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#BakingBloggers: Oreo Cheesecake Brownie Bars

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When I saw the theme for this month's Baking Bloggers, I asked my coworkers what they wanted me to make. Bite sized desserts are one of the most popular things that I make and bring into work because they're so much easier to share.



They asked for something with Oreos because I hadn't done anything with them in a while. It was pretty easy to choose a recipe after that! Who can say no to cheesecake on top of a brownie? This dessert is rich and decadent and sweet enough that you may only eat one.



Oreo Cheesecake Brownie Bars
Adapted from: Baking a Moment
Servings: 16-20 bars
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Ingredients:
    • For the Brownie Layer:
    • 2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 ¾ cup cocoa powder
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
    • For the Cheesecake:
    • 2 8 oz. bricks cream cheese, softened
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 package Oreos, crumbled

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray and place parchment on top, leaving overhang on the edges for easier removal. Lightly spray on top of the parchment too.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the melted butter, sugar and cocoa powder until combined. Whisk in eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated, then whisk in the vanilla.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt, then stir into the butter mixture until no lumps of flour remain.
4. Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread brownie batter to the edges.
5. Bake for 25 minutes then remove from the oven and place on a wire rack, letting it cool for 20 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, prepare the cheesecake mixture by adding the softened cream cheese and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and beating on medium speed until fully combined, about 3 minutes.
7. Add in the eggs, one at a time until fully combined, then add in the vanilla.
8. Remove 10 of the Oreo cookies from the package and place in a food processor. Pulse until they are fine crumbs. Fold into the cheesecake mixture with a spatula.
9. Pour the cheesecake mixture on top of the cooled brownie mixture, spreading to the edges.
10. Roughly crumble the remaining Oreo cookies and sprinkle on top of the mixture.
11. Bake for 35 minutes or until the mixture is set and just barely jiggly in the center.
12. Cool on the counter for 1 hour, then transfer to the refrigerate and continue cooling for 2-3 hours.
13. Lift the bars out using the overhang of the parchment and slice into squares. Keep refrigerated. 





These bars would freeze nicely if you were interested in portioning them out and bringing one for a lunch treat. I can't wait to make these again! 




Check out what other bars and brownie recipes the other bloggers have shared!

#FarmersMarketWeek: Old Bay Corn

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It's the final day of #FarmersMarketWeek! I hope you've enjoyed the recipes I and the other bloggers have shared with you.



A couple of years ago I went to a cookout my cousin hosts for the Fourth of July. One of the dishes there, that her boyfriend had made, was corn with Old Bay seasoning. It's such a simple recipe, only using three ingredients that I'm jealous I never thought of it myself.



On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, there are miles and miles of corn fields. We produce some of the best, sweetest white corn that you can find anywhere on the east coast. When corn comes into season here, the stores first start off with yellow corn, then move to bi-color corn, and the around the middle of the summer, there's white corn everywhere. Personally, I don't think there is anything better and one year, I'm going to plan far enough ahead to empty out my deep freezer and fill it with white corn sliced off the cob.



Old Bay Corn
Source: A family recipe
Servings: 4-6 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 6 ears corn on the cob, shucked
    • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 2-3 tbsp Old Bay seasoning

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 4 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
2. Place a small bowl inside of a large bowl. Place an ear of corn on top of the small bowl and slice off the kernels with a sharp knife, rotating the cob to remove all of the kernels.
3. Repeat with remaining ears of corn, then sift through the corn, removing any silk that may have been missed.
4. Season the corn with the Old Bay and toss to coat.
5. Transfer the corn to the prepared baking dish. Cut the butter into thin slices and place on top of the corn.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes. 


It doesn't get much easier than that does it? You can also use corn that has already been cooked, just reduce the cook time to 10-15 minutes, just long enough to get it warmed through. If you're making this recipe at a time where fresh corn isn't available, frozen corn will work as well. 




This easy corn recipe goes perfectly with pretty much anything. Serve it along side some steamed crabs, next to a grilled steak or chicken breast or even a pork loin. It's great with other seafood as well! 



