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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chipotle and Honey Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup

We are 8 days into Spring here in Maryland, and the high today only reached 41 degrees. We even saw flurries while we were out and about this afternoon. I sure wish it would get warm outside, but if it is not going to, then at least I have a good reason to eat more soup. I am loving this chipotle and honey sweet potato and black bean soup because it is healthy, sweet and spicy, and warming to the soul. Since it is so healthy, I can serve it with not-so-healthy tortilla chips smothered with melted cheese. Yum! Another reason to love it is that is is simple to make, fairly inexpensive, and it makes a lot of leftovers. I actually think it taste even a bit better the next day, as the flavors get a chance to meld together more in the fridge overnight. We topped our soup with the toppings listed below, but you can top yours with whatever you like. 

If you are not familiar with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, here is a word of caution: they are hotter than you think! Since I love spicy, I added 4 peppers and a bit of the sauce into my batch of soup. If you like a little spice but not too much, I'd recommend adding 2 peppers to start with. Then you can taste and add in more if you think you can handle it. If it tastes too spicy, a little more honey can cut the heat and make it more sweet. Enjoy!

Chipotle and Honey Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup

INGREDIENTS:
2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 cans of black beans, drained
5 Tbsp. of honey
3 - 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped finely (use more peppers for more heat)
2 Tbsp. of fresh cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 small lime
Salt and pepper
4 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch cubes

Suggested toppings:
Toasted tortilla chips
Cheese
Greek yogurt or sour cream
Avocado

DIRECTIONS:
Put the olive oil into a large pot and set over medium heat. Once hot, add in the diced red pepper and onions. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 - 7 minutes. Then add in the pressed garlic and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Adjust the heat to medium-low. Add in the black beans, honey, chipotle peppers, and lime juice. Add in a dash of salt and pepper. Pour in the broth and stir. Cook for about 15 minutes. Add in the cubed sweet potatoes and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes have softened. Taste soup and adjust flavor by adding in salt, pepper, or more honey, if desired.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Let everyone choose their own toppings.

*One thing Greg and I loved as a side to this was chips and cheese! Preheat oven to 225. Spread chips in a single layer on a baking sheet and top with grated cheese. Place in oven and cook until the cheese is melted.

Recipe Source: The Faux Martha 

Recipe makes approximately 6 - 8 servings. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

One Dozen Brownie Cookies

My friend posted the link to this recipe on Facebook the other day, with the caption "making these tonight." However, when I followed up with her several days later, she still hadn't made them! I decided that I needed to try the recipe for myself. Greg was out shooting an event, and Wendy was down for a nap, and I got the urge to bake! I knew I didn't need 3 dozen cookies though, so I decided to cut the recipe into a third to make only a dozen cookies. It probably is a good thing that I didn't make the 3 dozen, because the cookies I did make went really, really fast between me and Greg. When I first took the cookies out of the oven, a little piece broke off and I took a bite. I wasn't impressed, and I let my friend on Facebook know. But then after they cooled completely, I dusted them with the powdered sugar, took another bite, and had to eat my words (and the rest of that cookie). The texture of these brownie cookies are soft and chewy and crunchy and gooey all at the same time. They have just the right amount of chocolate in them and just the right amount of sweet. I suggest you make these cookies as soon as you can. Enjoy!

Recipe for One Dozen Brownie Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1 ounce of bittersweet baking chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
5 1/2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of sugar
1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. of cocoa powder
3/8 tsp. of baking powder (use a 1/8 tsp. to measure each, scantily filled)
1/8 tsp. of salt
Powdered sugar, for dusting

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a baking sheet with a pat of butter.

Put the baking chocolate into a microwave safe bowl and heat on high in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Remove the chocolate from the microwave and stir. If not fully melted, heat for another 10 - 20 seconds. Once melted, set aside to cool.

Put the softened butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium high speed to mix until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Then slowly add in the cooled chocolate and mix on low. Then add in the vanilla extract and egg and mix again on low.

Put the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl and stir. Pour half of the flour mixture into the wet mixture and use the electric hand mixer to beat on low speed until combined. Then add in the rest of it and beat again on low until combined.

