29 April 2011

Foodbuzz Tastemaker: Magnum Gourmet Ice Cream

Magnum Premium Ice Cream

Foodbuzz Tastemaker gave me the opportunity to sample a new line of premium ice cream bars, Magnum Ice Cream. Magnum Ice Cream uses silky vanilla bean ice cream surrounded by a layer of Belgium chocolate. With six different flavors to choose from, you won't know where to start!

Magnum Premium Ice Cream

I tried the almond ice cream bars. The almond slivers are mixed with the creamy chocolate coating and provide a pleasing crunch. I was rather surprised by the chocolate. It tasted rich, almost with caramel undertones, and the vanilla ice cream was thick and delicious. I would give these bars 5 stars based on taste.

Magnum Premium Ice Cream

What I was perplexed at, however, was the fact that each box contains three. Do they make these for me, myself, and I? What's up with that? Sure, I'll say they might be worth the premium price, but for the same price I can find another premium ice cream that contains at least four bars, not three. Each pack is $4.99, or $1.50 individually and can be found at Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger, Target, Meijer, and more.

toasted walnut scones with raspberry preserves - once upon a tart

toasted walnut scones with raspberry preserves

A reader asked me if I might be able share the recipe for Once Upon A Tart's toasted walnut scones with raspberry preserves. I decided to do one better and actually make them. Toasted, ground walnuts are added to the scone dough, lending a nutty taste and unique flavor to these scones. The thumbprint filled with raspberry jam is the perfect way to compliment the nuttiness.

I was in Jersey earlier this month and while I visited Once Upon A Tart in New York City, I didn't get a scone to sample. Their tarts were all delicious and so was the soup. Two items I failed to taste were the scone and biscotti. I make both of those the most often from their cookbook, so I chose to go with what I don't make often. It's nice to compare tastes to the pros. Once Upon A Tart also seemed like a nice place to work. It would definitely be fun baking so much awesome all day.

toasted walnut scones with raspberry preserves

First, the walnuts are toasted and ground finely before being mixed with the flour, sugar, and leavenings. Butter is processed in until a fine meal is formed.

toasted walnut scones with raspberry preserves

Unlike their other scone recipes, this one doesn't use eggs, just buttermilk and vanilla extract. I figured the scones might come out more like a biscuit-shortbread hybrid without the eggs.

toasted walnut scones with raspberry preserves

Instead of making the full recipe I cut it in half, but portioned the scones out using a 1/4 cup measuring cup instead of 1/2 cup so I'd still get 12 scones. Just like thumbprint cookies, the tops are indented and filled with raspberry preserves before baking.

toasted walnut scones with raspberry preserves

Once Upon A Tart does not fail to disappoint. These scones weren't quite flaky as others I've made and seemed more like a giant cookie, but they were flavorful and would be enjoyable with a cup of hot tea. While I don't eat scones with jam much at all, I liked the little burst of raspberry flavor. In the book, they say you can fill it with any preserve you like, and even lemon curd.

toasted walnut scones with raspberry preserves
Recipe from Once Upon A Tart

Makes 12 scones

ingredients -

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Just under 1 cup walnuts, toasted and ground fine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/3 cups cold buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups raspberry preserves

directions -
  1. Position your oven racks so that one is in the center, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Dump the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse to mix.

  3. Add the butter all at once, and run the food processor for about 15 seconds, then switch to pulse. Continue pulsing until there are no chunks of butter left and the mixture looks like moist crumbs. Be careful not to overwork the mixture. Remove the blade from the food processor, and dump the flour-butter crumbs into a big bowl.

  4. In another, small bowl, whisk the buttermilk and vanilla together. Pour them into the bowl with the crumbs, and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together ad there is no flour visible. Don't work it a moment longer than necessary.

  5. Use a 1/2-cup measuring cup to scoop out the dough. Roll each piece of dough into a ball, and place it on your baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between scones. Press down on each scone with the heel of your hand to create a fat disk, 1-1 1/2 inches thick.

  6. Press a crater into the center of each scone with a tablespoon or soup spoon dipped in a glass of hot water. Spoon a tablespoon or more of preserves into the crater of each scone. The preserves should be flush with the rest of the scone. If you pile it higher, it'll drip down the sides of the scone when it cooks.

