Blondes have more fun brownies

Sometimes, the funnest things in the world are fun simply because they are easy.

Take regular brownies for example.  Sometimes those can be fun, but there’s lots of measuring, and you have to work *really* hard to find a recipe that gives you that nice crinkly layer on top.  Failed brownies are NOT fun.  These blonde brownies, however, are fun.  They’re easy, and they taste good any kind of ruined you can imagine: undercooked? More gooey goodness.  Burned? Tastes like caramelized sugar.  Forgot the chocolate chips? Well, they are blondies after all.  And they are oh so good.

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(Tried out the new “food” mode on my phone.  Pretty slick.)

I got this recipe from my mom, who is the most direct communicator I know.  So when her recipe said, “melt the butter.  Stir in everything.  Bake, 350, 25-30 minutes.  Enjoy,” my first thought was, “oh God, I am so going to screw these up–they can’t be this easy!”

I was wrong.  Here’s what you need:

1/2 c. butter, melted

1 1/2 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 c. flour

1 (or 2, if you’re making them for the hub-dubs) tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

As many chocolate chips as your little heart desires

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Well, since the butter is melted (in a big bowl), throw everything in and mix.  If everyone in your family likes chocolate, stir those bad boys in.  if not, sprinkle them on your half before you bake 🙂

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The other fun/easy part of these is that they use only six total dishes–one pan, one bowl, one rubber scraper, two measuring implements, and a cutting knife.  For reals.  When was the last time that you baked something that only took six dishes? You don’t even need to count plates because they rarely make it that far.  They mix up so well it’s not even worth it to bust out the KitchenAid.

So, we’re back to mixing.  Now you put everything in a pan–8×8 for thick brownies, or that awkward size that’s not quite 9×13 but everyone has one for some unknown reason for thinner brownies.  You know, to feel less guilty when you have 2.  Or 4.  Or half the pan.

I grease and flour my pan because that’s the one thing Mom left out.  I bet you could get away without it though.

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Throw in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.  You can even forget about them for awhile–like I said, even burned tastes alright (and I’m speaking from experience).

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So ideally, you let them cool and firm up a bit before cutting into them.  Good luck with that.  Almost half the pan is gone before they stop burning your fingers in our house.

And as Mom says, enjoy.

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Refrigerator Pickled Asparagus

Some things I’ve forgotten about Wisconsin while I lived in Wyoming:

  • Rain is a real thing, and sometimes it can even rain for an entire day here.
  • Ticks are prolific.
  • Lawnmowers are a tool used more than twice per summer, and it is not primarily used to mow weeds.
  • Crops grow.  A lot.

We were fortunate to have a pretty decent-sized asparagus bed established when we moved in (and I even found a second while mowing the jungle behind our main yard–score!) and the hub-dubs has been harvesting an average of one pound/day.  The plus side of this is that I am  much better at cooking a vegetable for each meal.  The downside is that it’s a lot of asparagus.  A.  Lot.  There’s one more upside to having a lot of asparagus though: you can pickle it.  There are many crops that taste great pickled: cucumbers (duh), beans (waiting patiently to make my first batch of dilly beans), and, coincidentally, asparagus.  This recipe is a somewhat spicy version, but it’s pretty amazeballs.  If you don’t like spice, you should not be eating pickles, and you can omit the jalapeno and/or the mustard.

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Oh Bill Dill.  Here’s what you need (makes 4 pints):

Wide-mouth quart jars, sterilized

2 c. water

2/3 c. white distilled vinegar

2.5 T. sugar

3 t. dried dill (if you have fresh dill springs, throw one in each jar.  Yum-o.)

1 onion, sliced

1/4 c. canning salt (do not use regular salt)

1 jalapeno, sliced 4 cloves garlic

1 t. ground mustard

1 T. peppercorns

Asparagus

Here’s a good tip about the asparagus: the vinegar softens it up a bit, so you can use the woody stuff that you maybe missed for a couple days.  Woot.  Ok, so here’s what you do to get you on the path to sweet pickled goodness: Sterilize your jars and lids first.  You can check out a lot of websites for how to sterilize your junk, but the basic rules are: boil everything, only use clean rags, and don’t touch the tops.

Add everything except the asparagus, garlic, and fresh dill (if you are using any) to a large pot and boil over medium-low heat until the sugar and salt are both dissolved.

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Meanwhile, cut your asparagus to length–about the point where the screw part of the jar starts (I think that’s a little over an inch of headspace).

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Throw in a pot of boiling water for like 2 minutes to blanch it.  Then, lay the jars on their sides and start packing in the asparagus.  You want to pack it in pretty tight.

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Then, stand the jars up and add the garlic.  Then, quickly pour in the brine and make sure some jalapenos and onions make it into each jar (two more foods that are delightful when pickled).  A canning funnel makes this step much easier.

