Thursday, October 1, 2015

Everything is Better with Praline on Top

Praline Brownies

This week I have determined that everything is better with praline on top.    

What is praline?  The dictionary says a confection made with nuts and sugar.     Most often, it's brown sugar and pecans.    If you hit up gas stations in the southern part of the US, you may run across them right by the checkout lane.

I made praline candies when I lived in Indianapolis.    Successfully.

When I moved to Colorado, I managed to ruin them twice due to the altitude and my candy thermometer my first year.   After wasting money in pecans and heavy cream, I decided that pralines were no longer on my Christmas candy list.  

Back at sea level, I'm willing to go at it again.

And why limit my praline-ing to just brownies?    

Praline Pancakes

Don't pancakes deserve the pecan, butter, cream and sugar confection?

Of course they do!

Sometimes, I just confection myself by eating it straight out of the bowl.   Sugar really does melt in your mouth.

So if you want to praline's what you need to know.

What You Need

6 tablespoons of butter, sliced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

What You Do

In a medium sauce pan, combine the butter, whipping cream, brown sugar and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for one minute.   Stir frequently.  

Remove from heat, add the vanilla and powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth.   Stir in pecans.

Let the sugary goodness sit for five minutes.   The sugar on the top might harden a little, but not to worry.     Pour the praline mixture over the treats of your choice - brownies, cookies, pancakes, etc.

Praline Brownies

Praline brownies were devoured in record time at my office this week.    Make your favorite brownie recipe.   I used the Ghiradelli dark chocolate brownie mix and made a 8x8 pan of brownies.    After the brownies cool completely, make the praline topping and pour over the top.    

The topping makes plenty, so you can have a thick layer of praline, or reserve some for other things.   Like pancakes.   Or eating with a spoon.

I was completely inspired to praline things after reading this recipe over on Cookies and Cups.   Check it out!

When was the last time you had a praline?  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Rice Cracker Ranch Popcorn

Happy Aloha Sunday!

For an island that has pretty consistent weather all year long, we've hit a heat wave where the temperature is over 90 and the humidity is over 90% as well.     It's time to hole up in the shade, a cool room, or an even cooler movie theater.

Here in Hawaii, a favorite addition to popcorn is arare, or rice crackers.    Arare comes in all different shapes and flavors.   Smuggling a bag into the theater to mix with your popcorn is just what some people do.   I may have become some people.       

For movie night at home, just pop some corn, add some arare, and if you're feeling especially bold, kick it up with some ranch seasoning.

What You Need

5-6 cups popped corn (1/4 cup kernels before popping)
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon ranch dressing mix (powder)
1/2 cup arare (rice crackers)

What You Do

Pop your popcorn however you'd like.    When your popcorn is ready, add the arare.    Drizzle the melted butter and toss to coat.    Sprinkle the ranch dressing mix over the top and toss to coat again.

Hide someplace cool and enjoy.   

Wondering what else would be good on Hawaiian-style popcorn?   Try li hing mui powder or furikake (seaweed flakes).  

How to you dress up your popcorn?

Meanwhile in Maui
Another place to go in the heat is the Aquarium.    Hello hammerhead!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mango Lemonade

Summer is here!   

In Maui that means it is mango season.    At the farmers market over the weekend, I picked up two lemons the size of softballs with the intention of making lemonade.     Then there were the mangos.   Mangos all ready to go.   Ready to go into lemonade, that is.

Check out these lemons!

Gourmet lemonade is a thing here on Maui - one of my periodic splurges is going to Wow Wow Lemonade and getting a hand made lemonade full of local flavors.    The farmers market inspired to make a gourmet lemonade of my own.

My Wow Wow Aloha jar

Are you ready to make some lemonade?    Let's do this summer!

What You Need

1/2 cup lemon juice,  from one giant softball size lemon, if you have one on hand
1 mango, pureed (mine yielded 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups water, divided
Mint for garnish, if desired

What You Do

Squeeze your lemons.   Pulp is okay....seeds not so much.
Peel and slice your mango.  It doesn't have to be pretty because you're going to put it in the food processor to puree it into smooth mango goodness.

