Thursday, July 21, 2011

Seven (Eight? Nine?) Layer Dip

Summer is in full swing, and if the weather is any indication, right now is the peak. There are only so many ways you can beat the heat before you have to just give in. The best way to give in? Cold beverages and good food. The day before I left for Boston, we threw a big party, and I knew for certain there was one thing I needed on the menu: Seven Layer Dip.
My girl friends and I discovered this incredible dip at a holiday party years and years ago, and I think it has made an appearance at almost every get together since. Seriously, to die for. My only recommendation is making it in a shallow dish, more layers of flavor per bite! So crack open a Dos Equis and the tortilla chips and surrender to the heat with this cool, cheesey, creamy, crunchy dip!

1 oz package taco seasoning mix
16 oz can refried beans
1 package guacamole (or use your own recipe)
8 oz package cream cheese, softened
16 oz container sour cream
16 oz salsa
1 large tomato, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch chopped green onions
1 small head iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1. In a medium bowl, mix together the taco seasoning mix and refried beans. Spread the mixture onto a large serving platter. Top with guacamole. Mix the sour cream and cream cheese together until well blended. Spread over the refried beans. Top the layers with salsa. Place a layer of tomato, green bell pepper, green onions and lettuce over the salsa, and top with Cheddar cheese. Garnish with black olives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Caramel Swirl Cake-Brownies

I have this big dark dirty secret. I lead a double life. By day, (or more appropriately, the ass-crack of dawn) I am the newest full-time personal trainer at Healthworks, the #1 Rated Fitness Center for Women by Fitness Magazine. I wear my spandex pants and bounce around the club from one machine to the other. I promote health and well being and eventually plan on building up my reputation as "Killer," the precious little nickname I acquired at my job in Virginia.
But by night... oh by night, it's a different me. I become this softie who can peacefully stand over a pot of melting chocolate, completely content being by myself and in the quiet. I become this undercover persona who can just as easily run a half marathon or bake a pan of brownies that will rock your world. It's sort of like an identity crisis. Who do I choose? The hardcore trainer who can make major changes to your life and body or the girl who lights up when she sees people's reaction to her red velvet cake?
Mums the word for now, but until next time, Lord almighty, check these out. Adapted from Zesty Cook, these brownies, literally, might have been the best ever. If you're Mrs. Werner, I'm sure Dan will keel over if you make these for him... he is such a Ghirardelli snob!

Caramel Swirl Cake-Brownies
1 pkg. (18.25 oz.) chocolate cake mix
1 cup Evaporated Milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
35 (10-oz. pkg.) caramels, unwrapped
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine cake mix, 2/3 cup evaporated milk and butter in a bowl (batter will be thick). Spread half of batter into ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
2. During the last few minutes of baking, heat caramels and remaining evaporated milk in small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until caramels are melted. Sprinkle chocolate chips over brownie and then drizzle with caramel mixture.
3. Drop remaining batter by heaping teaspoon over caramel mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool in pan on wire rack and try not to devour in one sitting. Or eat the whole pan and then book your first appointment with me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cheesy Crab Dip

It's no big secret that New England has good seafood. I mean really, think of all the little shack-like dives that line the coast. The weathered wooden huts where the lines are stretched and the bellies are full. In New England, you can get it fried, boiled, buttered or baked, and whatever you order, you're going to be pleased.
But don't despair if you're one of my readers from Kansas. I know what you're thinking. Well, sorry honey but I'm nowhere near the ocean. I can't get good seafood. Fear not, Tammy-Sue, I've found a solution!

Cheesy Crab Dip
11 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 (6 ounce) cans crabmeat, drained and flaked
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Old Bay Seasoning to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, onion, mayonnaise, crabmeat, garlic powder, old bay, salt and pepper. Spread mixture into a 1 quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.
2. Remove baked crab dip from the oven, and stir well. Top with shredded cheese and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot with crackers, chips or cubed bread.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

Somewhere along the line, I discovered the combination of salty and sweet. I think... I think it might have been one late night at Penn State after a Saturday outing with a certain one of my roommates. We may or may not have been standing at the freezer crumbling pretzels and scooping peanut butter into my vanilla ice cream. May or may not, mind you.
Our judgement at the time may have been hazy, but I still think we were onto something. The combination of salty, sweet and creamy was perfection. And when I stumbled upon this recipe from Two Tiny Kitchens, or rather, when Alex stumbled upon this recipe, I knew it had to be made. Well, it's like Pringles: once you pop, the fun don't stop. It's hard to just have one, so go ahead, have a couple.

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp softened butter
1/2 -3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
One bag Pretzels
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Combine peanut butter and softened butter in a stand mixer and combine. Add the sugars and and beat until combined. The filling should roll easily in your hands and if it doesn't add a little more powdered sugar until the filling doesn't stick to your hands.
2. Using a teaspoon measure to scoop the filling, roll each portion into a small ball, then place on top of one pretzel. Sandwich together with a second pretzel and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Upon completion of all pretzels, place entire tray in freezer for at least 30 minutes.
3. Just before removing the pretzels from the freezer, pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat at 30-second intervals, stirring occasionally until completely melted. Remove the pretzel sandwiches from the freezer and quickly dip each half-way into the melted chocolate. Return to the tray and repeat with remaining sandwiches. When all are dipped, return the tray to the freezer to set up completely. Store the sandwiches in the refrigerator until serving time.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bacon Parmesan Tassies

When you're poor, 23, in a new city and unemployed, peanut butter is your best friend. Peanut butter on oatmeal for breakfast. Peanut butter and jelly for lunch. A scoop of peanut butter for a snack. You get the deal.
But when you're on your parents dime, as I was just a week ago, you can afford things like bacon and parmesan and cream cheese. You are be free to add a little more here, an extra dash there. You can read recipes out of Southern Living Magazine, such as this one. You can live like a Queen!

Thank goodness for memories, and peanut butter.

Bacon Parmesan Tassies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 large egg
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add flour to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Shape mixture into 24 balls, and place on a baking sheet; cover and chill 1 hour.
2. Place dough balls into cups of a lightly greased 24-cup miniature muffin pan; press dough, forming a shell.
3. Preheat oven to 375°. Whisk together half-and-half and next 2 ingredients. Sprinkle bacon into pastry shells; top each with 1 tsp. cheese. Drizzle half-and-half mixture over cheese. Sprinkle chives over half-and-half mixture.
4. Bake at 375° for 25 to 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack and cool 5 minutes. Serve warm.