  7. Place the baking sheet on the center rack in the oven, and bake the scones for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick or small knife inserted into a scone comes out clean. You'll have to poke around the jam, so it won't be the center exactly. Just make sure to insert the toothpick or knife deep into the scone.

  8. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and place it on a wire rack to let the scones cool for a few minutes. Lift the baking sheet off the rack, and use a metal spatula to transfer the scones from the baking sheet to the rack, or directly to whatever you're serving them from. Serve fresh out of the oven or at room temperature.


28 April 2011

Yoplait Greek Yogurt Giveaway Winner

Hey Readers!

Sorry, I almost forgot. Today was the end of the giveaway and I was supposed to pick a winner to receive the Yoplait Greek prize pack!

Today's winner is #14, Esther, from Ambitious Deliciousness!
esther, 25 April, 2011 14:27

I'm not gonna lie - I'm trying to like greek yogurt more, because it sure beats eating egg bacon and cheese in the morning. =) My fave way to eat yogurt is in a smoothie! haha.

I will be contacting you so I can send your prize pack along asap. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Once Upon A Tart Honey Madeleines

once upon a tart madeleines

I'm back with more Once Upon A Tart recipes. I have a reader request for scones from Once Upon A Tart that I'll put up soon. In the meantime, I'll tell you about the madeleines I made from the cookbook a month or so ago.

once upon a tart madeleines

Madeleines are considered a French cookie, though they are more akin to a sponge cake than what you would recognize as a cookie here in the States. In order to make them, you need a special scallop-shaped >madeleine tin. I bought my tins from Wayfair.com. I chose to get the steel tins because I like how they cook better than the nonstick tins, which cost twice the price that these did. If you grease the molds properly, it won't take much effort for the madeleines to release without any trouble.

once upon a tart madeleines

The batter is a is a lightly sweetened, buttery sponge cake. I didn't feel that there was much of a honey presence, but I'm sure it added to the overall flavor of the madeleines. After preparing the batter, you refrigerate it to chill for at least 30 minutes. I looked this up on various sites and they say the chilling contributes to the humps that form on the tops of the madeleines, which is the mark of a well-made cake.

once upon a tart madeleines

The original recipe says to grease the madeleines by brushing the molds with butter. I used the directions from other recipes, which say to mix flour with the butter and then brush the molds. Since this procedure is like the PAM baking spray, I figured it would prevent excess sticking from occurring.

once upon a tart madeleines

One recipe makes 12 madeleines, so I doubled the recipe. I ended up with more than 24 and I'm not sure how that happened. More to eat!

once upon a tart madeleines

The madeleines baked perfectly in about 10 minutes, rising nicely and forming a brown crust. I needed to prod them out of the molds a little, but not much stuck to the tins.

I'm happy to finally have madeleine tins because I've been wanting to make these for a while. Sure, they're basically a muffin/cupcake, but they're extremely cute and unusual. Think of all the madeleine variations you could make, like red velvet or mini chocolate chip! I am also going to suggest these madeleine tins. The price was good and they baked the madeleines evenly.

Honey Madeleines
Recipe from Once Upon A Tart

Makes 12 madeleines

ingredients -

4 tablespoons unsalted butter; plus more, melted, for brushing in madeleine molds
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
Confectioners' sugar for dusting madeleines

directions -
  1. Melt the 4 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat, being careful not to burn or brown the butter. Remove pot from the stove. Stir in the honey and the extract, and let cool to room temperature.

  2. Beat the eggs and sugars together in a big bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, until the eggs are foamy and light in color.

  3. In a separate, small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Slowly fold these dry ingredients into the wet, with the mixer on low speed (or stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula), stopping as soon as no flour is visible. Pour in the cooled butter-honey, and continue mixing until all the ingredients are combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the batter is chilled.

  4. Before removing the dough from the refrigerator, position your oven racks so that one is in the center and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush your madeleine molds with melted butter.

  5. Take a spoonful of batter and pushing it off with your finger, fill each mild to three-quarters full. Madeleines rise a lot, so don't overfill the molds. The goal is to have the cookies retain their perfect little scallop shape.

