Friday, May 28, 2010

Congo Bars (with Reeses Pieces)

Congo bars

I don't know why these are called Congo bars. I looked it up on the web and I didn't see an explanation. I mean I didn't spend hours researching Congo bars, I just don't have the time for that kind of research, so if anyone else out there knows why they are called Congo bars, please let us know.

To me these are more like Blondies, and I'm not a big fan of Blondies, but these were good. Maybe it was my addition of Reese Pieces? Nah, can't be cause I'm not a huge peanut butter fan either, but the combination of chocolate chips (lots of chocolate chips) and the Reese's just worked.

I found this recipe on If you haven't been to this woman's site, oh man, run don't walk, to see what amazing things she creates. Every once in awhile she will actually posts something that I can tackle. I so wouldn't attempt any of her adorable cake pops. They are masterpieces.

So she posted this recipe for Congo bars and I said to myself " well that's something I can do".

I have to admit, after spending all of last weekend working in the yard and garden I was in no mood to bake anything. I was hot. I was filthy. I had dirt under my nails. I didn't want to turn on the oven....but I did. By Sunday night the baking bug was back and I thought "these would be nice to tuck into the boys lunches" and "John could take a few of these to work with him and pass them out". So the mixing bowls came back out (I didn't even have to plug in the mixer) and in 10 minutes or so I had Congo Bars in the oven.

There are two versions of this recipes. One that you can use with a hand mixer and one that you mix by hand. I chose to make the hand mixed version. There really is something very satisfying about holding a bowl under your arm and a wooden spoon in your hand.

Congo bars 1

I replaced the nuts in this recipe with Reese's Pieces. You could substitute just about anything you can think of.

Congo Bars
2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, softened (11 tablespoons)
1 lb. light brown sugar (Oh my and thank you!)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
11.5 ounce package milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

By mixer:
Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
Combine butter and sugar using a mixer until blended.
Add eggs, one at a time to sugar mixture, mixing on low in between each addition.
Add vanilla and mix.
Add flour and mix until combined.
Stir in chips and then pecans.

By hand:
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
Stir brown sugar into softened (not melted) butter in another large bowl until butter disappears. You can use the back of your spoon to help incorporate the two together.

Add eggs one at a time to butter mixture and stir well after each egg.

Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts. Mix well.

Add dry flour mixture and stir until well combined.

Coat a 13 X 9 pan with non-stick spray and spread batter evenly into dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Make sure you don’t over bake.

Notes from Bakerella: Hey guys. Seems some of you are having mixed results. Most find these awesome, but some say they’re not done at 30 minutes. I’m starting to think my oven runs hotter than most. So, if the bars aren’t done at 30 minutes and the tops feel like they are getting too brown, then place a sheet of aluminum foil on top and bake a little longer. Use a toothpick to insert and check for doneness before removing from the oven. Also make sure you sifted the dry ingredients and used room temp butter, not melted.

I'll be away from the computer for a few days. The long weekend is coming up and I'm having a birthday party for my oldest son.

They'll be lots of good food.....and good friends.... and laughing by the fire....kinda perfect if you ask me.

Enjoy your long weekend.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's keeping me out of the kitchen...

Beans 1

See those filthy hands?

Those are mine.

Dirt under my nails, yeah I should wear gardening gloves but I don't. I rather enjoy digging in the dirt, the coolness of the earth between my fingers and even the feeling of it caked up under my nails.

Dirty hands tell the world...."Hey, I'm workin' here".

The garden is in, all except for those beans you see in my hands. They are happily nestled in a bed of warm soil, basking in the sun, but they need another week or so until I can transplant them into the garden.

One of the cucumbers.

Those beans are straight from Italy. My neighbors gave them to us. His sister picked them up in Italy and decided to share. How nice of her. My neighbor thinks they are purple beans. I hope so cause purple is my favorite color.

I planted sugar snap peas that I started from seeds too. I can't wait till those suckers are ready to harvest. Fresh sugar still my heart!

I think John and I worked for a good 18 hours of so in the yard this past weekend. I worked with my "portable planting station". I use the boys old Radio Flyer wagon as my rolling planting vehicle. It comes in handy cause I can wheel to to where ever I'm planting, plus it just looks cute.

wagon 1


We're just about at the "sit back and just watch it grow" stage now.

That's the part I like the best....that and the "harvesting the veggies and eating them" stage. That might be even better.


Hope you're growing something delicious too!

Oh I almost forgot. John made me a 4ft birdhouse for my front deck too.

big birdhouse

I think I'm going to change the roof color, it's not doing it for me. I also think I'm going to swap out the primitive star on the front for maybe a tin one. We'll see, my yard decoration are ever evolving

Friday, May 21, 2010

No-Bones Chicken Wing Dip

Bufflao Chix Dip hand

All the guys in my house love Buffalo Chicken Wings.

