Friday, January 29, 2010

The theologian

Blockette:"The Earth goes around the Sun right?"
Me: "Yes that's right."
Blockette:"Well then if the Earth goes around the Sun, how does God hold it in his hands?? "

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Empanada-esque Dressing

Around Thanksgiving Mrblocko and I were watching Simply Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffman on the Food Network. She was making a several Thanksgiving dishes and her homemade 3 meat stuffing caught our attention.

The stuffing recipe reminds me a lot of Empanadas with the olives, raisins and hard boiled eggs. Some of the reviews on the Food Network website poo poo this recipe because of that combination. Clearly those people have never had empanadas before to know, while the combo sounds weird on paper, it's delicioso on the tongue.

Ingrid's recipe calls for a whopping four pounds of meat. I knew that in order to make this recipe work I'd have some serious tweaking to do. My version of this recipe is basically half the ingredients of the original. We ate this as a main course instead of a side dish to turkey. Ingrid must have a ginormous family. I had to freeze half of what I made. What we did eat was enough for 2 meals for the three of us. One night we ate this as a topper for crockpot garlic baked potatoes. That was an especially tasty combination.

While we all enjoyed this meal a lot, there was a lot of preparation and chopping involved. This is not a dish I'd add to my regular meal rotation. This will be saved for when I'm in a serious cooking mood, or when Mrblocko asks me with a sad puppy dog face and I'm not super cranky. (yeah, when is that?!)

Here is my altered version of Ingrid Hoffman's Homemade Three Meat stuffing

Meaty Stuffing
A few swirls of olive oil
5 eggs
1 lb ground beef
1 lb bulk Italian Sausage
5 small onions, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 c steak sauce (or 1/4 c Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 c BBQ sauce)
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 a lemon, zested
1/2 T cumin
1/2 T oregano
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 red pepper, seeded, ribbed, roasted and finely chopped(directions for roasting here)
3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
one bunch of scallions, finely chopped. (separate the dark green part from the white)
1/2 can (3 oz) tomato paste
5 slices of slightly stale whole wheat bread, cut into bite size cubes
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c olives with pimentos, coarsely chopped
1/2 c flat leaf parsley

Place the eggs in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, cover, and turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely before peeling and chopping.

Pour a few Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the beef and pork; cook until the meat is starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 the chopped onions and garlic, along with the steak sauce, vinegar, lemon zest, cumin, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are completely tender and the meat is cooked through, 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain the fat. Transfer the meat mixture to a large bowl to cool. The meat base can be made up to 1 day in advance. You may cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to make the rest of the stuffing.

To the same large pot, pour a few more Tablespoons of olive oil and warm on medium heat. Stir in the remaining onions and garlic, along with the bell peppers, celery, and white and light green parts of the green onion. Add the tomato paste and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 15 minutes. Add the meat mixture back into the pot, along with the chopped eggs, sausage, raisins, parsley, olives, dark green parts of the green onion and bread cubes. mix to combine. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer the stuffing to a buttered 9x13 dish and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the top is nicely browned.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No Yeast Cinnamon Rolls

It was Mrblocko's birthday a few weekends ago. I told him I would make him cinnamon rolls for breakfast as a special treat. He thought I meant I would snap open a can of the Pillsbury variety. Boy was he surprised when he saw me rolling out the dough and the giant mess I made of the kitchen.

I've mentioned before that I am scared of rolling pins and yeast. Cinnamon rolls usually require both. Then I found the recipe for cinnamon rolls from Big Red Kitchen. No yeast! What a great way to get my feet wet in the world of cinnamon roll making.

I followed the recipe using the filling stated in the recipe. Some of the ingredients say they are optional, but I assumed that meant you could use them all if you wanted to. For the filling I used 2 cups of brown sugar, not packed, and a scant cup of each of the following, pecans, caramel chips and cinnamon chips. Do not do this as it is an insane amount of filling.

The filling amounts may have been off for me because I didn't roll the dough out long enough. I have no idea as the recipe doesn't give any direction as to what the final dimensions the dough should be once it is rolled. I just rolled the dough out as best I could. When I went to roll the dough up into a log, there was so much filling that it fell out everywhere.