  6. Place the mold on the center rack in the oven, and bake the madeleines for 8-10 minutes, or until they are puffed up above the edge of the mold and each madeleine has a bump on it, like the hump of a camel. You don't want to overbake these; take them out when the edges have turned golden brown.

  7. Remove the mold from the oven, and set it on a wire rack for a few minutes, to cool enough so that it's easy to work with. Don't let it cool for too long. Ideally you want to eat the cakes while they're still warm. Lift the mold off the rack, and set it on your work surface. Place the rack on top of the mold ad flip it upside down. The madeleines will fall right out. (I prodded mine out with the top of a butter knife.)

  8. If you're not serving the madeleines warm, once they've cooled to room temperature use a strainer to sprinkle a thin dusting of confectioners' sugar on the seashell side of the madeleines. They're so pretty this way that it almost makes up for the fact that they're not still warm.


27 April 2011

Double-Coconut Cake

coconut cake

Easter dessert this year was a coconut cake. My mom made this recipe a while ago and likes it because it packs a very flavorful coconut taste. Many coconut cake recipes use just flavoring and flaked coconut, but this recipe uses coconut milk as the liquid in the cake. We hadn't made it in a while and decided it would be perfect for this spring holiday.

coconut cake

This cake once graced the cover of a Cooking Light magazine, where my mom had first seen it. It's a very pretty, two layer cake filled with an Italian meringue frosting that's flavored with coconut extract. An Italian meringue is simple to make and doesn't dissolve as quickly as a traditional meringue. A sugar syrup is boiled to the proper temperature, then beaten into the whipped egg whites. The heat of the syrup cooks the eggs and makes them safe to consume. It reminds me of a 7-minute icing, where the egg whites are cooked with sugar over a double boiler and whipped for 7 minutes. It tastes like marshmallows.

As I mentioned above, the batter has coconut milk instead of cow milk. The original recipe calls for light coconut milk, but it also works just as well with whole fat coconut milk.

coconut cake

The cake layers were baked the night before, minimizes work on Easter. There was somewhat of a catastrophe that occurred just before we went to make the icing, which was me spilling part of dinner on the floor, but once it was cleaned up the meringue was prepared without a glitch. We brought the cake layers out, icing the first one, topping with icing and flaked coconut, then repeating the process with the second layer. My mom grated fresh lemon zest over the top for color. It also gave the cake a nice subtle lemon essence.

Everyone was looking forward to this cake. Yes, we had a secondary Italian pasta dessert (it's like tapioca, but with acini de pepe), but sweet pasta can't compare to cake. I am usually the one to slice cakes in our family. It's tradition, like how the dad carves the turkey on Thanksgiving. I made the first impression with the knife and pressed down, only to meet with resistance when I reach the bottom layer. The cake started to slide and the frosting in the middle began to press out. I had no idea what was going on. I managed to slice into the bottom layer, though, as you can observe from the pictures, the slices were less than pretty. After making the second slice I looked down to see what seemed like a flap of skin, which I had thought peeled off from the bottom of the layers. And I was right, though instead of skin-like cake layers it was a layer of wax paper that hadn't been peeled from off the bottom of the cake. In the confusion of the pre-frosting disaster we sort of failed to remember it was even there, and since the wax paper was translucent we couldn't tell by looking that it was still there.

And that's the story. If you want to make this cake, and I highly suggest you do, please remember to peel the parchment or wax paper layer from the cake layers.

You can find the recipe by clicking on this link, which is from Cooking Light.

Foodbuzz & Barilla Trip to Italy Contest

Foodbuzz and Barilla pasta are partnering up to host a trip to Italy contest. The requirement to enter is to come up with a recipe using Barilla tortellini as the pasta, then submit your proposal to Foodbuzz for a chance to be one of the 6 finalists. If I make it, I'll have the chance to create my idea and enter it for the grand prize, a trip to Italy!