In a small sauce pan, combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and the lemons that you juiced.   It's a chance to infuse a little more lemon goodness into the simple syrup.    Bring the sugar, water and lemons to a boil.   Remove from heat.   Strain the syrup, keeping the lemons and any bonus seeds out of  your syrup.

In a pitcher, combine the lemon juice,  simple syrup, and mango puree.    Add the other 2 cups of water.   Stir to combine.    Fill your lemonade glass, or jar, with ice and then pour the lemonade over the top.   Garnish with mint.  Or flowers.

Makes 1 quart.

Do you like flavored lemonade?   What's your favorite?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars

Aloha Friends!

Are you fully committed to summer?    Do you have a summer bucket list? {I do, right here}
I've taken two trips off island in the past month, both equally short and sweet.    I went to Monterey, California for a family reunion and then spent a weekend under the laziness cloud (and in a hammock) on the island of Kaua'i.  

Hammock view - for reals

My neighbors, who live in Australia in the winter, arrived back in Maui and hosted a big BBQ a few weeks ago.    Bringing dessert is what I do.....and making these toffee bars is what I did.   They were a hit with the BBQ crew.

What You Need

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine
1 egg
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, I used half macadamia nuts and half walnuts
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 (8oz) bag Heath Bits O Brickle toffee bits, divided

What You Do

Line a 13x9 inch pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour and sugar in a large bowl.   Cut in butter using two knives (or a pastry cutter, if you have one handy) until crumbly.  Add egg and mix well.  

Combine the chocolate chips and nuts together.   Reserve a heaping half cup of the mixture for later, and add the rest to the crumb mixture.  

Press crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan.   Bake for 10 minutes.  

Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the hot crust.    Reserving a 1/4 cup of the toffee bits for later, sprinkle the rest over the milk layer.     Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over the top and then add the remainder of the chocolate chip and nut mixture.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.   Remove from oven and add remaining 1/4 cup of toffee bits on top.   Cool completely before cutting into bars.    These are rich, so you can cut them small.

Recipe source:  Hershey's 

    What did you take the last time you went to a BBQ or picnic?  

    Saturday, March 28, 2015

    Dill Pickle Dip

    We made it to the weekend!  
    So reassuring that it happens every week.  

    Working in the service industry, everyone has a weekend, but it's not always Saturday and Sunday.   I said "Happy Friday" to a friend at work yesterday and her response was "It's not my Friday."   True.

    When it's your weekend, it's time for your favorite treats and snacks.   And I was thinking dip.   I don't make dip very often, but inspired by recently having Dill Pickle Soup, I was pondering what else could be dill-pickled.    If you love pickles, you'll love this.  

    What You Need

    1 (8oz) block of reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
    1 1/2 cups non-fat plain Greek yogurt
    1 (1oz) packet of ranch dressing mix
    6 dill pickle spears (approx 1 cup) chopped
    1 tablespoon dill pickle juice

    What You Do

    Combine the cream cheese, yogurt and ranch dressing mix in a medium bowl.  Mix with an electric hand mixer until smooth and combined.  

    Add the chopped pickles and pickle juice.   Mix until pickles and juice are incorporated.

    It's good to go right after making it, but if you'd like to give the flavors some more time to do their thing, let it chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to dive in.

    Serve with chips, crackers or veggies or use it as a spread on sandwiches or burgers.

    Meanwhile in Maui

    It's still whale season.

    Sunday, March 15, 2015

    Blondie Pie and Hong Kong Eats

    All week I've been fighting jet lag and the general tiredness that comes with a full week of work after a full week of vacation.    Pi Day (3.14)  almost escaped me.   That would have been a crime.   A world full of people eating pie and missing out?   Not having it.  

    Coming in to save the day was blondie pie.    Take your favorite blondie recipe that you would use in an 8x8 or 9x9 pan, bake it in a 8 inch springform pan and you have blondie pie!  

    I haven't lived someplace with a Trader Joe's since 2005.   The TJ's in Denver opened after I moved to Maui and the odds of one opening here are pretty slim.    TJ's  always has that element of special - I have to go on a road trip or vacation to go shopping there, or someone has to bring it to me.    I used a box of my imported TJ Blondie mix to make this pie.   No regrets.