I don't think the filling is supposed to be on top of the rolls like it is in this photo below. Seriously, there was so much filling that I could not get the log rolled tight enough for it to stay in when sliced. I had to get Mrblocko to help me transfer the cut rolls into the baking pans, and cram in all the filling that fell out. You can even see some of the huge mess the filling made on the counter in the rolling and cutting process.
Below is what they looked like after the rolls had baked in the oven for nearly an hour. Keep in mind the original recipe said it would take less than 20 minutes for them to bake. Breakfast was reeeeally late that morning. Even though it was Mrblocko's birthday that morning, he was a good sport about it.
Since we were absolutely famished by the time the rolls were cooked all the way through. I did what any normal tummy growling mommy would do and plated them immediately. Don't do that. Let them cool for a while or they will fall apart and look like this:

The cinnamon rolls were infinitely better the next day. Once they had cooled they actually kept their shape and looked like a cinnamon roll on the plate instead of a pile of brown muck. 30 seconds in the microwave got the filling ooey and gooey, and the dough soft enough to eat with a fork.

If you attempt this recipe, whatever you do don't eat two rolls in one sitting. Mrblocko and I both did and, the rolls are so rich, we felt a little sick to our tummies afterwards. Did I mention the original recipe called for icing as well? These rolls are sweet enough as is. Besides, I think icing would mask the flavors from the carmel and cinnamon chips. These are good flavors, don't cover 'em up!

The rolls ,while they were good, I don't think I'll make them again. The dough part of the roll just wasn't as tasty as the yeasted kind. This recipe did give me a bit of practice for the "real thing." Maybe by the time Mrblocko's birthday rolls around next year I'll have worked up the courage to try a more traditional cinnamon roll.

No Yeast Cinnamon Rolls from Big Red Kitchen
4 cups unbleached AP flour
4 T. white sugar
2 1/2 T. baking powder
1 1/2 t. Kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients then cut in butter and mix until the dough is crumbly. Add buttermilk and mix until a nice dough forms. Place dough on a floured surface, knead a little, and roll into a big, big rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.


Toppers:
1/2 cup butter very soft
2 cups brown sugar- yes!
2 T. cinnamon- I just sprinkle
1 cup cinnamon chips, optional
1 cup caramel chips, optional
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Spread the dough with the butter and then sprinkle with remaining topper ingredients. Roll dough length-wise away from you and slice into 14 evenly sized buns. Place 7 buns each in two greased 8" cake pans. Bake for 16-18 min in a 350 oven. Top with icing of your choice. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon to make them look even prettier. The middle bun may still be a little under done but someone has to take one for the team.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Project #1: Pink Crochet blanket

I am not a good crocheter. I can follow a pattern if someone translates it for me but that's about it. Last week I saw a flyer at the library asking for knitters and crocheters to make blankets for Haiti.

My first thought was, "Hey, I can do that." I'd conveniently forgotten what a horrible crocheter I am. All I could remember how to do was a single crochet. When I single crochet in a long line my stitches get very distorted.

The blanket was supposed to be about 36" x 48". I looped up what I thought was 36" but the longer I made the afghan, the narrower the blanket became. I ended up adding extra along the sides, crocheting perpendicular to the rest of the blanket. That made the edges ripply, but not in a nice fancy way. The whole thing looked very wonky, but my husband and best friend assured me that the person who received it probably wouldn't care too much. A blanket is a blanket when you need one. If I think about it logically, most of the time you use a blanket when your sleeping...with your eyes closed.

I'm hoping to make one more, but this one I am going to make smaller squares that I sew together. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quaker Oatmeal Pancake Mix, a review


I'm a big fan of Waffles, and an even bigger fan of mixes to make said waffles, so when I got a coupon for Quaker Oatmeal Pancake mix I was super jazzed. If I remember correctly, I paid less than $.50 for the box. What a deal huh? Well..sometimes you get what you pay for.

I thought the oatmeal version of waffles would be a good way to make something not so healthy just a bit more healthy. That's the thing with "healthy" food. Sometimes it tastes like the box it comes in. The waffles I made had a gritty texture to them. It was kind of like eating sand. The waffles also didn't crisp up on the outside like a regular waffle does fresh from the waffle iron. I even cooked them just short of being burnt and the waffles were still gummy in the middle. Aside from the taste, the waffles just looked bad. They had a gray tinge to them that was not appealing at all.

Not wanting to give up on the mix, I even made a batch of waffles using half the Quaker mix, and half of my usual brand, Hungry Jacks. It still had a gritty texture and gray color. I finally tossed the rest of the box out. Bleck. Don't waste your money on this pancake mix. It's not even worth spending $.50.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lime Chipotle Shrimps

I'm not feeling very chatty today but I told myself I'd write a post anyway. Head on over to Ezra Pound Cake for the healthy pan seared shrimp with chipotle lime glaze. It's a great recipe if you are trying to figure out how in the world you are going to use up the rest of the can of Chipotle peppers after making Chipotle baked meatballs. This recipe won't use up the rest of the can, but it will make a dent. Just make sure that when you buy your shrimp you don't make the same mistake I did and buy the kind that still has the digestive tracks in. Handling shrimp poop for a half hour can make even the tastiest meal seem unappetizing. It also ruins the concept of having a quick and easy meal.

