Category Archives: Great for a barbeque

Chocolate Oat Dulce De Leche Bars

 

It’s not just one thing about these bars, it’s everything.  Starting with the rich espresso-spiked chocolate crust to the creamy caramely center and ending with a gooey chocolate top.  AKA a chocolate lover’s dream.

I made these bars last weekend when we road tripped it back to my old stomping grounds in Ohio to visit the fam.  I knew if there was anyone who would love an insanely decadent dessert more than myself, it would be my family (it’s no mystery where my sweet tooth came from).

I wanted something that would hold well for travel and that was easy for me to throw together in the busy day of packing and working prior to leaving.  These were perfect.  I used a can of dulce de leche, which you can usually find in the Mexican section of your grocery store, but I also have a recipe to make your own below. Either way, I’m fairly certain you will die very happily after trying these.

Chocolate Oat Dulce De Leche Bars

You can buy cans of dulce de leche, usually in the Mexican aisle, at the grocery store, or below is a recipe to make it yourself  from a can of sweetened condensed milk (not to be confused with evaporated milk).  It’s simple to make, but if you do make it, just allow yourself plenty of time for it to bake and cool before you start the bars.

Recipe adapted from Cake, Batter, and Bowl

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • Dulce De Leche (recipe below) OR  1 13.4-ounce can dulce de leche
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. In a microwave safe bowl melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate together (microwave for 1 minute or until butter and chocolate are melted, stir and then continue with 30 second intervals). Add the melted butter mixture into dry ingredients and mix with a fork until crumb forms. Reserve 1/2 cup of crumb mixture. Place remaining crumb mixture in a greased 8×8-inch pan and press down evenly. Bake crust at 350˚F for 10 minutes.

Combine dulce de leche and milk in a small bowl and mix well until smooth. Spread dulce de leche over partially baked crust and then top with chocolate chips and remaining 1/2 cup chocolate crumb mixture. Bake an additional 12 to 15 minutes or until set. Cool 1 hour at room temperature and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until filling is set. Cut into 16 bars and store in the refrigerator.

Dulce De Leche

  • 1 13.4 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a shallow baking dish and add a pinch of salt.  Cover with foil. Create a water bath by placing the dish into a larger sized dish and fill it with water, so that it reaches half way up the side of the smaller dish with the sweetened condensed milk. 

Bake for about 1-1 1/2 hours or until it becomes nicely browned.  You may have to check occasionally while baking to see if more water is needed (if it has evaporated).  Let it cool and stir until smooth.

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Three Cheese Grilled Pizza

I have two favorite things about living in New Jersey.  First is having the luxury of living in the secluded countryside while only being a short train ride away from one of the world’s biggest and greatest cities.  And second, is pizza.  Good classic Italian pizza (and all other Italian deliciousness you find everywhere).

I rarely make pizza at home because we are surrounded by so many wonderful restaurants with those blazing brick ovens.  The ones that cook your pizza to a crispy, flavorful perfection within seconds.  But sometimes in the summer, when grilling season is upon us, I love to put on my sweats, grab a glass of wine and put a cheesy pizza over the coals.  It’s the next best thing to the brick oven kind. 

And if you’re like me, you’ll seek out your favorite pizza shop and buy the dough already made for only a couple of dollars.  More time to sit back, relax and soak up these sweet summer nights.

Three Cheese Grilled Pizza

This is more of the method opposed to a recipe.  Use whatever toppings you like.  For the three cheese pizza I used Shredded Provolone, Fresh Mozzarella and Shaved Parm, and it was superb.

  • Prepared pizza dough
  • Tomato sauce, recipe below
  • Olive oil
  • Toppings (I used shredded provolone, fresh mozzarella and topped with parmesan and basil, but you can use whatever you’d like!)

Tomato Sauce

(This recipe makes a lot of sauce, so if you’re only making one pizza, freeze the rest of it in individual ziplock bags to reuse in the future.)

