Monday, April 30, 2012

Oatmeal Milky Way Brownies

Ever make anything with Kraft Caramel Bits? I found this recipe that looked so good, but I couldn't find these little guys anywhere. I kinda gave up looking for them, and then last week when I went to buy chocolate chips at a store where I didn't look for them, they were next to the chocolate chips. They are tiny little unwrapped caramel balls. Maybe you could even try 11 ounces of regular caramels if you can't find these. 
You melt the caramel bits in a saucepan with Milky Way candy bars and heavy cream. Oh, the delicious sugar and fat in that concoction! And that is the filling between 2 oatmeal brownie layers.
I am not a fan of brownie mixes, but didn't know how to covert it to a from-scratch recipe. Now does anyone have any ideas what I can do with the rest of the mix I didn't use in this?

These were my Finals-Are-Over! treats. Fun to make and so yummy. I was good and just had one little piece. I even waited til the day after I made them to eat it. Baby steps to healthy eating for this sugarphile. Found this dessert recipe at Live.Life.Create.Art  who found it at I Am Baker

Oatmeal Milky Way Brownies

2 c. old fashioned oats
2 c. flour
1 c. packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 sticks butter, at room temp
3/4 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 cups boxed brownie mix
1/3 c. canola oil
1 egg
1 bag (11-oz.) Kraft Caramel Bits
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Milky Way Bars
Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium sauce pan, place two Milky Way bars, entire bag of caramels, and half cup of heavy cream. Let simmer over medium to medium low heat until fully melted. Remove from heat and let cool approximately ten minutes.

In a large bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, and butter. Either use a fork to incorporate or just use hands to combine. Its ok if there are some chunks of butter, you are looking for no chunk bigger then a pea though.

Add in two cups of brownie mix, egg, and oil. Stir until just combined.

Using a prepared 9x13-inch baking dish, spread half of the oat mixture into dish and press firmly to flatten. Pour the melted Milky Way over the oat mixture. Make sure to get all the way to the corners.
Top with remaining oat mixture.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spiritual Neurons

I don’t play the piano. I kinda used to. I took a class in high school and then a semester of it at BYU my sophomore year, but haven’t played anything at all in years and don’t even remember fingering. Now I wish I would have kept it up. My favorite thing I remember about playing is how I would start to play a new song and play it slowly at first, reading the notes and playing one by one, listening to the music, concentrating on each movement of my fingers and stare at that page to get the next note. Then as I play that same song over and over and over, preparing to play it for the test, I am able to play faster and more smoothly until it is like my hands can actually do all the work without me even looking at the music or thinking about what key I’ll push down next. My hands just remember and play. I loved that.

How does that happen? We know that when we learn a new skill, it creates new neural pathways. It’s like we go off into the mountains where there is no trail, but we are making a new one. Each time we walk on that path again, the trail becomes more worn and easier to see and follow. As I learned a new song, the signals to and from my brain would follow the same path. As I practiced more, it made it easier for the signals to travel that path. It actually changes the nature in our body. How amazing is that?!

It reminds me of when I need to change my spiritual nature. We know that the natural man is an enemy to God.

Mosiah 3: 19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive , meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.  
So how do we change our nature and become a new person and even a saint? As it says, through the atonement of Christ, we are given the power and blessing to change. But we can’t just pray to be different and it is given to us without any effort on our part. We have to actively put off the natural man by our righteous choices over and over, along with a true desire. We have to be willing to completely leave behind that other person and not look back.

Is that easy? Do any of us find a commandment or principle that doesn’t come naturally to us or that we may even not want to follow? Of course! What do we do then? If we are to be meek and willing to submit to all things, we will get up and go and do, even if we don’t have that natural inclination to do it at first. As we practice that principle, like reading our scriptures every day or doing our visiting teaching, it does actually change our neural pathways, making it easier to do those things, but it also, more importantly, changes our spiritual pathways. That path brings us closer to the Spirit and closer to our Father. It is easier for us to do those things automatically, like my hands playing a song without even concentrating. It can become easy and “second nature” until we no longer feel like we are yielding because that has become a part of us. We have changed. And we can find true joy in those things that we thought we might not ever be able to do.

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but our power to do so is increased.”
Heber J. Grant  (I've seen that Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was born around 50 years before President Grant, said the same thing, almost word for word. Great thought, whoever said it first.)

But it takes practice and time. It takes commitment, without an escape plan. We can’t just give a half-hearted try and expect our nature to be changed. We have to be willing to follow through, no matter how difficult at first, giving our will to the Father. He will pick us up and help so that making those new paths is easier than if we tried ourselves.