Barilla prides itself on creating authentic pasta made from all-natural ingredients, and I would love to use their tortellini as the canvas for my creation. I like entering contests like these because it pushes me to be creative and think outside my repertoire. For example, I was considering a tomato-based sauce, but I do that often when I create pasta recipes. So my idea for this contest is to create a toasted walnut and roasted garlic cream sauce. Nuts in pesto taste good with pasta, so I'm using that component in a different way. I think that the nuttiness from the walnuts would pair well with the roasted garlic, both of which would compliment the flavor of the tortellini. The cream sauce wouldn't be too heavy because I don't want it to be too overwhelming in its richness. Fresh basil would garnish the top for color contrast and added flavor.

I'm going to stop before I make myself even more hungry. How do you like your pasta?

26 April 2011

hot cross buns

hot cross buns

Every year for Easter breakfast my family makes hot cross buns. We use a recipe from The Bread Book by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake. Hot cross buns were traditionally Good Friday fare in England, but have since become associated with Easter around the globe. It's a good thing, too, because these sweet, spicy yeast rolls studded with fruit are delicious.

hot cross buns

They came out a bit dense this time. I'm not sure if it's because I soaked the yellow raisins and dried cranberries in water first and the excess moisture contributed to a rather slack dough, but they were still good. What's good about this recipe is that it makes about three dozen 2 ounce rolls, some for now and some for later. You can freeze the extras, slice, and toast for breakfast.

The dough is enriched by butter, eggs, sugar, and milk powder, though I subbed half the water with skim milk instead. Unlike a typical sweet dough, hot cross bun dough is accented with spices. This time around I used a mixture of pumpkin pie spice, allspice, ground ginger, and fresh nutmeg. I've read that too much cinnamon inhibits yeast action, so I don't go over the 3 teaspoons the recipe says you can use. Most of the spices seemed too subtle, unfortunately. Maybe it's just me. It also seems that using a full 3 tablespoons tints the buns a bit gray, not pleasantly white like the picture in the book shows. Finally, the rolls are given a burst of fruity flavor from the dried cranberries and raisins. Traditionally, citron might be used, but I prefer the fruit.

hot cross buns

What makes this recipe different from others is the cross. Most recipes you'll find have an icing cross piped on the rolls after they've been baked, but this version calls for a flour paste cross to be piped on before baking. I made it a bit too runy, which I think made the cross not look as prominent after it had baked.

hot cross buns

Immediately after baking, the hot buns are brushed with a thin glaze made from confectioners' sugar and milk. It gives the rolls a finished, shiny look. While the glaze does dry, it gets a bit sticky after a few hours. I don't mind, and the rolls get a little extra sweetness from it. When you toast the rolls, the tops get a little caramelized. It's tasty.

What Easter food traditions do you guys have?

(Recipe after jump)

Hot Cross Buns
From The Bread Book by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake

Makes twenty-four buns

ingredients -

6 1/2 cups white bread flour
3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 to 3 teaspoons spice mixture of your choice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups mixed dried fruit, such as dark and golden raisins and currants
1/4 cup diced candied citrus peel (preferably lemon and orange peel)
2 cakes compressed fresh yeast (0.6 ounce each) or 2 envelopes active dry yeast, 5 teaspoons total (I use SAF Instant)
2 cups lukewarm water (95F to 105F)
1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced and softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

Topping -

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons water
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing
Optional: Thin glaze made from confectioners' sugar and milk for glazing after baking

a baking sheet, greased or lined with parchment paper

directions -
  1. Heat the oven to its lowest setting. Mix together the flour, sugar (reserving 1 teaspoon if using dry yeast), vital wheat gluten, spice, salt, mixed dried fruit, and candied citrus peel in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Put the bowl in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes to warm the ingredients while you prepare the yeast.

  2. Crumble the fresh yeast into a medium-size bowl. Stir in the lukewarm water and nonfat dry milk powder until smooth. If using dry yeast, mix the granules and the reserved 1 teaspoon sugar with 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the milk powder and the remaining 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water. Then stir in the butter until melted.