Friday #FarmersMarketWeek Recipes

improv cooking challenge: Cheeseburger Pizza

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The ingredient's for August's Improv Cooking Challenge are ketchup and mustard. For months I have thought about this flavor combination and could not come up with anything interesting at all to make. The only recipes I could think of was meatloaf, which we're not big fans of, or cheeseburgers, which we eat quite often. But a cheeseburger felt like a cop out. Fry sauce was too easy as well.



Running out of time to make the recipe, I looked in the fridge and decided I was making something, one way or another. My eyes landed on a tube of refrigerated pizza dough and I knew right away I could put ketchup and mustard, as well as cheeseburger ingredients on top of it.



This recipe will mess with your head. It looks like pizza, but it tastes exactly like a cheeseburger. If you couldn't see what you were eating, you'd be convinced you were eating an open-faced cheeseburger. While baffling to the brain, it sure was easy on the taste buds. This is delicious. Like eat two slices and go back for a third even though you're completely stuffed kind of delicious.





Cheeseburger Pizza
Source: Cookaholic Wife
Servings: 4-6 servings
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Ingredients:
    • For the the Dough:
    • 1 refrigerated pizza dough
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • ½ tsp Italian seasoning
    • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
    • For the Sauce:
    • ¼ cup ketchup
    • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
    • 1 tsp hot sauce
    • For the Pizza:
    • ½ lb lean ground beef
    • ½ cup onion, diced
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    • 1 cup cheddar or colby jack cheese, shredded
    • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
    • ⅛ cup pickle slices
    • 6 grape tomatoes, halved

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out pizza dough to cover a baking sheet or pizza pan.
2. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle garlic powder and Italian seasoning over the entire dough. Sprinkle the edges with the sesame seeds. Pre-bake for 7-8 minutes or until just lightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
4. In a medium skillet over medium high heat, add the ground beef and cook until almost browned. Add in the onion in the last few minutes, cooking until softened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Spread the sauce over the pre-baked crust. Top with the beef and onion mixture, then the cheeses and finally the pickle slices and grape tomatoes.
6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown and crispy.
7. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing and serving. 




I will definitely be making this pizza again! 




#FarmersMarketWeek: Peach, Zucchini and Onion Flatbread

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Day 3 of #FarmersMarketWeek! Have you enjoyed the recipes I've shared with you so far? I have one more after this one, scheduled for Friday. You've also checked out what the other bloggers have made right? Everything looks so delicious!



I had brought a thin-crust pizza dough to my aunts house with the intent to make a flatbread as an  quick lunch, but Mother Nature had blessed us with two really great sunny days and we decided to take advantage of those instead of spending time in the house. And then it was the evening before we were going to leave and I hadn't made it! We decided to have the flatbread as dinner, with neither of us being very hungry and with my uncle deciding he'd have his along with some steamed shrimp and corn on the cob.



I had brought along a zucchini as well, knowing I wanted to include that in the flatbread but other than that, I really had no idea what I was going to make. We decided to entirely wing it in the kitchen and the result was fantastic! For not being hungry due to a late lunch, my aunt and I both ate two pieces of this and debated on going back for thirds!



Peach, Zucchini and Onion Flatbread
Source: Cookaholic Wife
Servings: 3-4 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 1 tsp cornmeal
    • 1 thin crust refrigerated pizza dough
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • ½ tbsp minced garlic
    • ½ cup zucchini, thinly sliced
    • ½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 peach, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 3 oz. fresh mozzarella slices
    • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. Lightly dust the foil with cornmeal and then roll out the pizza dough on top, pressing to the edges of the baking sheet.
3. Brush the olive oil over the pizza dough and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 7 minutes or until lightly golden.
4. Arrange the zucchini, red onion, peaches and fresh mozzarella on top of the dough. Sprinkle the garlic on top and then toss the shredded mozzarella over everything.
5. Bake for another 7-8 minutes or until the cheeses have melted and the crust is lightly browned.
6. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. 





It's sweet, it's salty and its full of great fresh flavors. We debated putting some roasted tomatoes on it or even proscuitto but in the end, decided to keep it as simple as possible as to not overload the thin crust and to allow the fresh flavors of the zucchini, onion and peach to really shine through.