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The heat from the brine is what helps create a seal on the jar, so don’t dilly-dally.  Wipe any spilled brine off the rim of the jar with a clean rage soaked in hot hot hot water (remember, boil everything).  Place in an undisturbed area for about 2 weeks.  You could eat after a week, but it’s worth the extra week for better flavor.  Then, transfer your jars to your refrigerator. It’s safe to store these pickles in your fridge for 2-3 months so you can enjoy them for quite awhile! IMG_2041

Honey lavender Ice Cream

The first disclaimer I have to make is that ice cream is hard to photograph, especially for someone with relatively little skill at photography.  The first reason is that it’s a blob of frozen cream and milk, so it’s a blob.  The second reason is that there are only so many angles from which to shoot a blob.  As a result, there are only a couple photos with this post, but I promise you that you will want to make this recipe over and over and over again.

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It all begins with some lavender.  Did you know you can eat lavender and it tastes fantastic? Well it does.  Pair it with some honey and you have the base for a lot of delicious things in life.

I was first inspired to invent this recipe after I saw (and made) a recipe for lavender cupcakes.  Here’s what I came up with for the ice cream recipe:

1 c. cream

1 c. milk (preferably whole)

1 t. ground lavender buds

1/4 c. honey

Easy peasy.  First,  you need to grind your lavender and remember that a little bit goes a long, loooooong ways.  I used a mortar and pestle:

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The lavender should be very fine and free of twigs, seeds, and other hard stuff.  While you are crushing your lavender, put the cream and milk in a mixer and whip slightly for a minute or two.  Pre-whipping the cream helps the ice cream stay airy and light. Then add the honey:

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{Ohhhh, action shot}

Once the honey has been mixed in, add the lavender and some red and blue food coloring to make it purple if you wish ( I added 2-3 drops of each color and as you can see, it’s pretty pale.  5 drops of each color should do it though.).  Stir it by hand a bit to make sure all of the ingredients are incorporated and throw it into your ice cream maker for about 25 minutes .

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Then eat the whole bowl.

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Tommy Pickles Cheeseburger Pasta Bake

This ain’t your mama’s cheeseburger bake.  But it sort of is my mama’s.

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Pickles on pasta WHAAAAAT?! That’s right my friends, this mac-and-cheese is on steroids.  And dill.  It’s everything you want in a pasta plus everything you want in a good burger.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the add-ons:

1# ground beef

1 large can (28-oz) petite diced tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

1/2-1 c. pickles

2 T. butter

1/4 c. bread crumbs

Yellow mustard

For the mac and cheese:

2 c. macaroni

1/4 c. butter

1/4 c. flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 c. milk

1/2# (or 1 1/4-1 1/2 c.) cubed American cheese, or something equally meltable

A lot of mathy-type thought went into making this recipe.  By mathy, I mean I made a Venn Diagram of everything that went on a burger, everything that can go into pasta, and what would overlap.  Lettuce was clearly on the only burger side, but mustard was a little more of a gray area.  That’s basically how pickles made the cut and about as mathy as I get.

Anyways…

First, dice up the onion and throw it in a skillet with the burger, brown it up, and set it aside.  Meanwhile, cook your noodles until they are al dente. While all that’s going on, dice up your pickles and put those in a casserole dish along with the meat, tomatoes, and noodles.

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Then make your mac-and-cheese roux.  It’s easy!

Melt the butter (only the amount for the mac-and-cheese).  Add flour.  Whisk vigorously.

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It will be all thick and kind of gross looking, but then stir the milk in very slowly–start with a tablespoon at a time–and keep whisking until the roux is incorporated into the milk.  Simmer over low heat until it begins to boil and then add the cheese.

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Pour the sauce over everything in the casserole dish and mix well.  In a bowl, melt the remaining 2 T. butter in the microwave.  Stir in the breadcrumbs and then pour on top.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Garnish with more pickles (MOAR PICKLES) and drizzle with yellow mustard if you so choose.  Enjoy!

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Raspberry-Mint Ice Cream: A Celebration Dinner

The hub-dubs and I celebrated yesterday.  There’s a long list of things we were celebrating:

  • The sun
  • Beautiful spring weather
  • Being awesome
  • Oh yeah, we moved from Wyoming…
  • And moved into our new house last night.

So there’s that.  The new house *partially* explains my six month (embarrassing) hiatus.  Here’s why:

When I first moved to WI, I lived here:

This is a one-room cabin.  The “kitchen” is to the right.  There was not a lot of cooking going on.  Then we bought a house that can generally be described as a fixer-upper.  First my kitchen looked like this:

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And now it looks like this:

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Plus a SWEET 1930’s oven.  But that’s a post for another day.  The real action is ice cream.  It’s ice cream season, and celebrations just aren’t complete without ice cream.  Here it is, raspberry-mint ice cream:

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ON NOM NOM.  Here’s what you need:

1 c. heavy whipping cream

1 c. whole milk

1/3 c. sugar

1 qt. fresh or frozen rasberries

1/4-1/2 tsp. spearmint extract

Additional berries and mint leaves for garnish

Homemade ice cream is the best because it tastes awesome and will impress all of your friends, and it is so easy to make.  Seriously.  This is all you need to do:

Throw your berries in a pot over medium-low heat:

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Cook the berries down, especially if you are using frozen berries, to get the excess water out of them.  You could skip this step, but you might hate yourself later if you do.