Use a one tablespoon cookie dough scoop to scoop up batter and place on prepared baking pan. Bake for 11 minutes. Remove from oven, let the cookies sit on the pan for 2 minutes, and then use a spatula to gently transfer them to a baking rack so they can cool completely. Once cooled, sprinkle with desired amount of powdered sugar.

Recipe makes approximately 1 dozen cookies. They taste best when cooled. Store in an airtight container on the kitchen counter.

Recipe Adapted from: The Pioneer Woman

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (way better than Reese's)!

I created something in my kitchen the other day that was truly amazing. A friend of mine was celebrating a birthday, and I remembered that she had said that Reese's peanut butter cups were her favorite candy. I found this homemade peanut butter cup recipe online, and I didn't think that I had everything i needed to make them. I almost decided to make peanut butter whoopie pies instead, but then at the last second I realized I had what I needed to make these adorable little treats! They were incredibly easy to make, and they tasted way better than I had even imagined that they would. I put some in a cellophane baggie, tied it with a cute ribbon, and delivered my gift. I also left quite a few of the peanut butter cups at home, but I only got to eat about two of them. My husband has been back at work on the home renovations with my dad, and they ate the peanut butter cups during their work breaks! They told me that they were way better than Reese's and that they were really, really good. I think you will probably agree. Enjoy!

Recipe for Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (way better than Reese's)!

INGREDIENTS:
For the peanut butter filling
1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/3 cup of confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)
1/8 tsp. of salt

For the chocolate coating
1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
6 ounces of coarsely chopped milk chocolate
1 1/2 Tbsp. of creamy peanut butter

DIRECTIONS:
Line mini muffin pans with paper liners. Use a small pat of unsalted butter and your fingers to lightly butter the bottoms and sides of the liners. 

Put the peanut butter and softened butter into a bowl. Use a hand mixer set on medium speed to combine. Then add in the confectioners' sugar and salt and mix on medium speed until well incorporated. Taste, and add in more sugar or salt to desired taste. Set aside.

Put the semisweet chocolate chips, bittersweet chocolate chips, milk chocolate, and peanut butter into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on medium power for about a minute, then stir. Continue microwaving for about one minute at a time and stirring until the chocolate is smooth.

Using a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of the chocolate mixture into the bottom of each liner. Then use a half teaspoon and drop about 1/2 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate. Then top the peanut butter with another teaspoon or so of the chocolate. Add on decorative sprinkles, if desired. Place them in the fridge until they are set, about 2 hours.

Enjoy them right out of the fridge for more of a crunch, or at room temperature for a more smooth texture. Delicious either way!

Recipe Adapted from: Taste of Home

Makes approximately 2 dozen peanut butter cups.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Roasted Garlic and Lemon Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan Cheese

Do you remember when you were a kid and you used to hate almost all vegetables? I probably liked more vegetables than most kids when I was young, but there were definitely a few that I told myself I would never eat again, and Brussels sprouts fit into that category. After trying one  with dinner some 20+ years ago, I didn't give them another chance until about three years ago. Somebody brought them as a side at a potluck, and I thought I would try them because they looked so good. And, they were pretty darn good. That was the turning point in my relationship with Brussels sprouts, and I have made a couple different recipes with them at home since then. These roasted garlic and lemon Brussels sprouts are one of my favorites since it is simple to make, and it makes a great side to many meals. If you were like me, and you wrote off Brussels sprouts a long time ago, I encourage you to give them another try. This time, you may like them! Enjoy.

Recipe for Garlic and Lemon Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan Cheese

INGREDIENTS:
 2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, rinsed
3 - 4 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch or two of coarse sea salt
Grated Parmesan cheese, for topping

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut of the ends of the Brussels sprouts and discard. Chop the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Put the Brussels sprouts into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice. Add in the pressed garlic, 1 tsp. of salt, and crushed red pepper flakes and stir well to coat. Spread the Brussels sprouts onto a baking pan and sprinkle with several grinds of freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of coarse sea salt. Place baking pan into the oven and cook for 25 - 30 minutes, gently stirring halfway through the cooking. Once the Brussels sprouts are cooked to desired crispiness (I like them a little blackened), take out of oven and divide amongst plates. Sprinkle each serving with some Parmesan cheese.

Recipe makes approximately 4 servings. 

Recipe Adapted from: Cooking Classy,  originally from Whole Foods