Monthly Archives: November 2013

Dip Day: Bacon Cheese Dip

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Everyone loves a potluck — especially my co-workers. On any given day in our office, it’s likely that you will find a couple filing cabinets pushed together, topped by at least one or two scrumptious snacks. Sometimes, it’s just a couple plates of cookies for no real reason, other times it is a much larger affair – to celebrate a birthday or work anniversary. Sometimes, we have themes – tailgate, cereal, candy – other times, we just bring whatever we want.  But, the best work potluck of all is definitely Dip Day.  Dip Day isn’t confined to a couple cabinets or an empty desk – it gets its own office. It starts early in the day when the first shifts start coming in and goes until late in the evening. If you don’t want to (or can’t) make a dip, you contribute plates or chips or bread.  Every year on dip day I discover a new dip that changes my life. 5 years ago, I didn’t know pumpkin dip existed. Loaded baked potato dip? Skyline dip? Brownie dip? Dip Day isn’t just for fancy dips either. You can’t go wrong with a simple hummus, french onion dip, or salsa.

Dip Day is a beautiful thing. I strongly suggest you talk to your co-workers and organize your own version of what might be my new favorite holiday.

Warm Bacon Cheese Dip
Adapted from Buns In My Oven’s Hot Bacon Cheese Dip

Ingredients:

7 bacon strips, diced and fried
1 unsliced, round loaf of bread (I used Asiago Cheese bread)
1/4 c. diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c. (8 oz.) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 c. (4 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese
1 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 t. crushed red chile flakes
a dash of paprika and cayenne pepper

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Start by frying the bacon. You can fry the slices and then crumble them, or dice it first and then fry them – both ways will work.

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Slice the top off the loaf of bread.  Hollow out the bread, being careful to leave the sides and bottom intact. Place the bread bowl on an ungreased baking sheet.

In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients with a spoon. Transfer the mixture into the bread bowl and bake for 45 minutes.  Serve with the rest of the bread (what you scooped out from the inside of the bread loaf) and anything you think would taste good – crackers or a different kind of bread.

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Chex Mix For Dinner

We need to talk about my love affair with chex mix.

It’s getting serious.

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Like pretty much all of my great loves, this has been mostly one sided.

As usual, I rushed into things. I took too much, too fast. I was taken in by good looks and charm, and then left alone, sick to my stomach. Yet, I never learn. I keep coming back for more. Because no matter how much it hurts later, it’s totally worth it.

Tonight, for dinner, I ate ice cream and a big bowl of chex mix. Why? I guess I’m just a fool in love.

I’m not really even kidding. I love chex mix.

It might be (close to) the perfect snack. I change up my recipe pretty much every time I make it depending on what I feel like. For instance, I’m not a big pretzel fan, so I usually leave those out. I LOVE those little rye chips, but I can’t always find them at the store. Sometimes, my chex mix consists only of chex and peanuts. I just follow my heart. 

This is what it looked like today:

Chex mix (adapted from the Chex mix cereal box)

Ingredients:

3 c. Rice Chex
3 c. Corn Chex
3 c. Wheat Chex
1 c. peanuts (salted)
1/2 – 1 c. cashew halves (salted)
1 c. Cheez-its
1 stick butter
3 T. Worcestershire suace
1 and 1/2 t. seasoned salt
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

place stick of butter in a large roasting pan or on a baking sheet. Place pan with butter in the oven until melted.

Meanwhile, mix together the chex, nuts and cheez-its in a large bowl, and set aside.

Once the butter is melted, add Worcestershire sauce and seasonings, and stir until combined. Pour about half of the melted butter mixture over the chex mixture and stir. Pour all of the chex mixture into the pan with the rest of the butter and stir until everything is evenly coated. Cook for about 1 hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour over paper towels. Let dry. Stir in an air tight container (or eat it all for dinner).