While that’s cooking down, pour your whipping cream into a bowl.  You can then whip it for about a minute to get a nice, light texture, but this step can be skipped too. I skipped it this time–my mixer is still in storage (how am I surviving?).  Then add the milk and the sugar and mix it up.

Once your raspberries are thicker and the berry has pretty much broken down, pour the mixture into a food mill or strainer to remove the seeds:

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Push all the good juice out and stir well.  Then add your mint flavoring.  I started with 1/4 tsp., which was nice and subtle, but I don’t think doubling that amount would ruin the flavor.  Do taste it though.

So after all that (which was about 15 minutes, all told), pour your mixture into your freezer bowl for your ice cream maker, then flip the switch and watch it magically transform.

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If you do just sit and watch it for awhile, no one here will judge you.  I do it all the time.

Once it’s done, I would recommend putting it in the freezer to harden just a bit for a couple hours, but it’s pretty dang good right out of the bowl.  Garnish, and viola! Nice ice cream.  Now go celebrate something.

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Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Rolls

It’s zucchini season around here, and sometimes a giant zucchini stays hidden for a bit too long before it’s picked.

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Now that’s a monster zucchini.  You can feed like 16 people with this thing.  I was originally going to make zucchini lasagna, but then I decided to make some buffalo-chicken stuffed zucchini rolls. 

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Yup.  I definitely made the right choice.  They’re even pretty danged easy to make. 

You’ll need:

2T butter

4-5 T. flour

1/3-1/2 c. milk

1T. pepper paste

Zuchinni

1 chicken breast

2 T. parmesean cheese

Mozzarella cheese, for topping

Salt

First you need to slice the zucchini into thin slices.  If you have a really old zucchini, peel it first.  Then you need to salt those suckers to draw out the water. 

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See the water beading out of that? You skip the salting and you may get stuck with soggy rolls.  Ugh.  To salt the zucchini, just pour salt on each side, lay the slices on some paper towel, and draw the water out of each side for about 30 minutes.  Pat each slice dry with paper towels and you’re good to go. 

While the zucchini is being prepared, cook up the chicken.  You can shred it or just cut it into small pieces.  At the same time, in a saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the flour and whisk in the milk very gradually to make a roux. 

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The sauce will thicken as it cooks.  Add the parmesean and then the pepper paste. 

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Pepper paste is awesome. It’s sort of like curry paste, but with peppers.  If you don’t have pepper paste, throw in some red pepper, garlic, and onion powder.  Mix about 2/3 of the sauce into the prepared chicken and simmer over low while you prepare the zucchini. 

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Preheat the oven to 350. 

In the center of each slice of zucchini, lay some of this filling and roll it up.

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Place in a 9×13 glass baking dish.

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Pour the remaining sauce over the top, put the mozz on top, and cover with foil.  Bake for 30 minutes.

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Take the foil off and bake another 15 minutes. 

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I like these served with Mexican rice.  Or plain.  They’re good on their own too.

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Peach Mango Jalapeno Glaze

Today was a go-getter type of day.  I did some sewing, read a book, then decided to make this:

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This, my friends, is glazed pork loin.  Not just any glaze, though.  This is peach mango jalapeno glaze. 

Sometimes my best recipes come from throwing things in a pot and see how it turns out.  I was originally inspired by a good-looking, albeit small, harvest from the garden this morning. 

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What an arrangement.  What would you do with all of this stuff? I decided I would try to make a barbeque sauce of sorts. 

It was pretty easy and quite delicious.  Here’s what you’ll need:

1 peach, peeled, pitted, and sliced

1 mango, peeled, pitted, and sliced

1 red onion, diced

1/2 c. fresh tomatoes

3 small jalapenos, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. molasses

3 T. Ketchup

1 T. worcestershire

Dash dry mustard

Dash black pepper

Olive oil

Boom.  That’s all you need. 

To start, pour a small amount of olive oil into the bottom of a medium saucepan.  Add the first 6 ingredients and saute.  Once the onions start to become translucent, cover and cook on medium heat until tomatoes and fruit are squishy, about 30 minutes. 

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Take the mixture off heat and let cool slightly.  Put the mix in a blender and blend on low-medium speed until you get a puree.

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Yummmmmmmmmm.

Then, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Simmer over low heat for an hour or so until everything thickens up.

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Are you drooling yet?

Ideally, you’d make this sauce up the night before you cook your meat so all of the flavors can mix together a bit.  But I’ll tell you a secret: even if you slather the sauce on your meat 30 minutes after it’s done, your meal will still taste dang good.

I grilled our meat and spread the sauce on shortly after putting everything on the grill. 

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Enjoy!