Sunday, May 18, 2014

Coconut Caramel Sugar Cookie Bars

Do you LOVE Samoa cookies as much as I do??? I was daydreaming at my office last week, and yes, it was about cookies....I often do that around 3 in the afternoon, when lunch has worn off and it's time to start thinking about going home and cooking dinner. This weekend we were having a little family get together because my sister from Arizona was coming for a visit. I was in charge of the food, like usual, and I was day dreaming about something yummy for dessert. I love sugar cookie bars.... they are easy... but rather than just icing them with the usual frosting, I was craving coconut--as in Samoa cookies. PLUS, I wanted to try making caramel from sweetened condensed milk. Have you seen that method on Pinterest where you put the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a crock pot covered with water?? IT WORKS!! It takes several hours on high, just allow yourself time to do this before you need the cookies. I let mine cook in the crock pot while I was at work. Remember to let the cans of sweetened condensed milk completely cook before opening, you don't what any explosions going on, but it makes the BEST caramel sauce. This recipe is what I came up with while daydreaming....sometimes those seem to be the best . Enjoy!!

Coconut Caramel Sugar Cookie Bars
There are a couple of things you need to do ahead of time before making the cookie bars:
First take:
2 unopened cans Sweetened Condensed Milk
Place the whole, unopened cans of condensed milk on their sides in a crock pot. Submerge in at least 3 inches of water. ( cover the cans with water). Cook on medium for 10 hours or on high for 7. Let cool completely before opening. 
Toast your coconut:
1 large package Sweetened coconut, toasted
To toast coconut, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut evenly on a large cookie sheet, bake for 7 to 10 minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Stir after first 3 or 4 minutes, and continue to check and stir every couple of minutes. It will toast really fast once it starts so you need to keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Cool and set aside. 

Sugar Cookie Bars:
1 cup butter (no substitutions), softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together butter and sugar in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy--about 2 minutes. Add egg and flavorings and mix to incorporate.
In a separate bowl whisk together  the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add slowly to the butter mixture and mix to combine. If your dough is a little dry, a 1 Tablespoon of milk.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Plop your cookie dough out onto your cookie sheet and press to the edges with fingers so the dough covers the bottom of the pan (if your pan is really big and you want thicker bars don't go all the way to the edges.)Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes or longer until the middle is well set and the edges start to turn slightly brown. The baking time really depends on how you like them and how thick your dough is. If you like them more chewy bake less time, for more crispy bake a little longer.Cool completely.
While the cookie bars are cooling, open your cooled condensed milk caramel and spoon out into a medium size mixing bowl, if it's really thick microwave for 10 seconds. Next add toasted coconut (you may not need it all, it just depends how thick you want your caramel topping) Stir to combine.
Spread caramel coconut mixture over the top of the cooled sugar cookie bars. I usually drop by spoonfuls all over the top then use an off set spatula to spread so it covers the top completely. 
Now for a the chocolate drizzle. Pour about 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Let sit for a minute in the microwave then stir. If not quite melted microwave for another 10 seconds. After the chocolate is melted pour into a decorator bag with a small tip, or you can use a sandwich baggie with the corner cut out.. just barely so it's a small hole. Squeeze the chocolate to the end of the bag with the hole and drizzle in zig zag motions all over the top of the bars until gone. Let chocolate set up then cut into bars and enjoy!
Bet ya can't eat just one!!!

Berry Cheesecake Trifle

I love Trifles....I'll be honest, I haven't made many but you can do anything you want when it comes to a trifle. You can use brownies, angel food cake, cookies..... but I used a pound cake. You can layer any flavor pudding , whipped cream, fruit, just use your imagination. I decided to make one for Mother's day. I LOVE Cheesecake with fruit on top, so that's the flavor I was going for. I layered cut up pound cake, pudding, berries and a little bit of graham cracker crumbs and whipped cream. Sooooo yummy! and not too filling. Use your imagination and go create a trifle... you won't be sorry. :)

Berry Cheesecake Trifle
1 pkg.  (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Cheescake Flavor Instant Pudding
2 cups cold milk
1- (8oz.) container  COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh sliced strawberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 prepared loaf pound cake, (I made mine from a mix)
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