Wednesday #FarmersMarketWeek Recipes

#FarmersMarketWeek: Individual Peach Oatmeal Crisps

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I’ve joined up with the Festive Foodies this week for an event called #FarmersMarketWeek. We’re getting together and sharing recipes with you using fresh produce or other ingredients you’d find at the Farmer’s Market.

Is it just me or have the peaches been extra delicious so far this year? Usually it's the middle of August before I find one sweet enough to eat, but this year I was getting them in the middle of July. Perhaps all of the rain we've had was actually good for something.



A while back Tom asked me why I don't ever make a peach cobbler. So I used up some of the peaches we had and made him some. I just wasn't...impressed. I think it's the cobbler part I'm not a huge fan of. If the peaches are already baked and soft, I need some texture going on with the dish, not a sweet doughy topping.



Two weeks ago I had spent a long weekend at my aunt's house at the beach. As the weather report leading up to us leaving had continued to look increasingly dull, I asked my aunt if she'd mind if I brought a bunch of ingredients and just spent the weekend baking. She said that sounded like a perfect idea so I packed up some of my pantry to come along on the trip and we visited a grocery store there for the rest of it.


Individual Peach Oatmeal Crisps
Source: Cookaholic Wife
Servings:4 crisps
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Ingredients:
    • For the Peaches:
    • 2 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (or 16 oz. bag frozen peaches, thawed)
    • 2 tbsp cornstarch
    • ⅓ cup sugar
    • For the Topping:
    • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    • ⅔ cup old-fashioned oats
    • ½ cup all-purpose flour
    • 2-3 tbsp milk (or non-dairy milk)
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 4 ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.
2. *In a large bowl, toss the peaches together with the sugar and the cornstarch. Divide evenly into the prepared ramekins.
3. In the same bowl, whisk together the butter, oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until mixed together and thick. Divide the mixture on top of each ramekin.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and oatmeal topping is lightly golden brown.
5. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Optionally: top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. 





Oh wow is this delicious! The oatmeal mixed into the crisp gives it just enough texture to go against the soft, baked peaches. As I was making it, my aunt said "you know, since there's oatmeal in here, you could even have it for breakfast." I was thinking the exact same thing and since we had an extra one the next morning, I did just that! I "guess" you should skip the ice cream topping if you're planning to serve this for breakfast, but then again, you only live once and how many times have you said you've had ice cream for breakfast? 






Tuesday #FarmersMarketWeek Recipes

#FarmersMarketWeek: Watermelon Cucumber Smoothie

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I think I was around 9 years old when my mom decided she wanted to try gardening. She had always kept up with flowers and things, but we never grew our own food. She chose watermelon and cucumbers and planted them in a bed on the left side of the house.



 I don’t think the watermelon turned out very well as I don’t remember eating a ton of it, but I remember the cucumbers. I think there’s even a picture of me holding a cucumber that’s at least 10 inches long. We had A LOT of cucumber salads that summer…



I’ve joined up with the Festive Foodies this week for an event called #FarmersMarketWeek. We’re getting together and sharing recipes with you using fresh produce or other ingredients you’d find at the Farmer’s Market. Our host is Ellen of Family Around the Table.




Watermelon Cucumber Smoothie
Source: Cookaholic Wife
Servings: 1 smoothie
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Ingredients:
    • ¼ cup water or coconut water
    • 1 cup frozen watermelon*
    • 1 mini cucumber, cut into quarters
    • 1 tbsp honey or sweetener of choice
    • ½ tbsp fresh ginger, peeled
    • Optional: ½ to 1 cup ice

Directions:

1. Combine ingredients in a high powered blender and blend until smooth. Drink immediately.
2. *Note: if you don’t have frozen watermelon, use fresh and add the ice. With frozen watermelon you may or may not need the ice, depending on how thick you like your smoothies. 






Last year I started freezing whatever watermelon we did manage to finish each week. I’ve mixed it up in mixed drinks before, but there was one weekend where I was just feeling crappy. It was one of those days where I’d done too much, ate too little and didn’t drink nearly enough water. I knew if I didn’t do something soon, how I was feeling was going to turn into a full-blown migraine and I’d be useless for the rest of the day. I was thinking about what was refreshing and would hydrate me without having to chug a couple of bottles of water, when I remembered the frozen watermelon.

