S’more Bars

roasting-marshmallows

I’ve always loved the idea of summer … and sun … and all things hot …. gosh, I miss summer. I’m totally channeling my inner Olaf right now.

Oh summer … what makes me think of summer is s’mores. Seriously, I love them. The melty feel of freshly browned marshmallows over a crackling fire, the crunch of graham crackers crumbling everywhere (no matter how careful I bite into the thing), and the chunky goodness of a bite of chocolate. So yum.

In the winter months, I’ve been known to make s’mores in the microwave. It’s so not the same experience, but it’s really fun to watch the marshmallows blow up. It’s like I instantly become a 5-year-old again who must look directly into the microwave and observe every moment of what is happening to my mallow; I don’t care about the radiation. And by the way, is that even a real thing? If it is, whatevs. Live on the edge with me. Channel your inner child. Go crazy.

I recently discovered another way to enjoy my love of s’mores. Did you know we can enjoy all of the flavors of our favorite campfire treat in bar form? No fire needed for this one.

I made some minor tweaks to the recipe I found online and seriously, one tweak I must strongly encourage you to do is put some of the marshmallows on top of the batter after you’ve mixed everything together. Don’t forget that step. You get to watch the mallows blow up in the oven now and then you get this pretty toasted look on top. It’s worth it.

Summer is coming soon. This will be a good warm up. Enjoy.

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Half a package of graham crackers, broken into pieces
  • 1 – 10oz bag of marshmallows
  • 6 chocolate bars, broken into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a 9×13 pan. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. In a stand mixer (or handheld), cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix over low-medium speed just until incorporated. Add vanilla and mix over low-medium speed for another minute. Add flour mixture slowly and mix just until incorporated. By hand, fold in graham crackers, all except 12 marshmallows (I actually tore the marshmallows in half so it was a little easier to mix in with the batter) and chocolate. This is thick batter so put get your arm workout in. Press into greased 9×13 baker. Top the batter with the 12 marshmallows you set aside. Bake in a 350º oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (see notes).When the bars come out of the oven, you are totally going to want to slice them up immediately because the smell is going to kill you. Really, my whole house filled up with the scent of chocolate and sugar. But, you will have to wait a bit because they will be very gooey. Just like a real s’more. So, it’s best to wait and let them set for about two hours in the fridge. 🙂

Notes

When you are inserting your toothpick to check for doneness, try to aim for the batter areas. Avoid the chocolate or marshmallows as of course the toothpick will be sticky.

The Best Blueberry Muffins

Muffins

I don’t claim many things to be the best. I really don’t. “Best” is so relative. Maybe they’re just the best for the moment. Or for the season you’re in. It’s just your opinion. Everyone’s got their preferences.

But I’m confident in these little bundles of buttery, blueberry goodness. They’re the best. I’ve tried a dozen or so blueberry muffin recipes over the years and none of them come out quite like this. Favorite. Ever.

They’re moist and buttery, they’ve got just a hint of citrus to bring out the flavor of the blueberry, and have the crumbly topping. I LOVE the crumbly topping.

muffin dough

In my classic Courtney form, I’ve combined the genius ideas of a few recipes and made my own. It’s just the way to go, you know? You can do the same. Go ahead, merge my thoughts with your own. Or with your mom. Or Ina Garten. I don’t care. That’s the beauty of baking and cooking at home — it’s your own form of art. Live on the edge.

Enjoy!

The Best Blueberry Muffins

adapted from Williams Sonoma, Smitten Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated
For the topping:

2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup flour

For the muffins:

7 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12 standard muffin cup tin with butter or a 24 mini-muffin cup tin.

To make topping, in a small bowl, stir together the sugars and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Add flour. The order of the ingredients is important here — by adding the flour last, you’ll guarantee to have bigger “crumbles.” I like big crumbs. If you don’t care, throw it all together. 🙂

To make the muffins, in a bowl, using an electric or standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a third bowl, mix together milk, vanilla and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the milk mixture. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Using a spatula, gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Be careful not to over mix — it just takes a few strokes to get those blueberries in there.

Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it level with the rim. Sprinkle each muffin with some of the topping.

Bake the muffins until golden, dry, and springy to the touch, 20-25 minutes (standard), 16-20 minutes (mini). A toothpick entered into the center of one of the muffins should come out clean. Transfer to wire wrack and let cool at least 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

Erick’s birthday & Court’s BBQ

Erick turned 28 yesterday. I love celebrating birthdays — especially celebrating my husband’s birthday. He picks his favorite foods for me to make and we invite a bunch of people over. Birthdays = parties. And you know us, we love parties. And one of the extra fun bonuses about this party is that one of our friends and co-workers, Lee, shares a birthday with Erick. Double the fun, people. Double the fun.