Alma 5:26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

Just as I stopped practicing piano and my fingers can no longer play those songs at all, let alone almost without me thinking about them, it is possible for us to change the natural man and then to regress back to it. We may get out of the habit of communicating with our Father through daily prayers or stop going to church or whatever. Because we have stopped doing those things, it is no longer as easy to do them with just an occasional attempt. We have to re-commit and recreate those pathways. Of course, we can do it, but it all depends on our choices and our own personal commitment to changing our nature…again.

“I can’t stress too strongly that decisions determine destiny. You can’t make eternal decisions without eternal consequences.

May I provide a simple formula by which you can measure the choices which confront you. It’s easy to remember, sometimes difficult to apply: You can’t be right by doing wrong; you can’t be wrong by doing right.”                                                                  
President Thomas S. Monson, "Decisions Determine Destiny", CES Fireside at BYU, November 6, 2005

We can give any excuse we want for keeping part of the natural man and not giving our hearts fully to the Lord. Ultimately, those pathways that we make with our repeated actions will lead us to our eternal home, whether that be in the Celestial Kingdom with our Father and our Savior or to a different kingdom. We must make those daily decisions that change our nature and determine our eternity and we can.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Crockpot Carrots

Grandma Honey shared this recipe and I just had to try them. We ate 'em up! A touch of sweet and a unique twist of cinnamon and ginger with tender carrots. And it can't get any easier than this!

Crockpot Carrots
4-5 c. carrots
1/2 c. orange juice
2 T. honey
1 T. butter
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt and pepper each
1/4 t.  ginger
After it's all thrown in there and it's heated a little, stir it all up. Cook on high about 4 hours. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Think Before You Search!

Finals week is next week, so just a quick post.

Sometimes I search for a recipe for something like “strawberry cake recipes” or “mushroom side dish” and I click on the “Images” link so I can just scroll through a bunch of pictures without having to click on individual links for a bunch of things I’m not interested in.

A little while ago I was in the mood to make a dessert with some fruit or dried fruit that was a little different. I thought some kind of cookie bar would be fast since I don’t have much time to bake. I was thinking “tropical”, but decided to search for “exotic bars” and didn’t even type “recipes” like I often do to weed out the pics from restaurants…. Well, I’m sure you are waaaay ahead of me. I didn’t get photos of food with that search. Oops!

Speaking of searches, have you had hits on your blog from strange searches on Google (or whatever search engine)??? I wanna hear your crazy ones.

I have had way too many people lead to my blog by searching “naked guy cake” or “naked guy with a cake”. I only have the word naked twice on all my posts (until now), but it is talking about the scripture “Naked, and you clothed me”. Those people are sure disappointed when they see my blog.

And there is one that creeps me out. “Locker room spy cam” “girls spy cam” Guess I need to edit some old posts to change some phrasing (and probably delete this one soon or I’ll get even more hits!).

No photos with this post for obvious reasons. *Smile*

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

We had this for dinner tonight and I'm glad to find another slow cooker recipe that we like. There is a little bit of prep work for it since you have to carmelize the onions and make the sauce, but I threw it together quickly. I don't think it is a particularly appetizing looking dish, but it has lots of flavor. I found this recipe at Smells Like Home.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
9 whole boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 T. ground coriander
1 T. ground cumin
1 t. Kosher salt
1 c. non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 whole jalapeno pepper, stem removed, pepper pierced several times with a sharp knife

For the Sauce:
4 T. butter
1 whole large onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 T. Kosher salt
3 T. garam masala
1 piece fresh ginger, about 2-3 inches, peeled and grated or very finely minced
4 c. crushed tomatoes
1 T. sugar
2-3 T. heavy cream

For Serving:
4 c. cooked rice, hot
Cilantro for garnish

Cut the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin and salt over the chicken, then stir in the yogurt until all the pieces are evenly coated. Place the chicken in the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker and put the jalapeno on top of the chicken.

To prepare the sauce, melt butter in a medium saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and salt, then stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to lightly brown around the edges.

Stir in the garam masala and ginger and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute) before adding the crushed tomatoes and sugar. Stir well, scraping the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.

Pour heavy cream into the slow cooker and stir gently until the color is even. Replace the lid and let cook for 10 minutes or until bubbly around the edges.

Serve over hot rice topped with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pineapple Cake

I have been making this cake for many years and couldn't believe I hadn't posted it yet. This is the moist-est cake I have had and it's very low fat (but then you slather on the frosting). Not at all low sugar though.
Pineapple Cake
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla extract
1 (20-oz.) can crushed pineapple with juice

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese
1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°.               

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and baking soda. Make a well in the center and add the eggs, vanilla and crushed pineapple, with liquid from can. Mix well to blend.               

Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.               

To make the frosting: in a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Spread on warm cake.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Will Rise

This isn't an Easter song, but it is a powerful song and stunning video about how we can rise again because our Lord and Savior died for us and rose again. I know one of the beautiful, talented girls in the choir because Geraldine and her wonderful family used to be in my ward. She woke up at 2:30 in the morning to travel to the Salt Flats to make the video. She just posted it today on Facebook and as soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to share it. If you've heard it before (sung by Chris Tomlin, Christian music artist), you know it's sweet message. Alex Boye and all of the artists here make beautiful music together, lifting the song to something even more special.  

Have a blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cherry-Orange Twists

I've been drooling over these since I saw them at Culinary in the Desert, so the kids helped me make them on General Conference weekend. (All of Joe's recipes that I've tried have been great.) We forgot to put the glaze on them, but they were still delicious. I will cut the dried cherries next time since they were a little big.

Cherry-Orange Twists

2 to 2 1/4 c. flour, divided
2 1/4 t. active dry yeast
1/4 c. milk
3 T. butter
3 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 large egg
1/2 t. orange zest
1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
Scant 1/2 c. dried cherries

1/3 c. sugar
2 T. butter, softened
1/2 T. flour
1/2 t. orange zest

3/4 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/2 t. orange zest
2-5 t. fresh squeezed orange juice

To make the dough
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour and yeast.

In a small saucepan, combine milk, butter, sugar and salt - heat over medium until the mixture reaches 120°. Pour into the flour mixture. Add egg, 1/2 teaspoon orange zest and orange juice into the flour mixture. Use a mixer to beat on low for 30 seconds, increase speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir in dried cherries and enough of the remaining flour that the mixture will take.

Scoop dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Add enough of the remaining flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands - it should be a little tacky. Place dough into a bowl coated with nonstick spray - turn to coat the top. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Punch the dough down and scoop out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover dough and let rest for 10 minutes while you make the filling.

To make the filling
In a small bowl, stir together sugar, butter, flour and orange zest until smooth and creamy.

To assemble and bake
Roll relaxed dough into a 14" by 10" rectangle - scoop and spread the filling to a thin layer lengthwise over half of the dough. Gently fold the plain side over the filled side, lengthwise, and match up the edges as well as you can. Use a pizza wheel or bench scrapper and cut the dough into 14 1" wide strips. Take each strip and twist the ends in opposite directions - set each on a parchment lined baking sheet and be sure to press the ends down. Lightly cover and let rise until almost doubled - roughly 30-60 minutes depending on room temperature.

While they rise, preheat the oven to 375°.

Bake until the twists are golden - about 12-18 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through. Remove from the pan and set the twists on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar, orange zest and enough of the juice until you can easily drizzle the mixture. While the twists are still warm, drizzle each with the glaze.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Secret Mediterranean Marinated Chicken

While all my LDS friends are posting beautiful thoughts on our church's General Conference from this past weekend, I only have time to post a recipe. My pondering blog has almost turned into a cooking blog. I love to cook and share recipes, so it's not a problem. It is just faster for me to post a recipe than to put thoughts into words and share them. I hope I will get to soon since I was so moved by many talks this weekend. I have one more month til the end of the semester! So excited to get a break!

In the meantime, I will share, little by little, the food we ate this weekend. Since I've been posting so many desserts, I need to start with the main dish. I'm not sure how I came across this site, but I found the recipe at Cutting Edge Mediterranean Recipes and changed it just a little. This dish is marinated overnight (I highly recommend overnight) and it is SO flavorful and tender that I can't wait to have it again. I warmed up some diced, canned fire-roasted tomatoes along with salt and pepper and poured that over the grilled chicken. All the flavor in the chicken was enough that I didn't add any other spices to the tomatoes. I'm not a bossy person, but have to say, "You gotta try this!"

Secret Mediterranean Marinated Chicken

4 chicken Breasts
3 cloves of garlic
1 T. ground cumin
2 T. of extra virgin olive oil
1 t. sweet paprika
1 c. tomato purée
1 T. honey
1 lime, juice and grated zest
Juice of 1 lemon
Parsley to sprinkle
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine all the marinade ingredients and mix well.

Turn the chicken breasts over two or three times in the marinade and leave to marinate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

Set grill or bbq to high and put the chicken breasts on. Cook for about ten minutes or until the skin is crisping up. Turn them over and cook for a further ten minutes. Turn down to low. Place chicken on a shallow sided oven tray.

Utah Local: Rico Cocina y Tequila Bar

I wanted to find somewhere different to have dinner with my children, but it had to have food that all of them would eat. It's not easy ...