Me - no thank you. I'm so not into anything hot or spicy.

My guys are totally into hot and spicy.

Evan found this recipe while he was sitting next to me on the couch. He was supposed to be reading for homework, but his eyes kept wandering to my magazine. Anything is more interesting than doing your reading homework.

He saw the title and said "Mom, you so have to make that".

And so I did.

Now normally I will give some tasting notes, tell you what I thought, what I'd change, etc. This time you have to rely on the feedback from John and the boys.

I gave them a mini interrogation:

So do you like it?
Evan: "No I hate it, that's why I keep eating more" (Ahhh teenagers, gotta love 'em)
John: "It's really good"
Jesse: "Yeah, I like it" (again teenager, I'm surprised I got that outta him)

Do you think I should make it again?
Evan: "Yeah, like a hundred times"
John: "Yup"
Jesse:" "I guess"

Yeah I could barely keep up with enthusiasm.

Do you think I should change the recipe at all?
Evan: "I dunno"
John: "Next time make it a little stronger". (He likes his buffalo wings HOT, so if you're like him, I'd add a bit more wing sauce. He actually put some in a separate bowl and added more)
Jesse: "I dunno"

Okay then. Really they could barely contain their excitement.

Evan asked: "Why are you asking us so many questions?".

Me: "So I can let people who read the blog know how the recipe was and since I don't like the taste of buffalo wings, I asked you guys".

Evan: "We'll I'm glad you taste all the other stuff you make, cause answering all those questions when you're trying to eat is exhausting".

Exhausting? Really? I'm surprised he had enough energy to wolf down his multiple helpings.

Buffalo Chix Dip

This recipe makes a lot. A whole lot. I took this to work 2 days in a row and it was happily and quickly eaten by my co-workers who praised it many times over. It was a huge hit.
This is perfect dip for parties when you need to feed a crowd, or a few hungry teenagers!

No-Bones Chicken Wing Dip
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 cup blue cheese salad dressing
1/2 - 3/4 cup buffalo wing sauce (or more if you like it hotter)*
2 ½ cups cooked chicken, cut into a small dice
8 ounces provolone cheese, shredded

Oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese, sour cream, salad dressing and wing sauce until blended. Stir in the chicken and provolone cheese.

Transfer to a greased 2 qt baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. I took the foil off the last 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Serve with celery ribs, crackers, tortilla chips etc.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Haven't been spending too much time in the kitchen...

Spring is officially under way here in Rhode Island. Well at least in my yard it is.

We’ve been working outside every spare minute we have. A typical day goes like this:

Wake up.
Go to work.
Come home @ 5:30pm
Make dinner, something easy and quick. Lots of grilling has been going on.
Clean up, make lunches, prep for next day.
Get outside and work until dark.
Come inside; wash up, jammies on, collapse into comfy bed.
Begin again.

We’re always crazy busy at this time of year. We kind of go nuts for a few weeks to get everything done so we can really enjoy our summer.

There is still edging to finish, mulch to lug and spread and gardens to plant. Not much is growing yet here, except for the garlic that was planted last fall, but there are signs of life everywhere.


I planted just a few things over the weekend.

Sweet Potato Vine

My chives are blooming.


I love chive flowers. Not only are they beautiful, but edible as well. A pretty little flower that you can eat. How convenient!

chive blossom 3

There’s been lots of digging, and weeding and lots of woodwork going on. I had John make me these adorable little mason jar lights for my back deck.

Mason Jar Sconce

A few pieces of scrap wood, a hose clamp, a little mason jar, add some sand and a tea light and you have country sconces for the deck, cheap ones too.

He also made me this little table for under the gazebo.

Yard 2010 2

It’s made out of scrap wood and pallets.

This table is made out of an old Autocrat crate that a lady I work with gave me. It was her Dads, so it's pretty darn old. Autocrat was a coffee company back at the turn of the century when this crate was made. Now there most famously known for their coffee syrup.

Auto Crate

We used another little table that John made to go underneath it then topped it with a piece of painted wood. Total cost about $6 in wood.

I also painted a few birdhouses. These 3 are in addition to the other 5 I have in the yard. I doubt we'll have birds in them this year, but I'm hoping by next year they'll be occupied. One does have a few sticks in it already, so there's hope!

Yard 2010

I chopped all my nails off last Friday so I could really get in there and dig in the dirt, and oh have I been digging. I’m the “mason” around the house. I love putting in new borders and building new beds.

We have a birthday parties coming up. My oldest is going to be fifteen. Fifteen! I can hardly believe it. We have my in-laws and possibly John’s Aunt Margie (we hope!) coming for John’s birthday on July 3rd, and then of course there’s the 4th of July and lots and lots of countless cookouts.

