. These pork chops will knock your socks off. I can't wait to try different pork chop variations now...


Pork Chops in Mushroom Gravy

4 boneless Pork Chops, thin/medium cut
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. seasoned salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp. cornstarch, divided
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Season both sides of pork chops well with seasoned salt. Turn InstantPot to Sauté and allow to heat. Add the oil to the cooking pot and when hot, sear both sides of pork chops, one at a time, for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate. Add onions and sauté for one minute. Add garlic and sauté for one more minute.

Add about 1/4 cup of the chicken broth to the pot and scrape up any brown bits that were stuck to the bottom. Add the rest of the broth to the cooking pot. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine.

Pour in the gravy mixture, add the butter, and stir until butter is melted. Add in the mushrooms and pork chops, along with any juice that accumulated on the plate. Lock the lid and close the pressure valve to sealing. Cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. When finished, allow a 10 minute natural release.
Remove the chops to a serving plate.

Reset the pot and press the Sauté button. Remove 1/2 cup of liquid from the cooking pot and add 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch and whisk really well. Pour into cooking pot and stir to thicken gravy.

Serve pork chops and gravy over potatoes or rice.


Recipe Source: This Old Gal
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