Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars

The Dallas Morning News and Central Market are promoting their Holiday Cooking Contest.  They recently published the first ever winner from 1996: Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars by VaRue Coley.  The ingredients seemed promising – kind of like a Nestle Tollhouse pan cookie with toffee.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that.  One bite and I knew why VaRue won!

If you want to enter this year’s cookie contest, check out

Another winner in my book is my mom.  Happy Birthday Mom!!!!

Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars
1.      2 1/3 c all-purpose flour
2.      2/3 c firmly packed light brown sugar
3.      ¾ c (1 ½ sticks) butter or margarine
4.      1 egg, slightly beaten
5.      12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips
6.      1 c coarsely chopped nuts (I tried both pecans and almonds)
7.      14 oz Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
8.      10 oz package toffee bits (Heath English toffee bits are 8oz packages so buy 2)

Preheat oven to 350.

In large bowl, stir together flour and brown sugar.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (I “chopped” the butter into bit pieces first and then added to flour/sugar).  Add egg; mix well.  Stir in 1 ½ c chocolate chips and the cup of nuts.  Reserve 1 ½ c of the crumb mixture.

Press remaining mixture onto the bottom of a 13x9 inch greased baking p an.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from over and pour condensed milk evenly over crust.  Top with 1 ½ c of toffee bits (that’s about 1 bag).  Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture and remaining chocolate chips over top.  Bake for 30-35 more minutes or until golden brown. 

Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining toffee bits.  Cool completely.  Cut into bars.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Spinach-Artichoke Cups

<Cue the violins.>  The kids had the day off from school.  We had pictures scheduled at the Arboretum.  We were going to the State Fair of Texas after.  We were skipping piano lessons.  It rained all day and I burned the banana bread.  What did we accomplish?  Cleaning out kids’ closets, purchasing gel rubber bands and rainbow loom cases, starting Wonder for book club, a play date, and piano lessons.  Sing me a sad song, I know, but we had plans.  Big plans.  Fletcher’s was calling my name!

Return to your happy place with this innovative way to serve spinach-artichoke dip to a crowd.  Crunchy and cheesy, warm and tasty  – spinach and artichoke are meant to be together like a Fletcher’s corny dog and mustard…  funnel cake and powdered sugar… 

Spinach-Artichoke Cups
1.      5 oz (half of a 10 oz package) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
2.      14 oz can artichoke hearts
3.      ½ c sour cream
4.      4 oz cream cheese, softened
5.      ½ c (or 2 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
6.      ½ c grated Parmesan cheese
7.      Dash of fresh ground pepper
8.      3 packages of 15 (45 total) frozen mini-phyllo pastry shells

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix all ingredients together.  Place 45 frozen mini-phyllo pastry shells on a baking sheet.  Spoon mixture into shells (about 2 t per cup) and press into bottom of each cup.  Bake 25 minutes or until golden and bubble.  Serve immediately.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Creamy Tomato Soup

“I crave soup.”  That is the general consensus of the cafeteria duty and soccer moms.  All 6 of them.  I think what we are really craving is cooler weather.  We finally received some here over the weekend.  Quick – make a pot of soup before it returns to the 90s. 

Stacey gave me this recipe; also see her baked potato soup.  Yum!  This soup is rich and creamy – you can definitely taste the sundried tomatoes.  You can use an immersion blender which makes less of a mess than doing batches in the blender but either one works fine.  

Creamy Tomato Soup
1.      1 T reserved oil from sun-dried tomatoes, or olive oil
2.      1 C chopped onion
3.      ¾ C shredded carrot
4.      4 cloves garlic, minced
5.      1 t sugar
6.      1 t kosher salt
7.      1/4 t pepper
8.      1 T dried basil
9.      1/2 t dried oregano
10.  2/3 C sliced sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
11.  2 – 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
12.  1 – 14oz can chicken broth
13.  3 oz reduced fat cream cheese
14.  optional: 1/2 t red pepper flakes; Parmesan cheese; fresh basil for garnish

Place oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring often.

Add sun-dried tomatoes, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, oregano and basil. (If you’re adding red pepper flakes, add them now)

Bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover pan and simmer for 30  minutes.

Remove from heat. Place soup in a blender (do this in 2 batches if necessary). Add cream cheese. Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape, but place a paper towel over opening in blender lid to avoid spills. Process for a few minutes until smooth.  You could also add cream cheese directly to the pot and use an immersion blender to combine.

Add additional salt and pepper to taste and then divide soup among bowls.  Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese and a fresh basil leaf if desired.