I keep telling myself, just a couple more weekend of work and we’ll be done…for now.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Amy Sedaris' Vanilla Cupcakes

AS Vanilla Cupcakes ECU

See those luscious looking cupcakes?

See that adorable bird's nest? Cute isn't it? Oh it's real too.

I collect them, once the birds are all done with them that is.

Now the birds around here just got started on their nest building, so I didn't get that nest this early in May.


I have a confession.

Those lovely cupcakes that you see. That green grass in the background....

AS Cupcakes CU

Those pictures were taken last summer.

August of 2009.

Yup, those cupcakes, long, long gone. Eaten and forgotten.

Not because they weren't good. I remember, they were good, but this post got hidden in the bowels of my very long list of posts I have yet to publish.

I have another confession to make.

At the time I made these, I had no idea who Amy Sedaris was. I still kinda don't.

What I do remember is that Amy makes a mean cupcake. I also distinctly remember sitting in my kitchen topping these with my killer icing.

Yes, that icing is awesome. I could eat it straight outta the bowl with a very big spoon.

So even though I don't remember what occasion I made these for (not that I need an excuse or occasion to make cupcakes), even though I still have no idea who Miss Sedaris is (sorry Amy), I do remember that these were happily eaten by my gang and the endless procession of teenagers that pass through the house.

Amy Sedaris' Vanilla Cupcakes
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups of sugar
Beat well, then add:
Add 2 large eggs
2 Teaspoons of pure vanilla
½ teaspoon of salt
2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
2 ½ cups of flour
1 ¼ cups of milk

Beat well, fill cups, and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. You should get 24. I 18, so don't worry if you don't get 24 either.

AS Cupcakes group1

Lisa's Chocolate Mocha Icing:
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup Dutch processed cocoa
3 tablespoons strong brewed coffee

Whisk together the sugar and cocoa. Add coffee and whisk until smooth.

Spread over cooled cupcakes.

This icing hardens up fast, so make sure your cupcakes are cooled and ready when you make it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Breakfast Braid

Breakfast Braid CU

I found my next "go to" recipe.

It's this breakfast braid, which can also be a lunch or dinner braid in my opinion.

Simple and easy with possibilites for fillings that are endless. I've made this three times already since this posting.

I've used linguica and onion, and chicken sausage with mushrooms this time. The first time around I made it with ground pork sausage...wonderful again. The next I'm thinking pepperoni....Pizza braid, or maybe feta and spinach....Greek braid.

Here's what it looks like pre-bake.

Breakfast braid raw

All nice & golden brown.

Breakfast braid cooked

Breakfast Braid
adapted from a recipe in Food & Wine Magazine
1 (13.8 ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust dough
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
4oz linguica,crumbled
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 large egg white lightly beaten

Oven to 425.

Unroll the dough onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Pat it into a 15x10 inch rectangle. I used a piece of parchment instead of the the spray. Nothing stuck.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and the sausage and cook until lightly browned (about 8 – 10 minutes). Stir in the eggs and cook 1 – 2 minutes, or until set. Remove from the heat.

Sprinkle the Monterey Jack lengthwise down the center of the dough leaving about 2 ½ inch border on each side. Spoon the sausage & egg mixture evenly over the cheese. Sprinkle with the cheddar.

Make 2 inch long diagonal cuts about 1 inch apart on both sides of the dough to withing ½ inch of the filling, using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Arrange the strips over the filling, alternating diagonally. Press the ends under to seal.

Brush with the egg white and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting crosswise into slices.

Here's the chicken sausage & mushroom one.

Breakfast braid chick mush

Here's the lingucia & onion.

Breakfast braid ling onion

Both so good. I love that I can literally take almost anythng that I have in the fridge and use it up in this recipe. It's a keeper.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Chocolate Cheerio Cocoa Krispie Cake

Choco Cheerio Rice Krispie Cake

Springtime in New England means lots of outdoor work for us. We love getting the yard ready, cleaning out the beds, adding in a little something new. I always want to take it to the next level, just ask my hubby. This year is no exception. We both had the day off last Friday and we spent it outside.

The boys are jumping back on their bikes again, coming home sweaty and dirty, and I have to say, I kinda like it. Getting them away from the computer screen is always a good thing. Last Friday night Evan and his friend went outside, flashlights in hand, to play manhunt. They walked in huffing and puffing looking for something to eat. Manhunt can really make you work up an appetite. Luckily for them I had made a treat that morning. A treat that took under 10 minutes to make and didn't need to go in the oven. How's that for easy?

