Creating memories in the kitchen...One meal at a time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dulce-de-leche Banana Toffee Pie

Banoffee Pie kept popping up all around me. In recipe books, on Pinterest, and food blogs. In case you have no idea what Banoffe pie is, it's simply a pie made with dulce de leche (basically a thickened, soft caramel sauce) bananas, cream and toffee. I'd wanted to make one for quite some time but I had reservations.The thought of boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk and having it magically turn into caramel seemed like some kind of trick and maybe a little scary. Would the bananas be mushy or slimy? Would the caramel be so rich that it overpowered the whole pie? So each week when I made my dessert selection, it was passed by.

Finally after seeing my friend and fellow blogger Anne pin this and describing it as "rich and oh so yummy" I knew she wouldn't lead me astray and decided to make it to go with our Sunday dinner. Coming from the gals at Our Best Bites didn't hurt either.

I followed the directions here to make the dulce de leche. The sweetened condensed milk is removed from the can and cooked in a pie plate with a water bath. I also came across this crock pot method which I will be trying for sure.

I also went the homemade route with my cookie crust. I'm not a fan of store bought cookie or graham cracker crust. Trust me, it makes a BIG difference in the final product.

After one bite, all my reservations floated out the window. A crumbly, chocolaty cookie crust, silky smooth dulce de leche, perfectly firm, non slimy bananas, crunchy chunks of chocolate coated toffee, and a divine, sweetened cream cheese topping.  In my opinion, the sweetened cream/cream cheese mixture is what took this pie from so, so to pure bliss! (The other recipes I came across just called for straight whipped cream.)

I'd also be willing to bet, this would be just as delicious with a traditional graham cracker crust.

**One word of caution, I would serve this pie within 6-8 hours of assembling. The dulce de leche did seem to break down a little and get slightly less firm.**

Dulce de Leche Banana Toffee Pie

8-serving chocolate cookie pie crust (I used this recipe. You'll have leftovers.)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 bananas (make sure they are really firm and not too ripe)
1 cup crushed chocolate-covered toffee bars or Heath bits
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese (light is fine)
1/4 cup brown sugar
Prepare Dulce de Leche according to these instructions. When done, allow to cool slightly and then spread onto the bottom and up the sides of the cookie crust.
Cut the bananas into 1/4″ slices. Lay the slices over the Dulce de Leche. Sprinkle with about 1/2 of the toffee bits and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the powdered sugar and heavy whipping cream. Beat with electric beaters until medium peaks form. In a medium bowl, beat the softened cream cheese and the brown sugar with the electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the whipped cream and mix with the electric mixer until fluffy and combined. Gently spread over the toffee bits and then sprinkle with remaining toffee bits. Chill for several hours before serving. Serves 8-10.

Recipe Source: Our Best Bites
Posted by: Sallie

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

THE Baked Potato

Okay I'll admit, it does seem strange. A recipe for a baked potato you ask? Why yes, in fact and once you taste these baked potatoes you'll see why.

A perfect healthy, filling, and delicious side dish, I love potatoes in all forms. Mashed, french fried, twice baked, and roasted are a few favorites that come to mind.  Usually we eat them with dishes like ham, grilled chicken, steak or pork chops.

Over the years I've tried different ways of baking potatoes. On a cookie sheet, wrapped in foil with butter and herbs, directly on the oven racks, poking holes, not poking holes and microwaving to name a few. They all produced similar results but nothing special.

One day on a whim, I searched for ways to cooked baked potatoes and stumbled upon this version by Alton Brown. The potatoes are washed, scrubbed thoroughly (to remove any dirt, etc.) and dried. Then using your basic fork, several deep holes are poked throughout the potato so that moisture can escape during baking. They are then lightly coated with oil, sprinkled with Kosher salt and baked directly on the oven rack.

The results? Amazing!! I'm guessing it's the oil and salt but whatever it is, it produces the BEST baked potatoes I've ever had. The inside is cooked perfectly and instead of being dry and crackly, the skin is so moist and flavorful, I can't wait to eat it.

This is now the only way I'll cooked baked potatoes.

THE Baked Potato


  • 1 large russet potato
  • Olive or Canola oil to coat
  • Kosher salt


Heat oven to 350 degrees and position racks in top and bottom thirds. Wash potato (or potatoes) thoroughly with a stiff brush and cold running water. Dry, then using a standard fork poke 8 to 12 deep holes all over the spud so that moisture can escape during cooking. Place in a bowl and coat lightly with oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and place potato directly on rack in middle of oven. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drippings.
Bake 1 hour or until skin feels crisp but flesh beneath feels soft. Serve by creating a dotted line from end to end with your fork, then crack the spud open by squeezing the ends towards one another. It will pop right open. But watch out, there will be some steam.
NOTE: If you're cooking more than 4 potatoes or they're pretty big, you'll need to extend the cooking time by up to 15 minutes.