Looking in the fridge I saw that I also had a few mini cucumbers left as well as some fresh ginger. While I didn’t have an upset stomach, I knew the ginger would still help with how I was feeling. Everything got tossed in the blender and I cringed turning it on, but it came together into a thick slushie/smoothie in maybe a minute using my Vitamix.



I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I had maybe two sips of this and had instantly started to feel better. Its sweet from the watermelon with a hint of spice from the ginger and so refreshing. I started having it as a breakfast smoothie it was just so good.

I like to serve my smoothies in fancy glasses, but this combination of flavors would work really well if you decided to add some tequila or rum to it as well. So whether you’re not feeling great or you just want to use up some watermelon and cucumber, this is the perfect recipe for you to try!

Monday #FarmersMarketWeek Recipes

July 2018 Things

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July is gone? How did this happen?

I am in shock that it is already August. In the past couple of years I've noticed that the even years seem to have the months fly by, but the odd numbered years, they pass along at a much more normal pace. Even if this is just something in my head. it's August! Summer is nearly over! 😢

I decided that I wanted to start a monthly recap post to share with all of you to give you an update of what's going on with my life and the blog.

1. How was your fourth of July? We stayed home. My area is really popular for setting off their own fireworks, and not the cheap kind either. They set off the ones that are illegal to buy in Maryland and look like the ones you would see at a professional display. I live in a cul-de-sac and my neighbors set them off in the center of it, with the firework debris falling all over our house and cars and making it sound like we're in the middle of a war zone.

I actually really like fireworks, but I don't like them going off in my front yard and terrifying my cats, who shake and pant for the duration of it as well as a few hours afterwards. I happened to post that I wish the community would set them off instead of individuals on the local Facebook page. It appears that was a bit of a mistake.

I was called unpatriotic, egotistical, entitled and lots of other choice insults. I was told to kill my cats if they were scared, that I was stupid for buying a new car, that my property doesn't matter, that I ruin holidays for everyone, and my favorite, that fireworks aren't hot. So that was rather enlightening. I had planned on becoming more involved in the community, but after that overreaction to the suggestion of community fireworks, I pretty much lost all interest in talking to anyone in my area ever again. 😩

2. It has been the rainiest July on record in Baltimore...ever. The airport has reported over 15 inches of rain for the month, surpassing the previous record of just over 11 inches in 1889. That's insane! It has rained so much that I've debated on starting to take my Season Affective Disorder medicine again. I miss you, bright yellow ball in the sky bringing warmth and light.

3. My mom's annual pool party is always held the 3rd weekend in July, but Mother Nature had other plans. We had to reschedule for August. It poured that whole weekend so I ended up baking a couple of loaves of bread. The double chocolate zucchini was shared with you yesterday and the peach pecan is coming soon! I had thought about making rye or ciabatta, but they both required ingredients I didn't have and it was raining way too hard to venture out for them.

This was 2016 I think 

4. Floor polish is the devil. I've never lived in a house with real hardwood floors before, until we bought this house. I spent hours looking up online the proper way to care and clean them. Nearly every site has conflicting information over the last. I had started off with polishing them and then using a microfiber cloth and cleaning solution. After about a year my floors looked terrible and I couldn't figure out what was going on.

And then on page 17 of the Google search results, I found out that you're not supposed to use hardwood floor polish on the type of floors I have. Over the next week, Tom and I tried every solution to get the polish off the floors. We found that strapping a scrubbing brush to a hand sander with electrical tape and spraying the floors with a vinegar/water solution worked the best without your arm falling off immediately. 700 square feet of floor was polish. In three weeks, we've only managed to remove about half of the polish. I want to cry just thinking about it. Luckily, it does come off, but it requires so much elbow grease even with the sander and the light has to hit at the right angle....it's a nightmare. My new goal is to get the remainder off before everyone comes over for Thanksgiving. I'd also like to burn every bottle of hardwood floor polish out there, but that's another story.