    What You Need

    1 box of Trader Joe's Blondie Mix (with the butter and egg required) or your favorite blondie batter
    1/4 cup butterscotch chips
    1/4 cup Kraft Caramel Bits
    optional 1/4 cup chocolate chips (TJ blondie mix  has chocolate chips included already, so I didn't need to add any more)

    What You Do

    Preheat the oven to 350.    Coat an 8 inch springform pan with cooking spray.

    Prepare your blondie batter, either from a box mix or your own recipe.   Add the butterscotch chips, caramel bits, or mix-ins of your choosing.  

    Pour batter into springform pan.     Bake for 28 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  If you want your blondie pie warm, there's no shame in that either.  

    Use a knife to separate the edge of the blondies from the pan before releasing the spring on the pan.
    Slice into wedges.  Serve alone or with ice cream and hot fudge sauce.   It's a win either way.

    Meanwhile in Travel...

    I spent the first week of March in Hong Kong.  I started thinking about a trip in December and reached out to some friends to see if anyone was interested in a spring trip.  A friend from Wisconsin took me up  on the offer and we walked and ate our way through the city.   I love it when travel plans come together like that!

    Hong Kong was still decorated for the Chinese New Year with lots of lanterns and all things for the year of the Sheep/Ram/Goat.   So festive!

    Display in Tsim Sha Tsui

    Display at Holywood Park

    We also ate.   A lot.   We had a great time taking the Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tour of Central and Sheung Wan.   We went into small, independent restaurants and tried some of their specialties.  We also got a walking tour of the neighborhoods and recommendations of other places to eat (how else would we have known to order Hong Kong French Toast?).    I enjoyed it so much that on my last day in Hong Kong, when my traveling friend had already left for the airport, that I took their other food tour of Sham Shui Po.   All. The. Food.

    Amazing baked BBQ  pork  buns

    Giant homemade wontons

    In honor of Pi Day, what's your favorite kind of pie?

    Is there a destination you would recommend just based on how good their food is?   
    Please share in the comments or on Facebook.  

    Sunday, February 22, 2015

    Baked Oatmeal with all the Good Stuff

    Eating breakfast makes me a better person.   That's all there is to it.   

    Aside from the whole not eating breakfast keeps your body in starvation mode after a night of sleep thing, it also just makes me hangry.    By 10am if I haven't had breakfast, the cranky comes out, and no one needs that.    Least of all me.

    Making baked oatmeal is another way to keep the breakfast game fresh and this recipe  makes enough that you can have breakfast for a few days.

    What You Need

    2 cups old fashioned oats
    1/3 cup brown sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    the good stuff
    1 cup berries, divided  I used strawberries and blueberries
    2/3 cup chopped walnuts, divided
    1/4 cup shredded coconut, divided
    1/2 cup chocolate chips, divided

    2 cups skim milk
    1 egg
    3 tablespoons butter/margarine, sliced into small pieces
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 ripe banana, sliced thin

    What You Do

    Preheat the oven to 375.    Spray a 9x9 pan with cooking spray.

    Combine the oats,sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and then half of all the good stuff (1/2 cup berries,  1/3 cup walnuts, 1/8 cup coconut,  1/4 cup chocolate chips), in a medium bowl.    Pour this dry mixture into the bottom of the 9x9 pan.

    In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk  together the milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.   Pour over the oat mixture, then add the other half of the good stuff.  Finally, top the whole thing with the sliced bananas.     

    Bake for 30-40 minutes.    It's delicious right out of the oven with the melted chocolate chips and all the other good stuff.       Slice what you don't eat into breakfast sized pieces and put in an airtight container, using wax paper to separate the layers, and store in the fridge.  

    Meanwhile in Maui

    Did you know that Maui has Rainbow Eucalyptus trees?    You'll catch these on the Road to Hana.

    How do you feel about oatmeal - baked or otherwise?

    Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and have a great week.    Next Sunday I'll be landing in Hong Kong for a week of vacation.   And possibly eating all the things.

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