Recipe Source: Alton Brown

Posted by: Sallie
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cook's Illustrated Light and Fluffy Pancakes **My go-to recipe**

Soon after I was married I knew I would need to aquire some cooking skills. To say that I needed some help in the kitchen was an understatement. I had grown up helping my Mom in the kitchen but the extent of my skills was pretty  much spaghetti, enchiladas and cookies. Mostly cookies. My husband and I still laugh about how many frozen Totino's Pizzas we had in our freezer, disgusting I know!! I think I called my Mom on a daily basis for about 2 months to ask "how do you cook chicken?" or "what is a garlic clove?"  In my defense I was only 19 when I got married and had never lived away from home.

Armed with a recipe file of my childhood favorites my Mom had made for me, the infamous Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook I had received as a wedding gift, and recipes I started collecting from friends, I was ready.

Seeing as how breakfast was my favorite meal and the ingredients were simple, it seemed like a good place to start. Instead of buying convenience foods I started making things like pancakes, waffles and muffins from scratch. I realized that I really enjoyed cooking and  noticed that once I tasted a made-from-scratch version of something, it was really hard to go back to a mix. Cakes, rolls, waffles, brownies. I think I can safely say that homemade was and still is hands down a winner. Not to say that I never use mixes, but often times I find that making things from scratch doesn't take much longer and the results are so much better that I don't mind spending a few extra minutes in the kitchen.

Enter the pancake. What's better than a Saturday morning in your jammies eating pancakes and snuggling with your kiddos ? Not much in my book especially since most of our Saturdays usually consist of getting up for an early morning run followed by a busy day filled with soccer, basketball, dance recitals, etc.

If you know me at all, you know that I am constantly trying new recipes trying to find my favorite or the best. I have tried many pancake recipes but besides these yummy and ultra rich pancakes, these are hands my down, tried and true, go-to favorite.

As the name implies, they are light and fluffy with a sweet and tangy and almost buttery taste. Topped with anything from butter and maple syrup, to whipped cream and strawberries, or peanut butter and bananas, I'm betting these will become a family favorite of yours as well.

P.S. I'm happy to report that in the last 16 years I have 1- vastly improved in the kitchen, 2- haven't touched a Totino's pizza for years, and 3- thanks to this blog, now I'm the one getting the cooking questions.

Light and Fluffy Pancakes

If you have buttermilk on hand, use 2 cups instead of the milk and lemon juice mixture.
**See cook's notes at bottom of recipe*

  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Whisk the lemon juice and milk together in a medium bowl or large measuring cup; set aside to thicken while preparing the other ingredients. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to combine.

Whisk the egg and melted butter into the milk until combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl; pour in the milk mixture and whisk very gently until just combined (a few lumps should remain). Do not overmix.

Heat a 12 in. nonstick skillet over medium heat (I always use my trusty griddle) for 3-5 minutes; add 1 tsp oil (more for a griddle. Just eyeball it). and brush to coat the skillet bottom evenly. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto 3 spots on the skillet. Cook pancakes until large bubbled being to appear, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Using a thin, wide spatula, flip the pancakes until golden brown on the second side, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes longer. Serve immediately. Repeat with remaining batter, using the remaining vegetable oil only if necessary. 

For a delicious blueberry version:

Have ready 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, preferably wild, rinsed and dried. Follow the recipe for Light and Fluffy Pancakes. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon blueberries over each pancake just after pouring batter into the pan.

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated The New Best Recipe

Posted by: Sallie

 Cook's Note- **According to my recipe book, taste testers actually preferred the lemon juice and milk mixture over replacing it with buttermilk. I only tried this once and overlooked the fact that they used whole milk. I used 1 percent and I had to disagree. I liked the buttermilk version much better( and I always have it on hand.I rarely buy whole milk)  I will have to try again with whole milk and let you know my verdict.**

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Butterfinger Nutter Butter Cheesecake Bars

Does everyone else love Pinterest as much as I do? Seriously, I have so many pins it's crazy. Of course I had so many food pins that I had to divide them into categories. It's really convenient though. When Menu time comes around I just click on cooking, breakfast, side dish, dessert, whatever I'm looking for and instantly there's a million (okay, slight exaggeration) choices. The hardest part is actually deciding.

Butterfingers, Nutter Butters and Cheesecake are all on my list of favorites so when I saw these cheesecake bars, I knew they must be made.

Considering there was cheesecake involved I automatically assumed I would be spending a little extra time making these babies, but knew the end result would more than make up for it.

And boy did it ever! I did alter the recipe and bake my Nutter Butter crust.(I wanted to make sure it didn't get soggy and  I prefer a baked crust. You make the call.) The cheesecake layer was creamy and smooth with just the right amount of cheesecake to Butterfinger ratio so neither one overpowered the other. The silky chocolate topping was the perfect compliment to tie it all together.