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes

Heat a saucepan to medium and add garlic, oil, red pepper and salt. Continue to saute for just about a minute. Add tomato paste, oregano and basil and cook for a minute longer. Add tomatoes, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 5 minutes and then adjust seasonings according to taste.

For the Grilled Pizza

Roll out dough on floured surface.  I like a thin crust, but don’t roll it out too thin or else it will burn quickly on the grill. Once your dough is rolled out heat the grill to med/high and have your sauce and toppings ready to go. 

Place the floured dough on a pizza peel (or back of a cookie sheet) and slide the dough onto the grill.  It should only take a few minutes, but check frequently to ensure it doesn’t burn.  You want it to have a nice browned bottom.  Once the bottom is browned remove from the grill with a spatula and pizza peel.

With the grilled side up, brush with olive oil and then add your sauce (a very thin layer of sauce is all you need).  Add the rest of your toppings beginning with the cheese.  Place the pizza back on the grill and cook covered until the bottom begins to brown and the cheese melts. 

Finish with fresh basil if desired.

UPDATE: If you are using the back of a cookie sheet or other surface, instead of a pizza peel which is made specifically for handling pizza dough, make sure you dust it with plenty of flour to ensure your dough does not stick to the surface when trying to transfer.  Or, it may just have to be a two person job!

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Kentucky Bourbon Balls

 

 

Believe it or not, I learned most about stereotypes long before I moved to New Jersey (surprising, I know!). 

As a native Ohioan, or more suitably I should say Cincinnatian, we have a serious love-hate relationship with Kentucky.  Depending on the situation, we will either turn up our nose and clearly make known, with all of our stereotypical glory, that the Ohio River creates a solid state line separating modern civilization with that other state.  Followed by some type of joke about cousins marrying cousins.

And then in other cases we’ll proudly proclaim that it is our sister state, our comrade, our next door neighbor that produces arugably the world’s best whiskey, hosts infamous horse races, and is home to the cowboy hat wearing, gun-slinging Mr. Raylan Givens (for all you Justified fans). 

In this case I think it goes without saying that Kentucky would be our friend.  Our close friend.  Dear friend.  Our great Makers Mark-producing, Knob Creek-making, cousin kissing friend!

In honor of the Kentucky Derby coming up I wanted to share these, but they are a really delicious treat for any type of party.  Make them ahead of time and store them in an airtight container for up to two weeks, sometimes I add coconut, sometimes I dip them in an extra layer of chocolate, and sometimes I just nibble on them with a glass of red wine.  Truly an easy and succulent treat.

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Cookies Cookbook

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

  • 1 box Vanilla Wafers, crushed
  • 6 oz dark, or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup Kentucky Bourbon (or can substitute other bourbon)
  • 2 cups toasted pecans, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt

Begin by crushing the vanilla wafers in a food processor (or by placing them in a large plastic bag and crushing them with the back of a spatula or rolling pin).

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave for 30 minute increments, stirring in between.  Remove the chocolate from the heat and add brown sugar, corn syrup, bourbon and salt.  Next, stir in the vanilla wafers and half of the pecans.

Measure out 1 tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball.  Roll the ball in the remaining half of pecans.  Refrigerate the cookies for at least one day prior to serving to allow flavors to merge.  

 

 

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Easy Easter Cookie Pops

 

These are just too great not to share.  Inspired by my 60-Second Cookie, it’s a similar concept – buttery crackers, creamy peanut butter, and smooth white chocolate.  They are just as delicious as they are simple to make.  

They are perfect to make with kids, you can use them as favors, create a centerpiece display, or just eat them all before anyone else has a chance to try them (oops).  Luckily they can be made in a snap. 

  • Buttery Crackers (like Ritz)
  • Peanut Butter
  • White Chocolate for Dipping
  • Lollipop Sticks
  • Styrofoam board
  1. Spread Peanut Butter between crackers and insert stick.
  2. Place the cookies in the freezer while you are melting the chocolate so that the peanut butter hardens and your stick doesn’t fall out while dipping.
  3. Once your chocolate is melted dip the cookies into the chocolate.
  4. Insert the lollipops into a styrofoam board for chocolate to set. Decorate as desired.