The kids love this "cake". It's like one big giant rice krispie treat. I posted a recipe for this cake way back when, but this time I added in my kids favorite new cereal, Chocolate Cheerios.

It's a great on-the-go snack too. You just cut a wedge and off they go. You can throw in just about anything. I would have added peanuts, but the kids don't like them, and this was a cake for them after all, so I added in peanut butter chips and mini chips instead.

Choco Cheerio Rice Krispie Cake Slices

Chocolate Cheerio Cocoa Krispie Cake
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about ¾ cup)
2 tablespoons butter
1 bag (10 ½ ounces) mini marshmallows
3 cups of chocolate cheerios
3 cups of cocoa krispies
1 cup salted dry roasted peanuts
1 cup M&M’s mini baking bits
(you can substitute the anything you like for the last 2 ingredients)

Spray a 10 – 12 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl heat the chocolate and butter in the microwave on high for 1 minute, stirring once during heating. Remove and stir until melted and smooth. Add the marshmallows to the mixture. Heat in microwave on high 1 minute longer, or until mixture is smooth.

Add the cereal and peanuts and stir until coated and well combined. It will come together, just give it time. If you're using them, add in the mini chips last so they won’t crush or melt. Press the mixture down into a Bundt pan with fingertips. Let stand 1 hour to set. In warm weather, you may want to put it in the fridge to set.

When you are ready to serve this, loosen it with a flexible spatula and invert on to a plate. Cut in slice. Store covered at room temp for up to 3 days.

Choco Cheerio Rice Krispie Cake FS

When I served this at a birthday party a few years ago, it was the first thing the kids went for. Definitely a crowd pleaser.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Everyday Orzo

Everyday Orzo

Did you ever make a recipe that was so good that you found yourself calling people up after you made it saying, "You have to make this".

This is that kind of recipe. Simple and easy. "Mix everything up and let it sit for 25 minutes" easy. "Oh my God I wish I had discovered this recipe ages ago" easy.

chives and orzo

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this recipe.
Look. This is heaven in a bowl.

Everyday Orzo CU1

LOVED IT! It's one of the best things I've made in the past 6 months. Really. That's how crazy I am over it.

I found this on the blog Lemons & Lavender.

It's creamy, its buttery, its garlicky, it's just perfect. The orzo is tender, but not gooey, the garlic gives it a little kick, the butter gives it the perfect sweetness and the cheese just sends it over the top.

I tweaked it just a tiny bit. Added some shallots, increased the garlic by a clove and omitted the original recipes optional squeeze of lemon. It really didn't need it. It was just super delicious.

Everyday Orzo
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped (I used a combination of onion & shallots)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2-1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups orzo pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded (don't substitute)
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until soft but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat chicken stock just until it begins to boil.

Add orzo to onion and garlic in skillet. Stir in hot chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let stand, without removing cover, until all liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Stir in cheese until melted. (If your cheese doesn't melt right away, just heat up the orzo over low flame a bit to get it to melt quicker); add chives and season with salt and pepper. Orzo will have a creamy consistency. Serve hot.

(Recipe adapted from Simply Classic, a cookbook from the Junior League of Seattle).

Everyday Orzo CU

I'm serving this up for Mothers Day...and Memorial Day...and 4th of get the picture.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Right Now

In my mug: Ginger Ale (my favorite drink of all time)

In my belly: Chicken Sausage & Mushroom Breakfast Braid (recipe coming)

On my hand:
New ring. Love it.


In the CD Player: Matchbox Twenty
Confession: I lust after Rob Thomas

The last thing that made me laugh hard: This picture of Moose getting a bath.

Pissed off Moose

What's bumming me out: Missing Mitch. Haven't seen him in a long time.

In my camera: Pics of the yard. We've been doing lots of work and I'm documenting.

On the nightstand:
The Flavor Bible
- I'm dreaming of summer flavor combinations.
The Backyard Homesteader - Do you think the neighbors would protest if I planted a wheat field in my front yard? Hmmmmm.

In the oven: Brownies. M
y kids friends all wanna share lunches with them.

In the fridge: Lots of fresh veggies and fruits. Went shopping this morning.

Last DVD in the player:
The Blind Side - yes I cried. (we are way behind when it comes to watchin' movies)


Looking forward to:
Planting the garden.
Seeing my perennials bloom.
Lazy summer days with the boys.
Watching the birds.
Nights by the fire.
My in-laws visit in July.
Farmers markets and yard sales.
Sweet watermelon dripping down my chin.

Cooking with lots of fruit from this cookbook:

rustic fruits

Last quote I read and loved:
"The habit of giving only enhances the desire to give" - Walt Whitman.

On my feet: My favorite sandals (I even painted my toes red, a sure sign that the weather is nice!)