Bonus--I was wrong about spending extra time in the kitchen! I couldn't believe how easy & quick these were to make. They only bake for about 20 minutes. Which can be a good or a bad thing. Good for the lips, bad for the hips! Go run 5 miles if you're concerned. Then try to restrain yourself from eating the whole pan. I made myself stop at 3. They are that good.

** Dads and kids. Mother's Day is Sunday and it's not too late to surprise Mom with a delicious treat that looks amazing, tastes great and it can just be our little secret how easy they are to make!**

Butterfinger Nutter Butter Cheesecake Bars
Yield: 36 small squares

for the crust-
16 whole nutter butter cookies
1/4 cup melted butter

for the cheesecake filling-
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon all purpose flour
6 fun size Butterfinger chocolate bars

for the topping-
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×9 square dish with foil or parchment and set aside. {If you are lining your pan with foil, lightly grease with non stick cooking spray.}
 Grind nutter butter cookies in a food processor until the consistency of graham cracker crumbs. Pour in melted butter and pulse a few times to mix. Press into prepared dish and set aside or if desired, bake crust for 8-10 minutes until firm and golden brown. Turn oven temperature down to 325 degrees.
 In a large bowl, whip cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Stir in egg, vanilla and flour. Finely chop butterfingers and fold into the cheesecake mixture. Pour over top nutter butter crust and bake for 18-22 minutes or until cheesecake has set. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled.
Pour chocolate chips and butter into a small bowl and microwave using the ‘melt chocolate’ function, stirring every 20-30 seconds. If your chocolate is almost melted, don’t put it back into the microwave! Just keep stirring- the residual heat will continue to melt the chocolate completely. {If your microwave doesn’t have this function, zap your chocolate at 50% power at 20 second intervals, stirring in between.} Spread melted chocolate overtop of the bars evenly and place back into the refrigerator 5-10 minutes to harden the chocolate. Remove from refrigerator and using the foil or parchment, remove the entire block of bars from the pan. Cut into bars and serve.

Recipes Notes: If you leave the bars in the refrigerator longer than 10 minutes after you’ve topped it with chocolate, cutting into the bars might be more difficult and the chocolate is more likely to crack.

Recipe & Picture
 Source: Lauren's Latest

Posted by: Sallie

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Homemade Hot Pockets

After hearing "Mom, will you please, please,please get some Hot Pockets at the store" for the millionth time, and then not buying them because I'm too cheap and they're gone in 1 second, I decided I'd look for a homemade version instead.
Besides being way more healthy and a lot cheaper , these homemade hot pockets from Our Best Bites are about a million times better tasting. Just the smell of them baking had my kids and husband grabbing them up as soon as they came out of the oven.
I also made a double batch so I got 16 generous sized hot pockets. I did half ham and cheese and the other half (which was the most popular) pizza sauce, cheese and pepperoni. I individually wrapped the leftovers and put them in a freezer bag.

At least that's one thing my kids won't be begging me for anymore. As for gummy worms, otter pops and fruit snacks? That's another battle for another day.

Homemade Hot Pockets

1 recipe bread stick and pizza dough  ( found here or below)
Desired fillings (I used about 6-8 oz. of ham and 4-6 oz. sharp cheddar. For the pizza version, I just  spread the pizza sauce to my liking and threw some mozzarella cheese and about 5-6 pepperonis in each one.)

Prepare dough through the first rise. After dough has risen the first time, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle, probably about 16×8 inches big (16 inches long, 8 inches tall). 

Using a pizza cutter, cut dough into 8 equal portions.

Leaving a little bit of a “margin” on the right and left sides, add toppings with the cheese going on last.

Stretch the dough out a little to give yourself a bit more dough to work with. Fold the left side over the middle and then the right side over that. Starting at the bottom of the “mummy,” tightly roll the filled dough, stretching it very gently as you go to make sure you’re getting a tight seal. 

Place on a sprayed cookie sheet and repeat with remaining dough. When finished, cover the pan with a clean cloth and preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

When oven has heated, bake pockets for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. For shine, you could brush the tops with a bit of egg white mixed with water during the last 5 minutes of baking, or you could rub a little butter on top of the rolls while they’re still hot. I chose the butter, of course.

Makes 8 generous sized hot pockets

Bread stick and Pizza Dough

1 Tbsp. yeast
1 1/2 c. warm (105-115 degrees) water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 1/2 c. flour
In a large bowl (the bowl of your mixer, if you have one), combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes or until yeast is bubbly.

Add salt and stir. Add 1 1/2 c. flour and mix well. Gradually add more flour (usually between 3-4 cups, depending on your elevation and your humidity) until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger.
Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl.
Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Bake according to directions and allow to cool. Place in a Ziploc freezer bag, squeezing out all the air. When ready to serve, just pop in the microwave for 2-3 minutes (depending on how fast your microwave cooks).

Recipe and Picture from: Our Best Bites
Posted by: Sallie

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