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Balsamic Asparagus with Feta Cheese, Sundried Tomatoes, and Toasted Walnuts

I am seriously in love with asparagus.  In love.  So much, in fact, that I almost have a little Asparagus Envy.  

It is truly everything I strive to be in life — tall, thin, sleek, versatile, luxurious yet balanced, full of life and flavor, wholesome, tall, thin, sleek.  Did I say tall and thin?  But seriously, it is the WHOLE package — inside and out.

 

The possibilities with asparagus really are endless.  A while back I shared an Asian Style Asparagus recipe with shiitake mushrooms and sesame seeds for The Magazine of Yoga that was a terrific combination as well.   This is the type of vegetable that all you need to know is how to cook it and then you can run wild with your imagination.  It really couldn’t be any easier.

For this recipe, I didn’t measure out the ingredients exactly, so it is an approximation — feel free add as much or as little as you’d like of the ingredients.  

  • One bunch Asparagus
  • 3/4 cup of Feta Cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped, marinated Sundried Tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup toasted Walnuts
  • 2-3 tbs good quality Balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Trim the bottoms of your asparagus and then bring a medium pot of water to a boil.   While the water is coming to a boil prepare an ice bath for after the asparagus cooks.  (An ice bath is just a large bowl filled with cold water and ice – this will stop the asparagus from cooking as well as help it to keep the vibrant green color).

Once your water comes to a boil add the asparagus and cook just until the water comes back up to a boil (also known as blanching).  If you want your asparagus a little more on the tender side, leave it in for just a minute or two longer.  Once cooked, drain and place the asparagus immediately in the ice bath.

To finish, remove from water, drizzle with balsamic and other ingredients, season with salt and pepper as desired and serve.

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Shredded Pork Carnitas and Purple Potato Flatbread with a creamy Queso Sauce

Let me start by telling you how my mind works.  Or more appropriately, I should say how my mind doesn’t work. Literally speaking.  This was originally supposed to be a recipe for Peruvian Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice), but somewhere along the way it all fell apart.

I had the ingredients neatly lined up on my kitchen counter waiting to be used.  Then, during my daily grocery store stroll (between work shopping and personal shopping I can officially say I live at the supermarket) I spotted the most gorgeous, sexy, dark purple potatoes in the produce aisle. They had my name written all over them – and I’m pretty sure it was Spanish. “Natali-yahhhh.

My initial thought was to throw them into the arroz con pollo since I’ve seen lots of variations of Peruvian rice and potato dishes.  But then I thought I should keep them separate and showcase them on their own.  That’s when it all started to go down hill.  My mind began racing and I started thinking of a ridiculous amount of ideas, as if I had never seen a potato before. The.entire.car.ride.home.

One thought led to another, which led to another, which led to…three days later.

I literally spent three days pondering over these darn little spuds until my brain broke down and completely stopped working all together.  At that point, I had no idea what to do with them. 

I gave it a rest for a while until it finally hit me – flatbread!  Hmmm, or maybe potato salad.  Ok, flatbread.

Typically, I would be too embarrassed to admit that these are the types of problems I face, but because I have an end result like this one, I’m beginning to think it’s a good thing that my brain stops working every now and then.

…although, I’m fairly certain my husband would beg to differ.

1. Pizza Dough

My local grocery store has a great pizza counter where I purchased my dough from.  A lot of local pizzerias also sell good dough for just a couple dollars.

2. Toppings

  • Corn
  • Purple Potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • Hot peppers (or mild if you prefer)
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Avocado, diced

3. Pork Carnitas Recipe

Pork carnitas means “little meats” in Spanish.  This is a very delicious, flavorful and inexpensive way to prepare pork, but make sure you allow yourself time since you want to cook it on low heat for several hours to get that fork tender meat.  You could also prepare it in a crock pot if you prefer.