  3. Pour the yeast mixture into the well in the warmed flour mixture. Add the eggs to the well and blend together with the yeast mixture with a large mixing spoon. With your hand or wooden spoon, gradually work in the flour from the bowl into the yeast mixture to make a very soft, but not sticky dough. If the dough is dry and crumbly, work in water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If too sticky, work in flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

  4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise at warm room temperature (about 75F) until doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  5. Punch down the dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for 5 minutes until very smooth an elastic. Weigh the dough and divide it into 24 equal portions (I just weighed 2 ounce portions), or roll into a fat rope and cut it into 24 pieces. Shape each portion into a neat roll. Arrange fairly close together, but not touching, on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise at warm room temperature until the buns have almost doubled in size and have joined together, 30 to 45 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of rising, heat the oven to 500F.

  6. While the buns are rising, make the topping: In a small bowl, mix the flour and sugar with enough of the water to make a thick, smooth paste. Spoon the paste into a small pastry bag fitted with a narrow, plain tip. With the back of a table knife, make an indentation about 1/4 inch deep in the shape of a cross on the top of each bun. Brush the buns with the egg glaze. Pipe a cross of the flour paste over the indentation on each bun.

  7. Put the buns in the oven, the immediately lower the oven temperature to 400F ad bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the buns are nicely golden brown. Transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, pull the buns apart. Immediately glaze with the confectioners' sugar glaze, if desired.


23 April 2011

Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Pizza

Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Pizza

Tyson chicken is partnering with Foodbuzz to give the chance for some Foodbuzz Tastemakers to prepare a recipe with Tyson's Grilled & Ready line of chicken and beef, and potentially win a trip to the Foodbuzz Festival later this year. Tyson Grilled & Ready chicken is perfect for those busy nights when you want something quick, but still wholesome. I used the fajita seasoned chicken strips to make a fajita pizza.

Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Pizza

The resealable bag contains 22 oz. of chicken strips, good for about 7 three-ounce servings.. It costs $9.99 full price and can be found at stores like Kroger. There's a product locator on their website.

Since the chicken is already cooked, you simply heat however much you want in a skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes before using in a recipe. There are also microwave instructions.

Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Pizza

I used a premade pizza dough. Make sure yours is at least 1/2 an inch thick, as the toppings are heavy. The "sauce" is a quick jalapeno-garlic salsa, a sprinkling of Mexican-blend cheese on top, and sauteed peppers and onions to go along with the chicken.

Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Pizza

I make this salsa for tacos and dipping often. It's quick, flavorful, and goes with more than just Mexican food.

Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Pizza

The peppers and onions were sauteed first, then cooked the rest of the way with the chicken.

Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Pizza
Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Pizza

The jalapeno salsa is spread on top, followed by the queso fresco and the peppers, onions, and chicken. Since the pizza crust is parbaked, I put it in the oven for 10 minutes to brown the dough and keep the rest of the ingredients warm.

The pizza was good and had a fresh taste. The chicken was moist and flavorful, which was surprising to me since most chicken breast tastes bland and dry. Because precooking makes preparation time minimal, I'd buy it again if I was looking for a less expensive alternative to going out to eat.

Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Pizza

Serves 4

ingredients -

1 14-inch pizza crust, baked halfway
2/3 cup finely chopped jalapenos, deveined and seeds removed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1/2 bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1/2 large onion, sliced thinly
3 cups Tyson Grilled & Ready Fajita Chicken Strips
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
5 ounces Mexican blend cheese
salt and pepper
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Sour cream

directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Mix together jalapenos, garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.

  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add bell peppers and onions; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add chicken. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce to coat; remove from heat.

  3. Spread pizza crust with the jalapeno-garlic salsa, discarding any extra oil. Sprinkle with cheese, then spread chicken mixture on top. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Slice and serve with cilantro and sour cream.


21 April 2011

Yoplait Greek Yogurt Giveaway

Yoplait Greek Spark

Protein is an important part of your diet. It helps build muscles and keeps you full. If you're looking for a new midday sack that fits the bill, Yoplait has a new line of Greek yogurt in six different flavors to try. What makes Yoplait Greek a bit different is the protein content. Each cup of Yoplait Greek contains 14-17 grams of protein, double that of traditional yogurt and perfect for a midday snack that will keep you satisfied.

Yoplait Greek Spark

I got the honey vanilla flavor. The yogurt had a nice tartness that wasn't overwhelming, but balanced by the sweetness. This cup of yogurt has 18 grams of sugar, 14 grams of protein, and 150 calories. It's also fat free, but I don't normally buy fat free yogurt because it contains thickeners to achieve the proper texture. I could tell the texture of the yogurt was gelatinous, too, though not disgustingly so.