Erick & Lee with their birthday pies!

Erick & Lee with their birthday pies! — and Matt photo bombing — typical 😉

The men requested BBQ for their birthday weekend so naturally we did pulled pork, cole slaw, grilled corn and baked beans. I even made my own BBQ sauce to make it extra special. And for reals people — I impressed myself. Oh. My. Gosh. It was so good.

Besides the corn and the pies, all the food I had never made before. Some would say that’s risky, but honestly, if the recipes come from chefs you trust, you should be good to go. I made my own tweaks to the recipes along the way, but that’s the beauty of cooking. There are no rules — do what you want. Baking is another story but that’s a tale for another day.

Pulled pork & cole slaw

This is what the sandwiches looked like (if you put coleslaw on the top of yours like I do — which you should). I’m so sad there aren’t any left overs. My biggest regret from the evening is that I didn’t lick the inside of my crock pot when the last of the pork was dished out. I doubt my friends would have judged me.

A few of our friends have already asked for the recipe so here you go. 🙂 I actually combined three different pulled pork recipes to make my own — so a big shout out to my bro-in-law Gary, Deb from Smitten Kitchen, and Mr. Alton Brown. I wouldn’t still be drooling on Monday without you.

Enjoy my friends!

Court’s Pulled Pork

adapted from Alton Brown, Smitten Kitchen & Gary Cooper
serves 12

Brine:
2 liter bottle of Dr. Pepper
6 to 8 pound Pork Butt

Rub:
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 teaspoon whole coriander
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika

Instructions
  1. Place pork butt in a deep bowl/pot/tupperware container. Pour Dr. Pepper over top of the pork making sure it is completely submerged in the pop, cover, and let sit in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. 12 hours is ideal.
  2. Place cumin seed, fennel seed, and coriander in coffee grinder and grind fine. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and stir in salt, pepper, chili powder, onion powder, and paprika.
  3. Remove pork from Dr. Pepper and pat dry. Sift the rub evenly over the shoulder and then pat onto the meat making sure as much of the rub as possible adheres.
  4. Place pork in crock pot turned on High and cook for 10 to 12 hours. Begin checking meat for doneness after 10 hours of cooking time. Use fork to check for doneness. Meat is done when it falls apart easily when pulling with a fork. Once done, remove the larger chunks of fat and any bones from the crock pot. Pull meat apart with 2 forks and turn your crock pot down to Warm.
  5. Serve as sandwich with coleslaw and BBQ sauce.

Traditional BBQ Sauce

adapted from kitchentreaty.com

2 cups ketchup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons  Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, and continue simmering for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place in an airtight container — I used a mason jar. Keeps refrigerated for up to one week.

Coleslaw

adapted from smittenkitchen.com

1/2 small head green cabbage
1/2 small head red cabbage
4 large carrots, scrubbed and shredded
1/2 cup chopped fresh green onions
2 cups mayonnaise, low-fat is fine, as is swapping half with yogurt
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)

Instructions
  1. Prepare the vegetables: Halve the cabbage halves and cut out the cores. Slice the cabbage as thinly as you can with a sharp knife.  Transfer chopped cabbage into a large bowl, discarding any very large pieces. Stir in the shredded carrot and green onion.
  2. Make the dressing: Mix the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, celery seed, sugar, salt and pepper in a smaller bowl.
  3. An hour before serving, toss the cabbage mixture with dressing to taste –- you will probably not need all of it, but it keeps in the fridge for weeks –- and adjust seasonings as needed.
  4. Note: Vegetables can be prepped and dressing can be the day before.

Courtney’s Beef Stew

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This is what my dinner looked like tonight. So good. If I wasn’t so full I’d go have another bowl.

This is a scrumptious, simple beef stew recipe that’s perfect for warming your soul after a long, cold week. In honor of the first day of spring — and because it’s 20 degrees outside and these are the type of Wisconsin problems I wish we didn’t have — I made Beef Stew. #whereisspring? Bahhhhhh!!!!

 

Beef stew meat

Beef Stew is seriously super simple to make. Let’s begin, shall we? First, start with some stew meat, usually sold in the grocery store with the label of — are you ready? “Stew Meat.”

Aren’t you glad to have me here to explain these things?

Beef stew seasoning

Okay — now, before you *gasp* at the sight of this little packet — hear me out.

