Thursday, February 10, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Bars

Chocolate and peanut butter: the most delicious flavor combination of all time and, incidentally, the key to my heart. These bars take the magical chocolate and peanut butter combo to another level. I swear, they're like crack. You know a recipe is going to turn out well when the first step is to combine peanut butter with butter.

Peanut butter and butter, enough said.

I found this recipe in a cookbook I received as a gift, called College Cooking. You wouldn't guess just by looking at it, but it contains a lot of really great recipes. It's the perfect gift for any college student who is just learning to cook. It was written by recent grads, so it addresses a lot of issues unique to college students. It includes sections on healthy eating and cooking on a budget and features lots of menus for entertaining, e.g. recipes for a tapas party and an Oktoberfest party.

This recipe was the first thing I made when I moved off the Northwestern campus and started cooking for myself. My roommates, Liz and Emily, and I made these bars one of our first nights living in our new house the summer before junior year. They were awesome, as you can imagine, so I decided to make them again as a treat for Superbowl Sunday.

Not only are these bars delicious, they are also super simple and require very little hands-on time. The recipe is pretty basic, so feel free to spice it up. I decided to crush up a Butterfinger and sprinkle it over the top of the bars, but other types of candy would work as well (e.g. Heath or Reese's Pieces). A chocolate cookie crust could also be really good.

A couple of tips: first, don't overcook the bars. If they're in the oven for too long they get super crumbly and have a weird, burnt taste. Second, let the chocolate chips melt almost completely before you try and spread the chocolate. If you don't, the chocolate will pull at the surface of the bars and rip pieces off the top. The pieces will get mixed up in your chocolate and your bars won't be very pretty. Third, do not use natural peanut butter. I am normally a huge fan of natural peanut butter, but not when it comes to baking. Baked goods have better texture and better flavor when made with good old processed PB.

Other than that, my only advice is to eat plenty of batter. It's amazing.

Behold the chocolate and peanut butter goodness!

Bon appetit!

Peanut Butter Cup Bars
Makes 25-30 bars 
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
18-oz. jar creamy peanut butter, I use JIF
1 1/2 cups graham crackers crumbs, about 12 squares
3 cups confectioners' sugar, approximately the amount in a 1-lb. box
12-oz. bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 2.1-oz Butterfinger bar

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine peanut butter and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until smooth. Add graham cracker crumbs and sugar and mix until completely combined. You may want to remove the whisk attachment at the end and finish stirring with a spoon.

Spread the mixture in an 8x11-inch glass baking dish (9x13 works too), pressing down on the batter to form a firm even surface, and bake for 30 minutes. While bars are baking, cut the Butterfinger bar into 1/2-inch pieces and process in a food processor until candy is fine with some small chunks.

Let the chocolate melt before spreading or it will rip off the surface of the bars

Remove bars from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and let stand for 2 minutes, until the chips begin to melt. Spread evenly over the top. Sprinkle with Butterfinger bits. Let cool slightly and cut bars while still warm.

Source: adapted from College Cooking

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Salmon Burgers with Spinach and Ginger

I found this recipe through Epicurious's 7-day menu of healthy meals for the new year. I bookmarked several recipes, but I decided to try this one first because I'm obsessed with alterna-burgers. Turkey burgers, portobello burgers, black bean burgers- I love them all. Not only are they delicious, but you can still feel good about eating them, because they're generally much healthier than regular burgers.

These salmon burgers combine some great Asian flavors- ginger, soy sauce and scallions- and are delicious topped with some wasabi and pretty much any variety of stir fry sauce.

Don't expect the consistency of these burgers to be anything like that of traditional burgers. Diced salmon is a lot less cohesive than ground beef, so the burgers do sometimes fall apart. The spinach and egg white generally do a pretty good job holding everything together, but to avoid any breakage I would recommend sticking to the stove top when cooking these (I tried making one on my George Foreman and failed miserably, it completely fell apart).

This recipe makes about 5 medium-sized burgers or 4 large burgers, but the patties can always be frozen and saved for later. These burgers are great for lunch and dinner, and I think they could be good for breakfast, broken up and served with some eggs.

Bon appetit!

Salmon Burgers with Spinach and Ginger
Serves 5
1 lb. salmon fillet, skinned
4 oz. spinach, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
3 scallions, minced
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger, peeled
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg white
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
Oil for brushing skillet

Dice salmon into 1/4-inch cubes and stir together with spinach, ginger, scallions, salt and pepper in a large bowl until well combined.

Beat together egg white and soy sauce in a small bowl and stir into salmon mixture. Form 5 1/2-inch thick patties. Wrap patties in Saran wrap and freeze for later use or cook immediately.

Egg white and spinach help hold this burger together

Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Lightly brush with oil. Cook patties, carefully flipping once, until golden brown and cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes total.

Source: Gourmet October 2001 via Epicurious