Yoplait Greek Spark

Yoplait, partnering with MyBlogSpark, is offering one of my readers a chance to try Yoplait Greek out for themselves. Not only will the winner receive a coupon for a free yogurt, you'll also get a Yoplait Greek prize pack. The gift pack includes a coupon organizer, a magnetic customized meal planner board, a mini pocket fold-up tote, an electronics case, retractable ear buds, a magnetic shopping cart note holder and a pen. Yoplait is helping you simplify your meal planning and shopping, all while staying plugged in to your favorite tunes.

If you'd like to enter this giveaway, there are a few steps you can take for multiple entries.

1. You must comment on this post to enter. Let me know how you like to eat yogurt!

2. "Like" Yoplait yogurt on Facebook and leave a message on their wall with a link to this post, then comment again to let me know.

3. Follow Yoplait Yogurt on Twitter, then comment and let me know.

Contest is open to US residents and ends on Thursday, the 28th. I'll then submit the winner's info to MyBlogSpark. Good luck!

If you'd like a coupon for Yoplait Greek, click here to print a coupon for 35¢ off.

20 April 2011

caramel bacon bars

caramelized bacon bars

I was debating between which recipe to enter in the Foodbuzz BACONALIA contest, sponsored by Denny's. At first, I had made up my mind to submit the bacon wrapped pears, but at the last minute wanted to tweak a recipe for caramel bars, using crumbled bacon and bacon grease instead of all the butter in the original recipe. These are nowhere near as healthy as the former recipe, though they are addictive and swayed my opinion on which recipe to enter.

caramelized bacon bars

These couldn't be any simpler to make. First, you cook the bacon until crisp, saving 1/4 cup bacon grease. Graham crackers line the bottom of a foil-lined baking sheet and are topped with mini marshmallows.

caramelized bacon bars

Brown sugar is melted in a saucepan with bacon grease, butter, and cinnamon. A little vanilla is stirred in afterward, and then it gets drizzled over the graham crackers.

caramelized bacon bars

To finish, the top is sprinkled with unsweetened flaked coconut, sliced almonds, and the crumbled bacon.

caramelized bacon bars

The end result is a gooey, sticky treat that's similar to a candy bar and cookie, all in one. The bacon provides a satisfying saltiness to what would otherwise be an overwhelmingly sweet treat. What I liked the most is that these can be prepared in less time than it takes to make cookies, perfect if you want something fast that doesn't require a lot of effort.

caramelized bacon bars

Print this recipe

caramel bacon bars
Adapted from Taste of Home

ingredients -

12 whole graham crackers
4 cups miniature marshmallows
6 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, and crumbled
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup bacon grease
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

directions -
  1. Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with foil; grease lightly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place graham crackers in pan; cover with marshmallows. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook butter, bacon grease, brown sugar and cinnamon until the butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla.

  2. Spoon over the marshmallows. Sprinkle with almonds, coconut, and bacon crumbles. Bake for 15 minutes or until browned. Cool completely. Cut into 2-in. squares, then cut each square in half to form triangles.


caramelized bacon wrapped pears

caramelized bacon wrapped pears

Foodbuzz is running a bacon-themed contest, so I decided to get into the kitchen and crank out some bacon desserts. First up is a simple but elegant bacon dessert with fruit, so the artery clogging is balanced out. Kidding. I liked the pears because they have a neutral flavor, though any fruit like peach and other stone fruit would work as well.

caramelized bacon wrapped pears

The necessary ingredients are pears, bacon, sugar, and POM juice for the sauce, though you could substitute a red wine if you preferred.

caramelized bacon wrapped pears
caramelized bacon wrapped pears

I sliced the pears lengthwise, then scooped out the cores and the bottoms and stems. I then wrapped each pear half with a slice of bacon. I meant to buy toothpicks to pierce into the fruit so the bacon stayed in place, but I forgot. I would suggest doing it.

caramelized bacon wrapped pears

When the skillet heated up, I sprinkled sugar in the skillet and placed the pears, sliced side down, on the sugar. I wanted the bacon to pan fry in the caramelized sugar and develop a sweet, crispy, and chewy texture.

caramelized bacon wrapped pears

The bacon cooked up great like this. After I flipped the pears and cooked the other side for a few minutes, I transferred the pears to a parchment lined baking sheet to place in the oven. I had to scrape out the caramelized sugar before cooking the other four pears because it had cooked too much and tasted like burnt sugar with essence of bacon, which still was surprisingly good. I munched on burnt bacon caramel while I finished up the remaining pears. You may question how I have any sense of taste left, but don't worry about me.