  • 2 lb bone-in pork shoulder
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 adobe chipolte peppers
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven and season pork liberally with salt and pepper.  Add pork and brown on all sides.  Remove pork from pot and add onions, scrapping up all the brown bits.  Add garlic, cumin and oregano to pot and cook for a minute longer.

Add chipolte peppers, chicken stock and pork back to pot.  Cover pot and cook for about 7-8 hours or until the pork is fork tender.  In crock pot cook on low for about 8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

4. Queso Sauce Recipe

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbs Tabasco sauce
  • salt and pepper

In small-medium sauce pan melt butter. Add flour, whisk and cook for a few minutes to create the roux.  Whisk in milk and cook until the milk begins to thicken into a sauce and coats the back of a spoon.  Turn heat off and add cheese slowly. Add Tabasco sauce (for flavor, not heat — but you can add extra if you would like the heat).  Add salt to taste.

Assemble the Flatbread

For the flatbread, first roll out dough on a floured surface.  Place the dough on a pizza stone or if you do not have a stone, place on the back side of a baking sheet.  Arrange potatoes, corn and peppers on the top of the dough.  Cook in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, add pork and cook for about 5-10 minutes longer or until the dough is cooked.  Remove from oven, top with chopped cilantro and diced avocados and serve with cheese sauce.

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Spicy Beef Chili n’ Cheddar Cheese Grits

When it comes to grits, you either love them or think you hate them.  Personally, I have a serious soft spot for grits.  I was once among the crowds that thought I hated them, but it wasn’t until I went down south that I realized they are so much more than the bland instant breakfast kind that is often thought of.  

More specifically, stone ground grits. They are so good, that when prepared the right way, they melt in your mouth like buttery mashed potatoes.  And as a bonus: easy to make.

In Charleston, the most irresistibly delicious variations are just about everywhere you go.  Most commonly you’ll see Shrimp & Grits on the menu, which is a low-country staple — so. heavenly. delicious.  Instead of the classic I thought I’d go for a get-through-the-last-few-weeks-of-wintery-blues dish.   Chunky beef chili over creamy cheddar grits. Comfort food at it’s finest!

You can’t find yellow stone ground grits everywhere, but they can be can ordered online at several different places if you live in an area that doesn’t sell them at the local grocery store.

Cheddar Cheese Grits

(Cooking tip: Grits need a lot of salt to help bring out the flavors.  If your grits taste good, but need just a little boost to make them delicious, you probably need to add more salt)

  •  1 ½ cup Yellow Stone Ground Grits
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 6 tbs butter
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated yourself

Bring the milk and chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly stir in the grits and salt and bring back to a boil.  Cover, turn down the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes (or until grits are tender), stirring occasionally to prevent the grits from burning on the bottom.   Once grits are tender, stir in butter and half & half, season with pepper and salt (a lot of salt!) and then turn off heat and stir in cheese.

Spicy Beef Chili

  • 1 lb beef shoulder or other beef for stew, cubed
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbs ancho chili powder
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • a dash of Worcestershire
  • a dash of hot sauce
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper

Heat a few spoonfuls of olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot, on high heat.  Season beef cubes with salt and pepper on all sides and add to pan.  Sear the beef on add sides until nice and brown.  Remove beef from pan when browned.

Add onions and jalapenos to pot and saute, while scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan (that is where a lot of your flavor comes from).  Saute until the onions are softened and then add garlic. Cook for a minute more.  Add all of the spices and cook for another minute.  Add brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire, hot sauce and incorporate into the spices.  Last, return the beef back to the pot, add the chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil (ensure the chicken stock covers all of the beef completely — if not, add a little water).  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Add the beans and cook for about 30 minutes to one hour more or until your beef is tender and pulls apart with a fork. 

Serve over grits and with additional cheese if desired.

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