Salted Toffee Graham Squares

Sweet and salty. Just saying those two words together is exciting. That combination is why I love Chubby Hubby from Ben and Jerry's. I haven't had it in years, but it requires me to wipe a bit of drool from my mouth every week as I pass the freezer section.
This sweet and salty cookie does remind me a bit of another favorite sweet and salty recipe of mine. In fact, I might even try this same technique on saltines next time instead of graham crackers. Make that salty contrast a bit more pronounced!
Now stop oooohhh-ing and aaaaahhhh-ing and go make some. I already know you attempted to take a bite of the computer screen....
Toffee Graham Squares
(adapted from Everyday Food)
13 whole graham crackers
8 ounce bag toffee bits
1 1/2 C coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
1/2 C sugar
1 C butter
3/4 C semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 tsp coarse salt ** I will use a bit more next time

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the graham crackers in a single layer, edges touching. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the crackers evenly, followed by the almonds.
2. In a small saucepan, bring sugar and butter to a boil over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally. Allow to boil for 2 minutes then pour over the crackers as evenly as you can. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the chocolate chips and salt. Allow to cool completely then break into pieces. You can cut them into pieces while they are still hot if you prefer, but leave them in the pan until they cool completely.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Here is a little culinary education as a gift from me to you: Canned broths really do suck.

Honestly, they are fine to use in the right setting and I use them myself, especially in casseroles. But when it comes time to making soup, I only use my own homemade stock.

Yes. It does make a difference. A huge one.
It takes some very basic ingredients and time. It is extremely simple, so don't let it intimidate you. I don't even peel the onions or garlic. Just throw it all in a pot and leave it alone for the afternoon.

Trust me on this one. It is so worth it....
Homemade Chicken Stock
(makes 7 quarts)
4-5 pounds chicken leg quarters
3 onions, quartered
1 head garlic, sliced in half
4 celery stalks, broken in half
3 carrots, broken in half
8 mushrooms, broken into pieces
2 Tb whole black peppercorns
3 Tb salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh italian parsley, crushed in your hands
1 bunch fresh thyme, crushed in your hands
6-7 quarts cold water - just fill the pot to the top

1. Dump everything into a large stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low but allow the stock to simmer. Cook for 3 1/2 hours. **If you want to use the chicken, remove from the liquid after it boils for one hour. Remove the meat from the bones and return all the skin and bones back to the pot.
2. Allow the stock to come to room temperature then strain out all the solids. If you want to remove all the chicken fat, refrigerate the stock and the fat will solidify on top then can easily be removed.
3. Divide the stock into containers. Can be frozen for 4-5 months.
This creamy chicken noodle soup is where I used my stock. It was outstanding. I'll post that recipe soon, so go make the stock now so you will be ready when I post it!!! Go.....

Molten Chocolate Cakes

This has been my sweet Valentine for the past 18 years. I will make it easy on you and not include my list of why he is so amazing. You would all just be jealous if I did.
Don't worry though, he does have one major flaw. He is extremely difficult to shop for when it comes to a gift. I gave up years ago on trying to find that "perfect gift" because for him, it doesn't exist. I could buy him a brand new pick-up truck and his reaction would be a slight smile and a neutral "Thanks Sweetie." Oh well.

My Valentine is my biggest baking fan and culinary cheerleader. It is wonderful to have someone who appreciates my efforts. It gives purpose to all I do in the kitchen and I get such satisfaction when he enjoys what I have made.

Take, for example, this humble looking chocolate cake. Can't be anything all that special right? Pretty boring looking, if you ask me.....

Until you break through that warm brownie-like top and discover this sexy, hot fudge below. Throw in a bit of vanilla ice cream and I guarantee that your Valentine will think you are just as sexy and hot :)

The best part of this recipe is that it is one of the easiest desserts you will ever make. Simple ingredients that everyone has on hand but the results are out of this world! Just don't tell your Valentine how ridiculously easy it was to throw together. They should believe you slaved for hours in the kitchen just for them.
Molten Chocolate Cakes
adapted from Epicurious
(makes eight - 7 ounce ramekins)
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
15 Tb butter
4 1/2 eggs (just beat up one egg and eyeball about half of it)
4 1/2 egg yolks (same as above)
2 1/4 C powdered sugar
3/4 C flour

1. Place ramekins on a jelly roll pan and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, place the chocolate and butter. Melt in the microwave for 45 seconds, then stir. Microwave for another 35 seconds then stir until all the chocolate has melted and the butter has mixed in completely. Cool slightly.
3. Whisk eggs and yolks together in a large bowl. Whisk in sugar until smooth. Slowly add the chocolate mixture and then the flour. Beat until combined. Pour batter evenly into the 8 ramekins. I used an ice cream scoop to make that easier. (They can be covered and chilled for one day at this point)
4. Bake for 13 minutes or 16 minutes if the batter has been refrigerated. Allow the cakes to sit about 8-10 minutes after baked so the filling isn't dangerous. Serve with your favorite ice cream or whip cream.

Spinach Artichoke and Tomato Pizza

I want to go back. Now.

I want to sit on deck and watch views like this all day long.
And watch my children enjoy the sunshine, sand and caribbean blue just as much as I do.
We came home to frozen pipes and a severely cracked ceiling from the weight of the snow that fell while we were gone.


Spinach Artichoke and Tomato Pizza
(adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray)
makes 2 pizzas
1 prepared recipe for pizza dough (here is mine)
5 Tb extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (grate your melts and tastes so much better than the pre-shredded stuff that is coated in wax to keep it from sticking!)
5 Tb grated fresh parmesan cheese
14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 C fresh spinach, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, chopped

1. Preheat your pizza stone to 475 degrees for at least 20 minutes before baking on it.
2. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Stretch out your dough into two 12 inch circles. Spread 2 Tb of the garlic mixture onto each pizza, leaving a border for the crust. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and parmesan.
4. Toss the artichokes, tomatoes and spinach with the remaining garlic mixture. Arrange on top of the cheese.
5. Bake on your stone until crust is crisp and golden, about 8-12 minutes.

Snickerdoodle Blondies

It has been a horrible winter. I think no matter where you live, the same is true for you. I'm glad Mother Nature decided to share the winter love with everyone this year instead of dumping it all on us Minnesotans!

Our family decided to escape from that "love" and board a boat to Mexico. Nothing makes you appreciate the warm vacation weather like leaving a -40 degree wind chill at home.
I wish I could share all the bright sunshine, white sand and blue water with you all, but the best I can give is an amazing blondie recipe. Thick, chewy and moist! The original recipe did not include any cream of tartar and I missed that sour flavor profile that are in a classic snickerdoodle. I added a note at the bottom if you want to add it. I will next time I make them.
Snickerdoodle Blondies
(makes 12 bars)
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C flour
1 Tb sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 8 x 8 inch baking pan.
2. In your mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the egg, mix then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Spread into your pan and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.
***Note: A double recipe can bake in a 9x13 pan for 38 minutes. Also, you might want to add 1 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar for the more authentic sourness of a snickerdoodle.