Seriously. This stuff is so good. It has everything mixed in already for you — allspice, rosemary, thyme, parsley, sugar, paprika. You can make your own seasoning if you’d like, I just think this is easier. And just to note, don’t add this whole thing at once to your pot. Treat the packet like any other seasoning — measure it out. This little packet will give you enough seasoning for three batches of stew. Just stick the rest in a sealed container and save it for the next batch of stew.

Add your meat to a bowl and toss it with the salt, pepper, and beef stew seasoning.

Heat some olive oil in a large dutch oven or pot. Add the meat in two batches (to avoid overcrowding), cook it up for a few minutes and remove it to a separate plate.

Mushrooms

Quarter up some mushrooms and add that to your pot with some butter. Butter makes everything better.

You can use regular white mushrooms here, but I personally like the baby bellas — they taste more “meaty” and that’s how I like my mushrooms. But as I always say — you’re the cook so you do what you like best.

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Now for the chopping. Chop up your onions, carrots and celery and add that to your pot. I like to do a rough chop on the onions, a thicker slice on the carrots and a rough chop on the celery. It is stew after all — bigger chunks make it feel more rustic and hearty. And for the Wisconsin spring we’re having, you want something hearty.

Cook your veggies for a few minutes and then add your minced garlic. Stir it around for a few seconds and then add your flour. A thick paste is gonna form on your vegetables — that’s good. We like paste. You want to cook away the flour before you add your beef stock. Once you add the broth, scrap up all the little bits of meat and vegetables on the bottom of your pot because there’s lot’s of flavor there. Then add your beef (and the juices), tomato paste, and remaining beef stew seasoning. Bring it to a boil and cook it up for an hour before you add your potatoes and finally your green beans.

Seriously now, it’s the best beef stew I’ve ever had. This recipe was adapted for the Horrmann liking from Emeril Lagasse.

Enjoy my friends.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons McCormick Beef Stew Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound baby bella mushrooms, quartered
1 cups roughly chopped onion
2 cups sliced carrots
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon roughly chopped garlic, about 2-3 cloves
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups low sodium beef stock
4 tablespoons tomato paste
3 to 4 cups 1-inch dice russet potatoes
1 cup frozen green green beans, thawed

Directions

Set a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pot and season the beef with the salt, two teaspoons of the beef stew seasoning and black pepper, being sure to toss the meat well to evenly cover with the spices. Add 1/2 of the beef to the pot and cook until browned on all sides, 2 or 3 minutes per side. Remove the beef from the pot and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil to the pot along with half of the remaining meat and cook again until browned. Set aside. Be sure to reserve all the juices from the meat.

Add the butter and mushrooms to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 3 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute until onions are softened and lightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the stock, tomato paste, remaining teaspoon of seasoning and browned beef and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Add the potatoes to the stew and partially cover the pot with a lid. Continue cooking until the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the lid and add the green beans to the stew, stir well to combine, then remove from the heat. 

Serve with biscuits and enjoy.

Homemade Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits November 25th, 2012 1

Biscuits are like a food hug. They’re comforting and cozy. Everything good starts with biscuits.

I’m totally in love with this recipe. I make them with a lot of different things — but most recently with chicken and biscuits (obviously) and beef stew. I’ll post those recipes to you guys eventually — the biscuits are more of a priority (obviously). 🙂

Biscuits - Cut

Honestly, theses little flaky dudes take like 20 minutes to prep and bake. When you add all the ingredients together, don’t play with the dough too much — less is more. This will help you maintain the flakiness. I usually don’t use a rolling pin to flatten the dough out either; just use your fingers and gently press it out until the dough is about 1-inch thick.

I use a metal biscuit cutters — I like those the best because the cut cleaner and are cooler in temperature. I have these exact ones from Crate & Barrel. Totally recommend them.

biscuit-cutters

I like the smaller cutter the best — but seriously, they’re your biscuits, do whatever you like.

Seriously, yum.

photo

In other news, I need to use this pretty blue plate more. I bought it at an antique store in Door County. I saw it, had to have it. These biscuits are a vision in blue.

I was tired of the snow and needed a food hug. Join me.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon white sugar

1/3 cup cold shortening

1 cup milk (buttermilk, skim, 2%, whole, whatever you got)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Turn out the mixture onto a floured surface, and knead 5 to 10 times. Pat or roll dough out to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits with a large cutter or juice glass dipped in flour. Repeat until all dough is used. Brush off the excess flour, and place biscuits onto a parchment covered baking sheet.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges begin to brown.

Eat and enjoy! 🙂

Hummus

I was in Minneapolis this past weekend for a Cru conference with some of my favorite people ever. I told them all that I’d pass my hummus recipe along, so here you go. This post is for you. 🙂

I am positively in love with Hummus. And one of the best things about it is that it’s one of those foods that tastes the best when you make it yourself. I’ve bought prepared Hummus in the grocery store—there are varieties containing everything from roasted garlic to red peppers—but they all have a decidedly acidic taste and I’m not really a fan of it.