After cooking and removing the other pears, I added a tablespoon of butter and POM juice to the skillet, then let it cook down a bit to reduce and thicken. As the sauce cooked, the pears were baking nicely in the oven. They were a bit firm to begin with, but the texture came out great afterward. Easily sliceable, but not mushy. I was pretty happy with the outcome of this recipe, and I liked how simple it was to make a tasty fruit dessert that didn't need a pie crust. Try it out if you're a bacon fan.

Print this recipe

caramelized bacon wrapped pears
Recipe by Christina Provo

Serves 4

ingredients -

4 firm Bartlett pears
8 slices bacon
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup POM juice or red wine

directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Slice the pears lengthwise. Scoop out cores and stems. Take a slice of bacon and wrap it around one half, securing ends with toothpicks (press them in deep, leaving enough of the end sticking out to remove before serving. Repeat with rest of pear halves and bacon.

  2. Heat a large skillet over medium. When hot, sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar. Immediately place pear halves on top, cut side down. Cook for 5 minutes; carefully flip over and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Remove to baking sheet and place in oven. Discard caramel in pan onto a sheet of foil to cool before throwing out. Add remaining sugar and repeat cooking process.

  3. After pears are removed from skillet, add butter and stir. Slowly pour in POM juice, stirring with a whisk constantly. Let cook on medium for about 5-7 minutes, until thickened and reduced.

  4. Spoon sauce onto bottom of plate and top with two pear halves. Enjoy!


19 April 2011

New Iron Girl Energy Bars

New Iron Girl Energy Bars

Iron Girl sent me two packs of their new release, energy bars made with women's nutrition in mind. Iron Girl event series is comprised of 13 races nationwide, ranging from shorter distances like the 5/10k to half marathhon, duathlon, and triathlon. Iron Girl is part of World Triathlon Corporation, producers of the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. It makes sense that with all these events for women, they'd figure up an energy bar for their audience base. So, teaming up with Power Bar, they've released two flavors of fortified energy bars you can eat to fuel up a workout, or satiate your hunger between meals during a busy day.

With women's nutrition in mind, Iron Girl made sure to include some essential minerals to help us stay strong. Containing calcium, iron, and B vitamins, you have a nutrition packed energy bar that provides taste and substance. Iron Girl energy bars contains 40% of the Daily Value (DV) for iron, 20% DV for calcium, and the B vitamin blend contains: 45% DV riboflavin, 35% DV niacin, 40% DV vitamin B6, 20% DV folate, and 25% DV pantothenic acid.

As we all know, iron is important to the female athlete, as iron deficiencies greatly affect our performance. Iron helps carry oxygen around the body and muscles. If your iron stores are low, it can cause fatigue and negatively impact performance, not just during workouts but throughout the day.

Calcium plays an important role for bone health. Inadequate calcium effects include low bone mineral density and stress fractures.

B vitamins convert food to energy. Adequate B vitamin intakes is important to ensure our energy production remains revved and help our bodies build and repair muscle tissue.

So not only do the bars taste good, but they're good for you, too. Two birds with one stone.

Their bars, made with whole grains, real fruit, and cocoa, are soft and chewy and lightly sweet. The two flavors, strawberry & cranberry and cocoa crunch are available at Target beginning mid-April, $0.99 for individual bars and $4.99 for a six pack. Power bar is also offering a special on their website. Register on www.powerbar.com/irongirloffer and receive a "buy one, get one FREE" coupon.

