Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cream Cheese Brownies

I was in an airport last spring headed home from a conference. My colleague and I popped into a shop to grab a magazine, some snacks and a last minute happy to bring our kids before we waited at the gate for our flight.  The "grabbing a magazine" ended up taking a long time, as I was stumped by selecting a magazine. I was over-analyzing my decision, probably because I knew these were the final hours of my trip before I was back to the chaos and non-magazine reading of my real life at home.  The pressure to pick the RIGHT ONE seemed intense. 
 There was a section on fashion. I knew these were not worth the $6 since it would only make me wish for cooler clothes and a thinner body –basically feed discontentment.  So I stepped to the next section, but I knew the fitness magazines would simply make me wish for a better figure and more of a desire to workout to achieve that figure.  Then, I looked for a few minutes at the home magazines, which are typically my favorite.  But I decided they would make me want things in my home that at this point I don't have the budget to buy.  I didn't even walk over to the People magazine genre because I don't care for them.  So, I landed on the recipe magazines. Surprise, surprise. I found this one, which was all brownies and bars.
 It is a special edition of Better Homes and Gardens – so it's more of a cookbook magazine.  I love it. It was a $10 magazine, but really it is a paperback cookbook filled with 120 recipes! I have made a few recipes from it and have on my list to try several more ASAP.

I made these Cream Cheese Brownies and they are as yummy as they are attractive! They possess several qualities I admire in a bar: gooey, complex and pretty!  
They aren't hard but not simple. They require a few steps and a couple of bowls and pans but I think they are worth it.

Cream Cheese Brownies
borrowed from Brownies & Bars (by Better Homes and Gardens)

 for chocolate layer:
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (or coarsely chopped bars)
3 Tbsp. butter
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar  
1/3 cup water
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans (or walnuts)

for cream cheese layer:
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Step 1:  In a saucepan cook and stir chocolate and butter over low heat until melted; cool.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 ˚. Line a 13 X 9 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over edges of pan.  Grease foil; set aside.
Step 2: In a large mixing bowl, beat 2 eggs with a mixer on medium speed until foamy.  Add the 1 1/4 cups sugar, the water, and 1 tsp. of the vanilla.  Beat on medium speed about 6 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened and lemon in color.  Beat in chocolate mixture.  Stir in the 1 cup flour, the baking powder, and salt; stir in nuts. Pour half of the batter into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly.  
Step 3: In a medium bowl beat the remaining two eggs, the remaining 1tsp. vanilla, the cream cheese and the 2/3 cup sugar, the 2 Tbsp. flour, and the lemon juice until smooth.  Carefully spread cream cheese mixture.  Using a table knife, swirl gently to marble. 
Step 4: Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.  Chill about 1 hour.  Using the edges of the foil, lift brownies out of pan. Cut into bars.

Store in refrigerator. 

foil lined pan with overhang
melted chocolate & butter

Toasting pecans
add the nuts to the chocolate
spread in the pan

carefully smooth the cream cheese layer on top
blob remaining chocolate on top

and SWIRL with a knife!
Isn't that amazing?


Speaking of magazines, the other night I fell asleep on the sofa as I was taping torn-out magazine pages into my spiral-bound sketch books that I use for my recipe notebooks.  I was thinking about my students who came to my house for the Social Work dinner the other night.  One of them said my house was so "pinterest" which cracked me up because most everything in my house was inspired by a stack of torn out magazine pages, before there was a pinterest.  I call my notebooks "old school pinterest".

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mexican Layer Dip- A Party Food Where The Party Is Optional

Do you love Mexican Layer Dip as much as I do?  Tell me you've had it.  It's one of my favorite party foods to make (and eat). It is always a crowd-pleaser.  You can add or delete anything you like.  I put cilantro, mostly because it's so fresh and pretty, but you can omit it.  I didn't put olives, though some people include them.  I was afraid the non-olive people would be turned off.

 In deciding what to blog about this week,  I was looking through photos of food I have made and kept coming back to the photos of the Mexican Layer Dip.  It's so yummy! It's a shame that it is a party food, since I don't have any parties to cook for this week and instead I have family dinners I need to be cooking every night!    

The more I think about it and the longer I look at these photos, the more I'm tempted to make this for dinner this week – served with chips and warm tortillas. And we can scoop up the dip and make a meal out of it.  

Who says Thursday night family dinner can't be a party, right?   

2 cans refried beans

cumin, garlic powder & hot sauce

16 oz. container of sour cream

guacamole (bought or homemade)

1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, colby-jack)

lettuce- shredded

diced tomatoes

cilantro leaves

Warm beans in a skillet on the stove top.  Add 2 tsp. ground cumin, ½ tsp. garlic powder and a couple of dashes of hot sauce.

 Stir together and warm until thoroughly heated. Spread on platter. Smooth until even. 

Spread sour cream on top, leaving an edge to reveal the beans underneath, and then guacamole

Continue to layer with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro.

Serve immediately (or keep covered in refrigerator until time to serve).  Serve
the day you make it.