However, I do make one exception — Holy Land Hummus. If you are close to a store (mostly in the Twin Cities) that sells Holy Land Hummus — buy the lot. The jalepeno is the Horrmann favorite.

Making hummus at home is surprisingly easy as long as you can find tahini, a specialty sesame paste sold in jars. I buy ours at our local co-op and that’s the way to go if your city has one.

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It starts with chick peas. These dudes are drained and rinsed so that thick bean goo is all gone. I’m not a fan of bean goo. You can of course used dried chick peas and soak them overnight, but I’m just not that patient.

Throw the chick peas along with the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, pepper, salt into your food processor. If you don’t have one, a blender is fine. And just to note, the tahini is a pretty important ingredient here. That’s what gives hummus its wonderful toasty flavor. If you make your hummus without it, it will still be tasty, but you’ll know something is missing.

Also, if you’d like to make a different kind of hummus than just the original, add-in whatever you have in your fridge. Again, jalepeno is our favorite, but you could add roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, olives, dill, etc. Whatever suits your fancy.

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Pulse the mixture several times until it’s combined, adding tablespoons of water as needed to help it come together. The mixture should NOT be overly smooth; you want it to have some texture. At this point, give it a taste, add salt, pepper, or more tahini as needed, and add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Pulse only 2 to 3 more times to combine.

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Serve with pita wedges, chips, crackers, carrots sticks…whatever you have on hand.

Enjoy!

Classic Hummus

  • 1 can (14.5 Oz.) Garbanzo Beans, Rinsed And Drained
  • 1 Tablespoon Tahini
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Chopped, Or More To Taste
  • 1/2 whole Lemon, Juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground paprika or cayenne pepper, Or More To Taste
  • Salt To Taste
  • 3 Tablespoons Water
  • 2-3 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Mix-ins: jalepeno, roasted red peppers, dill, olives, basil, tomatoes

Combine chickpeas with all ingredients (if you do a mix in, add that here too), except water and olive oil, in a food processor.

Pulse until mixture becomes somewhat smooth and combined, but do not over mix.

Add water as necessary to facilitate blending. At the end, add olive oil and pulse no more than three times, just to incorporate.

Pour mixture into a bowl and stir to ensure mixture is combined. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three days in the fridge.

Chai Tea Mix

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For Christmas this year I gave away a lot of homemade gifts. I LOVE homemade gifts — both to give and receive. 🙂 They’re cute, unique and personal, as well as inexpensive. So this year I ordered 24-8oz mason jars and went to work. I ordered my jars from here:

http://www.peakcandle.com

Specifically, the 8 oz. square jar with the rustic lid. I had a vision for these adorably cute Christmas presents, and with a credit card number and click of button, my vision was executed. I tied some striped yarn around the neck of the jar, and added a Christmas tag with the recipe on the back: “Add 2 Tablespoons to 1 cup of hot water. Enjoy!” So fun and cute!

rusticlid

For those who received it, many of you asked for the recipe. Consider this the gift that keeps on giving. This recipe is so super simple — throw it all together in a bowl, stir it up, and then transfer the mix to a food processor or blender to grind it fine.

You can change the spice combination if you want, or add more sugar to make it sweeter. The original recipe I found called for 2 1/2 cups of sugar (a little too sweet for me), had less spices, didn’t include nutmeg and allspice, and had less non-dairy mix. I played around a bit and found what I liked best. But experiment with what you like. This is purely my preference.

One thing to note, ground cardamom is kind of a pricey spice, but in my opinion, it’s the most important. Cardamom is what makes “chai” taste like “chai.”

(Revision 12/4/2015) The flavor of spice is totally a personal preference. I know some of you have commented expressing that you want more this or more that — go for it!  I sometimes change it each year I make it too. One thing I do is when I blend up my first cup of the mixture, I also make a small taste test cup. If I think it needs more spice in a particular way, I just add more to the whole batch then. Feel free to play around.

The one batch makes approximately 9 – 8 oz jars of chai mix. Enjoy!

Courtney’s Chai Tea Mix

1 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 cups powdered non-dairy creamer
1 cup Vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups unsweetened instant tea (you could use decaf tea too)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice

Directions
  1. In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer, vanilla flavored creamer, sugar and instant tea. Stir in spices. In a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup at a time, until mixture is the consistency of fine powder.
  2. To serve: Stir 2 heaping tablespoons Chai tea mixture into a mug of hot water.