5. I now clean my floors almost solely with vinegar, water and a microfiber cloth. I have a Swiffer Wet and will go over the high traffic areas with that, but any spots that appear are attacked with vinegar. Of course, the unpolished areas look great now. Go figure!

6. We got a new kitten. Well, we really got him back in June. His name is Hunter and he is a rescue kitten. I quickly realized we were very blessed with Itty as a kitten. Hunter is a holy terror. He destroys everything he can, attacks Gidget and Itty and 100% does not calm down. His destruction toll is already into the hundreds of dollars. I'm hoping he grows out of the crazy-kitten stage really soon!



7. The beach. At the end of last month I had a few days off and my cousin and I went to visit my aunt and uncle at their beach house. The weather was nice for the first day and then was really hit or miss for the remainder, but we still had a good time. Sunday morning I walked up to the beach a little after sunrise and got some really good pictures. While it's simple, the visit to the beach left me feeling really inspired to start writing again. (I think in passing I mentioned that I'm writing a novel)



8. I decided earlier this week that I'm going to take the plunge and switch to Wordpress. I've been blogging for nearly a decade and I've thought about it numerous times, but I keep having issues with Blogger and my theme and my brother in law has offered to do the migration for free, which I can't really pass up. I'm nervous and excited. We'll probably stay in draft mode throughout August so I can make sure everything is how I want it and then the switch will go live in September. If you've done this before, share your experience with me in the comments, please!

9. Mindless television. I'm about 3 seasons behind, but I was randomly scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch that was relatively cheerful and required little to no brain capacity. I ended up on the Hallmark Series, When Calls the Heart. And I binge watched 4 seasons in 10 days. I'm completely in love with Jack and Elizabeth and impatiently waiting for season 5 to become available. Unfortunately I also saw all the season 5 spoilers, but I still want to watch. I'm also following both actors in Instagram now and like them even more.

10. Food - we tried steaming our own crabs and they turned out pretty good! There's finally a snowball stand nearby and I think I'm going to eat my weight in egg custard snowballs with marshmallow before the summer is out. My tomato plant has finally put off a full sized tomato. I'm still waiting for it to turn red, but hey, progress!



I think that's a pretty good recap of how my July went. How was yours? Check back at the end of August for a recap on that! I'm going to try really hard to keep this monthly recap thing going.

#FoodieExtravaganza: Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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How terrible of a wife does it make me to wonder if I should tell my husband there's a hidden vegetable in the chocolate bread he was about to eat? 😁

In the end I decided to tell him and was surprised that he still ate the bread. But then he said he could taste the zucchini in it. Zucchini is so mild it barely has a flavor to begin with and when combined with so much chocolate, I had a try a piece of my own to see what he was talking about. The conclusion? It's entirely in his head. There is no zucchini flavor what-so-ever and if you mix up the ingredients for the bread really well, there aren't even any visible shreds of zucchini in each slice.



National Zucchini Day is on the 8th of this August (um, how is it already August?!) but for the #FoodieExtravaganza, we're celebrating it today. Zucchini wasn't a vegetable I had while growing up. I don't know if my mom doesn't like it or if she just never thought to buy it because it's not something she had growing up.



While it's not one of my favorites, I do still buy a lot of zucchini because there is so much that you can do with it. This past Easter I cut it into wedges, coated it with olive oil, Parmesan cheese and lemon zest and baked it up until crispy. It fits so perfectly on a skewer and adds a pop of color to whatever kebabs you may be making. It can be spiralized into super low carb noodles for your pasta dishes. And it shreds up and hides in breads and muffins so well that you'd never even know it was there.



#FoodieExtravaganza is a group of bloggers who post a recipe on the first Wednesday of each month based off a chosen theme. The themes come from the food holidays listed on The Nibble. If you'd like to join us, please visit the Facebook page. If you're looking for the goodies we make, either check out the Pinterest board or the previous parties. Our host for this month is Sue of Palatable Pastime.



Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Source: Cookaholic Wife
Servings:1 loaf
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Ingredients:
    • 1 ½ cups shredded zucchini
    • 2 eggs
    • ½ cup sugar
    • ⅓ cup plain or vanilla yogurt (Greek or not)
    • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • ½ cup cocoa powder
    • ½ tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp baking soda
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ¾ cup chocolate chips + more for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Shred the zucchini and place it in a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and squeeze out the excess moisture. Zucchini should still be damp, but not dripping wet.
3. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, yogurt and applesauce.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined, leaving a few lumps. Use a silicone spatula to fold in the zucchini, making sure that it’s fully blended throughout the batter. Fold in the chocolate chips the same way.
6. Pour into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top (¼ - ½ cup).
7. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8.Cool for 15-20 minutes or until you are able to handle the pan. Slide the bread out onto a wire rack and continue to cool until it reaches room temperature.
9. Slice and serve. Bread can be kept at room temperature on the counter for a few days. 


We've had a couple of weekends of nothing but rain and there is something about rain that makes me want to bake bread. Sweet breads, savory breads, yeasted breads, it doesn't matter to me, I just need to be in the kitchen with bread being made. I whipped up this bread and a peach pecan bread the last weekend that was full of nothing but rain. 

I left a few slices of this at home and took the rest of it to work where it was promptly devoured. It's rich and chocolate-y but still light and almost crumbly. Without reading the recipe, you'd have no idea that a bunch of zucchini was hiding in here.




Check out what all the other bloggers have made!

#ImprovCookingChallenge: Muffuletta Sandwich

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Recently Tom has been talking about how much he misses New Orleans and the foods there. For two years before we went, he had a trade show there for work in October. Of course now that we've both been and I absolutely love the city, the trade show has changed cities and I can't tag along with him.

Anyway, we've been talking a bunch about all of the food we had while in New Orleans and what we still need to have whenever we manage to go back. One of the things we didn't get to enjoy was a muffuletta sandwich.



The Muffuletta Sandwich is a New Orleans classic. It's served on a large round roll covered in sesame seeds and the sandwich is made up of genoa salami, ham, mortadella, Swiss cheese, provolone cheese and an olive salad made with black and green olives, fresh herbs and a giaridinera vegetable mix. The best place to get one is at the Central Grocery Co on Decatur Street in the French Quarter.



We walked past this place approximately 6 times in the 3 days we were there and for some reason, each time was right after we had ate and there was no room to eat anymore. I still regret this. I'm not even joking when I say that my first stop as soon as I return to New Orleans will be the Central Grocery Co to get a quarter of this amazing sandwich.

The ingredients for this month's Improv Cooking Challenge were olives and cheese. I'm so glad Tom suggested this recipe because, since I'm not a fan of olives, I was really struggling on what to make for this event.



Muffuletta Sandwich
Bread Source: Genius Kitchen
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • For the Olive Salad:
    • ¼ cup green olives, pitted
    • ¼ cup black olives, pitted
    • ½ cup giardinera
    • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
    • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
    • For the Sandwich:
    • 10-inch round soft bread loaf, or homemade recipe *see below
    • ¼ lb genoa salami
    • ¼ lb ham, thinly sliced
    • ¼ lb mortadella, thinly sliced
    • ¼ lb provolone cheese, thinly sliced
    • ¼ lb mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup olive salad
    • ---
    • Homemade Muffuletta Bread Recipe:
    • 1 cup warm (110 degrees F) water
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1 packet dry active yeast
    • 3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
    • 1 ½ tsp salt
    • 2 tbsp vegetable shortening
    • seasame seeds

Directions:

NOTE: If you are making your own muffuletta bread, start with that first as it takes two rises before it can be baked.
1. FOR THE BREAD: combine warm water, sugar and yeast in a bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Add the flour, salt and shortening to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. When the yeast is foamy and 10 minutes have passed, pour the yeast mixture on top and mix on low speed until an elastic dough forms. The dough should be smooth and satiny.
3. Oil a bowl and place dough in it. Toss to coat, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.
4. Lightly flour a work space and turn out the dough, punching it down. Form into a 10-inch round loaf and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and press them into the dough.
5. Allow to rise again for 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the bread on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 375 and continue baking for 25 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes. Slice in half.
8. FOR THE OLIVE SALAD: Dice up the olives and giardinera. Toss in a bowl with the fresh herbs and just enough olive oil to keep it coated.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
9. FOR THE SANDWICH: Remove any excess bread from the center of a sandwich on the top and bottom half of the loaves to create a spot to fill with the olive salad.
10. Layer the provolone cheese on the bottom of the sandwich. Follow with the genoa salami, the ham and the mortadella. Top with the mozzarella cheese. Place the top half of the loaf filled with the olive spread on top.
11. Slide a piece of wax paper underneath the sandwich and wrap it up. Press a cutting board or other medium-weight item on top of the sandwich. Allow to sit for 10-20 minutes for the bread to absorb the olive mixture.
12. Cut into wedges and serve. Optional: sandwich can be toasted at 350 for 15-20 minutes to melt the cheeses and warm up the deli meats if desired. 





Seeing as I've only had my own version of the muffuletta, I can only imagine how much better the real thing is going to be. The bread is crusty on the outside, but soft in the inside. The meats and cheeses provide a nice salty flavor which is rounded out by the olive salad. Not too salty, not too dense, not too cheesy or meaty, it's really just an incredible sandwich...and this coming from someone who doesn't like olives at all!



The #ImprovCookingChallenge is a monthly blogging event where two ingredients are assigned to a month. Bloggers can make any recipe they like as long as it features the two ingredients. If you are a blogger and would like to join us, please visit our Facebook page. You can also read more about the event on our home page. If you’d like to see previous creations, check out our Pinterest board.

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#BakingBloggers: Slow Cooker Reese's Cake

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The theme for July's #BakingBloggers was baking with small appliances. This is something I am completely unfamiliar with. I know people use their slow cookers and instant pots to make desserts, but I'd never even thought to try it. (Confession: my instant pot has only been used for hard boiled eggs because I'm kind of scared of it) Panini presses and toaster ovens were also smaller appliances that we could use. Basically, a dessert you wanted to cook when it was too hot to have your oven going on.



#BakingBloggers is a group of bloggers who love to bake and each month we share recipes based off a theme that we've voted on. Our host is Sue of Palatable Pastime

I did think about taking the easy route and making something on my panini press but then I told myself that I had a chance to step out of my comfort zone with this recipe so I might as well do it. And then I promptly chickened out on using the instant pot. Maybe next time? But the slow cooker and I are good old friends and I figured I could find something to make using it.





And then there was this cake. I made it a few weeks ago before my brother in law's birthday when my in laws were here visiting. None of us could get over how good this cake was and how there simply weren't enough adjectives in the English language to describe how good it was. 




Slow Cooker Reese’s Cake
Adapted from: Betty Crocker
Servings: 8-10
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • For the Cake:
    • 1 box butter or yellow cake mix
    • 1 cup water
    • 3 eggs
    • ⅓ cup butter
    • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
    • ½ cup chocolate syrup
    • ½ cup peanut butter
    • For the Topping:
    • 3 tbsp creamy peanut butter
    • 2 tbsp milk
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 20 miniature Reese’s cups, cut into quarters

Directions:

1. Spray an oval-shaped 6 quart slow cooker with baking spray.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the cake mix, water, eggs, butter and vanilla and mix until combined.
3. Add in the peanut butter and mix until smooth and fully incorporated.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared slow cooker and then drizzle the chocolate syrup on top and use a butter knife to swirl it through the cake.
5. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours to 2 hours and 15 minutes. Cake will be cooked through when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Remove the slow cooker insert and place on a wire rack to cool. Let cool for 15 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, prepare the topping by adding the peanut butter, milk and powdered sugar to a bowl and whisking until smooth and thick. Add an additional tablespoon of milk if the mixture is too thick.
8. Use a silicone spatula to spread the peanut butter frosting on top of the cake.
9. Sprinkle the chopped Reese’s on top. 





The peanut butter and the chocolate taste are strong in this cake but it the taste is somewhere between a brownie and fudge but is still somehow a really light cake. If that sounds like it's right up your flavor profile alley, I definitely suggest making this cake. It's very rich too so it almost handles portion control for you! 




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