New Iron Girl Energy Bars

My favorite flavor between the two was the strawberry & cranberry. The bar was studded with fruit pieces. I liked the contrast between the tart cranberries and chewy, sweet oats, and who can resist strawberry? This bar was 160 calories, not really enough for a snack but enough to get me through a run if I'm a bit on the hungry side. It wasn't heavy and didn't sit like a log in my stomach. I ate 1 1/2 bars about 45 minutes before going out on a 4 miler, and it never felt like I could feel the effects of the bar in my stomach, like ingredients that made you feel bloated and didn't digest quickly. A definite plus.

New Iron Girl Energy Bars

Next up was the cocoa crunch, a bar made from the same chewy whole oats, plus crispy rice cereal and cocoa powder. To me, this bar tasted deeply earthy and it didn't seem as sweet as the strawberry bar. I didn't really enjoy this one as I felt that it lacked enough sweetness to balance the cocoa so I probably won't be buying it on my own. One of my brothers liked it, though, so it's definitely an individual thing. I just likened it to a taste I didn't want in sweet foods.

If you are looking for a new bar to try, check out these Iron Girl bars. Thank you again for letting me try them out!

15 April 2011

Foodbuzz Tastemaker: Nature's Pride Homemade Panko Breadcrumbs

nature's pride panko bread crumbs

I received a loaf of Nature's Pride 100% Natural Hearty Wheat with Flax bread a few weeks ago thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. This brand has come to be a favorite with mine, as it's one of the better natural breads available on store shelves. The texture is soft and spongy and the flavors are always delicious. You won't have to worry about the ingredient label with Nature's Pride, either.

nature's pride panko bread crumbs

I wasn't sure what I wanted to make with it. I could make a strata or a bread pudding, but I've already done that. Since I had some fish, I came up with the idea of turning the loaf of bread into panko breadcrumbs, which are my favorite.

How does panko breadcrumbs differ from normal breadcrumbs? Panko crumbs are typically made from the crumb part of the bread and not the crusts, which explains the white color you see that identifies panko. However, for my first try I used the entire slice. I simply tore the slices into pieces and ground it in the food processor. Next time, I'd grind them a little finer as I don't feel they adhered to the fish in an even coating and some of the pieces of breadcrumbs were too big.

nature's pride panko bread crumbs

After spreading the crumbs onto a baking sheet, I mixed in 2 1/2 teaspoons of lemon pepper seasoning for 6 slices of bread. Next step is to bake in the oven, turning occasionally. You are aiming to dry the breadcrumbs out rather than toasting them. A bit of the breadcrumbs I made ended up being toasted, but that's probably because I turned the heat up to speed the process.

nature's pride panko bread crumbs

It's easier to see here how I should have ground the bread a bit more finely. However, the flavor was really good. You get the nutty sweetness of whole wheat flour with the tart lemon pepper seasoning all toasted up together.

nature's pride panko bread crumbs
nature's pride panko bread crumbs

And there you have it, homemade panko breadcrumbs! Economically speaking, I'm not sure which is the cheaper option, buying panko already made or making it yourself, but if you have a loaf that's on the stale side this is always a good idea to have so as to save the bread.

Also, I feel the need to explain that the coating on my fish wasn't as thick as it needed to be, preventing the topping from adhering more evenly. Still, the crumbs were a bit too big.

Homemade Panko Breadcrumbs

The cooking time is determined by the freshness of your bread. If it's fresher, you'll need to bake it longer to dry it out. Older bread won't take as long. Don't let the breadcrumbs toast, as the aim is simply to dry it out.

Ingredients -

6 slices Nature's Pride 100% Natural Hearty Wheat with Flax bread
2 1/2 teaspoons seasoning powder or herb blend of your choice

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Tear up six slices of Nature's Pride bread. Add half to a food processor and process until crumbs are coarse, but small. Pour out onto a rimmed baking sheet and repeat with the remaining bread chunks.

  2. Sprinkle the seasoning powder over the breadcrumbs, stirring to coat the crumbs evenly. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir crumbs. If they're still moist, place in the oven and continue to cook for another 5 minutes

  3. Once breadcrumbs appear slightly firm, remove from oven. Transfer breadcrumbs to a cool container or bowl to cool. They'll harden completely when cooled to room temperature.

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