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Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

It snowed today. I hate snow. I hate the cold. I hate the winter. But I live in Cleveland, where it seems like it is winter most of the year, so I’ve had to develop some coping mechanisms.

Ways I deal with snowy, cold, dreary days:

  • Flannel pajamas
  • Beef stew
  • Thick blankets
  • Red Wine
  • Cuddle time (99% of the time this is with my dog)
  • Bad reality TV
  • A good book
  • Bacon
  • John Legend (his voice is just so warm and cozy…)

And nothing pairs better with a cold, dark day than a big, hot cup of coffee. And nothing pairs better with a cup of coffee, than a cookie made with coffee!

Seriously. Pour yourself a cup and make these right now.

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ESPRESSO CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Adapted (barely) from Joy The Baker’s Cappuccino Cookies with Espresso and White Chocolate

INGREDIENTS

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coffee extract
2 and 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks (I used bittersweet chocolate – 60% cacao)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and espresso powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat together butter and sugars at medium speed for about 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and egg yolk, and beat on medium speed for another minute or so. Beat in the vanilla and coffee extracts. Stop mixer and scrape down sides.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients all at once. Mix on low until combined. Stir in the dark chocolate and white chocolate.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 35-45 minutes (or over night).

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Scoop dough by the spoonful onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an air tight container. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

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Dating: I think I’m doing it wrong

You know how sometimes, in the movies, the protagonist is divorced or widowed and decides to start dating again and they realize they don’t know what they’re doing? They say something cute like, “The last person I dated was my wife, and I was 18. I don’t know what I’m doing any more! The game has changed! How am I supposed to do this?”

I feel like that. I have no idea what I’m doing.  But unlike our movie protagonists, I have no excuse. I never left the game. I’ve been here all along. Yet I still feel like it’s somehow left me behind. It’s changed, and I can’t keep up.

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a group of friends (most of them married), and naturally, I started talking to the only other single person there (a guy). In the morning, I got a text from one of my friends that said, “So, how did it go?!?!” Confused, I wrote back, “Good. I went to sleep.” When I talked to my friend later, she questioned me more. She couldn’t believe nothing had happened with us and asked if we had at least exchanged numbers. While I had enjoyed talking to him, the fact that he might be interested in something more than just pleasant conversation hadn’t really occurred to me. I told my friend that I had just said goodnight and that was it. She shook her head and said, “Ellen, he could have been trying to kiss you – literally leaning down, trying to kiss you — and you wouldn’t know.”

She’s basically right.  I’m oblivious.

In college, I was at a small party where I didn’t know very many people. There was a group playing cards, and an older guy — who I knew, but not very well — asked me if I wanted to join in the game. I was thankful for the friendly gesture, but told him I didn’t know how to play.  He kindly offered to have me sit with him, and said he’d help me learn how. It was a card game, so it wasn’t too complicated, and I caught on pretty quickly.  Although I knew what I was doing after a few minutes, the guy stuck around – continuing to give me tips, offer advice, and make conversation.  Unfortunately for this guy, I happen to be super competitive.  I didn’t agree with some of his “tips,” and I wasn’t about to let him ruin my chances of winning. So, I politely told him that I understood the game and that I could take it from here. Then I promptly ignored him until he left the table and went into the other room.  I had no idea that he was actually interested in me, and was just trying to get to know me better until days later when a friend told me.

I won the game. The guy went in the other room and struck up a conversation with a girl who didn’t ignore him, and who he later ended up marrying.

oops.

Although I often have no idea what’s going on, this can sometimes work to my advantage. For instance, if I don’t know someone is interested, then chances are I wont make (as big a) fool out of myself. I promise that I’m not normally ridiculously socially awkward, but stick me on a date, and it’s like I forget how to make sentences.  A couple of weeks ago, a guy asked me the totally normal question of “What do you like to do for fun?”  There are many normal ways I could have answered this question, but instead I panicked. So, instead of something like “reading” or “baking” or “watching movies” I said, “I guess I like to drink.”