Prepare the pudding according to package directions in a separate bowl. 
Slice 1/2 the pound cake (or as much as you want, I used half and it was plenty) into slices, then cut into bite-size cubes. 
Place half the pound cake cubes in the bottom of a trifle bowl (or any clear bowl will work) then spread 1/2 of the pudding on the pound cake. Next sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of the graham cracker crumbs on the pudding. Now place half of each of the berries around for the next layer. REMEMBER to save 4 or 5 of the prettiest of each kind of berry to decorate the top of your trifle, set these aside. Now spread half of the cool whip on top of the berries. Repeat with more pound cake, then pudding, then graham cracker crumbs, berries then cool whip. To garnish the top sprinkle with a little graham cracker crumbs and the pretty berries you saved.
Serve and enjoy!! This was so yummy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hawaiian Coconut Rice with Red Beans (aka Rumbi Rice)

I ate at "Rumbi" Island grill for the first time the other day... I tried their fish tacos... and oh man, best fish tacos I have found so far (other than making them at home) But they served this yummy coconuty red bean rice on the side! and then I found the recipe on the Internet!!!  I make my own fish tacos but I usually make them different every time I do!  This rice is a perfect side for a tropical fish taco with cilantro lime coleslaw and pineapple salsa on top.... makes you feel like you have escaped Idaho weather for a minute and been transported to Hawaii! Enjoy!

Hawaiian Coconut Rice with Red Beans (aka Rumbi Rice)
2 c. long grain white rice
2 1/2 c. water
1 (14oz) can coconut milk (about 1 1/2 c.)
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
Pinch of Salt
1 can red beans, drained and rinsed

Combine all ingredients in a rice cooker. Gently stir it all together so the beans are all mixed. Place the lid on and start the rice cooker. Fluff rice with a fork before serving.
If you don’t have a rice cooker… Combine water, coconut milk,  sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Stir in rice and beans. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 18 to 20 minutes, until rice is tender.

Enjoy!

Chinese Chicken Salad

Lately Jim and I have LOVED eating salads in the evening. We feel better and less bloaty and full to go to bed. We have also started exercising.... I splurged and got T25, awesome workouts! But anyway, any time I run across a YUMMO looking salad I give it a try to add variety to our dinners... this one was amazing! I followed the recipe pretty much as it was written, but I garnished with just a few Chinese noodles... had them left over in the fridge and it was a good way to use them up. I love crunchy toppings on a salad. Enjoy!

Chinese Chicken Salad
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
INGREDIENTS:
2 oranges 
1/4 cup rice vinegar 
1/4 cup soy sauce 
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger 
3 tablespoons sugar 
1 Tablespoon Asian chili-garlic sauce 
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 
4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed 
2 romaine lettuce hearts (12 ounces), sliced thin 
1/2 small head Napa cabbage, cored and sliced thin (6 cups) 
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks 
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves 
1 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped 
6 scallions, sliced thin 
Chinese noodles for garnish, if desired
INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Cut thin slice from top and bottom of oranges, then slice off rind and pith(the pith is the white stuff under the rind) Working over bowl, cut orange segments from thin membrane and transfer segments to second bowl; set aside. Squeeze juice from membrane into first bowl (juice should measure ¼ cup).

2. Combine orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce in bowl; transfer ½ cup orange juice mixture to 12-inch skillet. Slowly whisk vegetable oil and sesame oil into remaining orange juice mixture to make vinaigrette; set aside.

3. Bring orange juice mixture in skillet to boil. Add chicken, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meat registers 160 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Transfer chicken to plate and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, boil pan juices until reduced to 1/4 cup, 1 to 3 minutes; set aside. Using 2 forks, shred chicken into bite-size pieces (or you can do what I did and slice into bite size pieces. Off heat, add chicken, any accumulated juices, and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette to skillet. Toss to coat and let sit for 10 minutes.

5. Toss romaine, cabbage, bell peppers, cilantro, peanuts, and scallions with remaining vinaigrette in large bowl. Transfer to serving platter and top with chicken and oranges. Garnish the top with Chinese  noodles if desired. Serve.