Seriously. I said that. Hi, I’m Ellen. I’m a lush.

The problem is that even when I think I get it right, I still end up missing something. A few weeks ago, I met a guy who I thought I was interesting, funny, and good-looking. We talked most of the night, I don’t think I said anything too awkward, and when the night ended I was feeling very good about the whole thing. He pulled out his phone, presumably to get my phone number, and then he asked me… wait for it… to be Facebook friends. I’m not joking. Is that even a thing? Am I that out of touch? When did that become ok? No, I don’t want to be your Facebook friend. I want to be your real life friend. I don’t want to read about what music and movies you like, I want you to tell me what movies and music you like, preferably over dinner.

Needless to say, I never hung out with him again.

I’ve had (maybe more than) my fair share of bad dates, awkward conversations, missed opportunities and crossed signals, but I’ve also had some good, really fun dates, and met some pretty awesome people. So, even if I don’t know what I’m doing, I guess I’ll continue to at least pretend I have a clue and hope for the best.

Wow. Lots of feelings. Don’t worry, I’m baking them into Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies, so keep a look out for the next post.

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Cure for a Bad Day: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

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Sometimes, when I have a long day at work, all I want to do is sit on the couch and not think. Other times, I’m still so amped up when I get home that I have to do something.  Last Wednesday was one of those days when I had a curious case of exhaustion mixed with adrenaline and couldn’t sit still. So, I made cupcakes.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes. When it comes to things I’d like to bake, cupcakes are not at the top of my list. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s just in my nature to dislike trendy things, or because I don’t really like to eat cake that much, or because my last couple attempts at making cupcakes haven’t gone so well. But these cupcakes — these are cupcakes I can stand for.

They’re pretty much the opposite of healthy. They’re rich, dense, and filled with peanut butter. Seriously, they’re filled with peanut butter. And the frosting — it’s smooth and creamy and although it is really sweet, it doesn’t have that cloying sweetness that frostings often have.

I’m definitely going to make these again, and although I have plans for various alterations, I made hardly any changes to this recipe from Annie’s Eats, and they turned out pretty much perfect:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeye Cupcakes
Adapted (barely) from Annie’s Eats Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Filling:
1 to 1 and 1/4 cup confenctioner’s sugar (I started with 1 cup, but ended up adding about 1/4 cup as my mixture wasn’t thick enough with just 1 cup.)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Cake:
1 and 2/3 cups flour
3/4 cup dutch processed or dark cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups sugar 2 eggs

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 and 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your cupcake pans by lining them with cupcake liners.

Filling: combine the confectioner’s sugar, peanut butter, butter and vanilla in the bowl of your mixture.  Beat on medium speed until well combined. Roll the mixture (I found it easier to wet my fingers with a little water while I did this) into 1 inch balls (about 24) and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Cake: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Use a whisk to combine, and then set aside.  In a liquid measuring cup (or a small to medium bowl), stir together sour cream, milk and vanilla. Set aside.  In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed for 2ish minutes until combined, light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Turn the mixer down to low speed, and alternately add the dry ingredients and the sour cream mixture. Begin and end with the dry ingredients.  Mix until combined, don’t over mix.

Put together: Spoon about a tablespoon full of the batter into each cupcake liner. (I started with 12 since I wasn’t sure if the batter would really make 24 cupcakes.) Then place a peanut butter ball into each cupcake.  Then go back and top with another spoon full of batter.  The recipe makes about about 18-24 cupcakes

Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to let cool completely.

Frosting:  In the bowl of your mixture, combine the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth. (It’s pretty important that all of these things be at room temperature of softened)  Slowly mix in the confectioner’s sugar. I used a little more than the original recipe because I like a thicker frosting, but if you use too much it will change the flavor of the frosting. Then mix in the whipped topping until smooth.  Frost the cooled cupakes and enjoy!

* I topped my cupcakes with chocolate sprinkles and Reeses minis, but these are just as delicious without those.

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