The good thing to come out of this is that I know how to de-vein a shrimp fairly well now. It only took me 3/4 of the bag to figure it out. I never said I was a fast learner.

This dish makes a great appetizer. You could also add this to noodles or rice in a butter sauce. I bet it would be a great addition to a stir fry as well.

In case you were wondering, Blockette does not care for shrimp. Yay! That just means more for me.

Chipotle Lime Glazed Shrimp from Ezra Pouncake
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds 21/25 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar

Glaze:
1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
4 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

For Glaze: Stir together chipotle chile, adobo sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and cilantro in small bowl. Heat 1 Toil in 12" skillet over high til smoking. Meanwhile, toss shrimp, salt, pepper, and sugar in medium bowl. Add half of shrimp to the pan in single layer, and cook til spotty brown and edges turn pink, 1 min. Remove pan from heat; using tongs, flip each shrimp and let stand until all but very center is opaque, 30 seconds. Transfer shrimp to large plate. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and shrimp. After second batch has stood off heat, return first batch to skillet, add chipotle mix, and toss to combine. Cover skillet and let stand until shrimp are cooked through, 1 to 2 min. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cheater Cheater Garlic Baked Potatoes

I think I've just fallen in love with my slow cooker all over again! I don't know about you, but I have the worst luck with baked potatoes. The last few times I've made them, or had them at other people's houses, they don't get finished cooking until 30 minutes to an hour after the main course. Then you have to microwave them to get them completely cooked in the center. The skins are my favorite part of the potato, and chock full of good nutrients and all that jazz. Microwaving a potato usually makes the skin all crusty and hard, and not in a good way.

Enter crockpot garlic baked potatoes from A Year of Slow Cooking. I opted for cooking the potatoes on high and were fork tender after 2 hours. I then turned the heat setting to low because the rest of the dinner wasn't quite ready. I'm sure that the potatoes would have been fine on high, but I wasn't willing to take the chance of potentially ruining part of our dinner.
Blockette liked these potatoes so much demanded that I make these potatoes again and again. I most definitely will. They were even good as leftovers. I just broke them into rounds and crisped them up in the skillet for a quick and tasty lunch.

Incidentally, MrsThunder, when you came to pick up your munchkin the other day and said, "Mmmm, it smells good in here." It was from these potatoes. The do stink up the house something deeeeelishous.

Crockpot garlic baked potatoes from a Year of Slow Cooking
4 big brown potatoes
2 T melted butter
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
8 or so garlic cloves

Peel the garlic and cut it into long slivers. Wash your potatoes, and pat dry. Carefully cut slits into each potato about 1/2 inch thick almost do the very base. The potato should start to separate a bit like an accordion. Shove as many garlic slices as you can in each slit of each potato. Nestle the potatoes into your crockpot. Liberally salt and pepper. Combine the melted butter with the olive oil and drizzle over the top of each potato, trying to get some in the garlic-filled slits, if you can. Cover and cook on high for 2-4 hours or on low for about 6. They are done when the potatoes reach desired tenderness. Top with sour cream.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pumpkin, Turkey, Bean and Bean and Beany Bean Soup

Black bean and pumpkin soup from Gimme Some Oven, was a great idea for dinner...on paper. I made this soup back when we were having a cold snap. The only thing that sounded good was soup and I was getting tired of the usual soups in the dinner rotation.

Several new soup recipes were presented to Mrblocko, and he chose this one after I told him I planned to add some crumbled Italian turkey sausage. What I should have done was adjust the amount of beans. The soup was super thick with 3 cans of beans and a pound of that turkey sausage.

I've mentioned Blockette's chewing issues in the past. There are certain foods that seem to cause her to relapse. Right now, beans are number one on that list. I forgot that little tidbit when I served this soup. I guess I should be happy that her previous episode was about 6 months ago. It's just always so frustrating when there is a regression.

Part of her problem with beans is that she psychs herself up anticipating a problem. It just adds fuel to the fire. We have overcome many other "trigger"foods in the past few years. For example, potatoes used to be a huge problem. It was their mushy interior that choked her up. She didn't have an issue with fries or hash browns. I slowly gave her thicker and thicker cut fries. Eventually she was able to eat mashed and baked potatoes. It was just a matter of her learning how to "chew" something that was not crunchable. Beans, if you think about it, are similar in mushy texture, only thicker.

I'm still working on a way to incorporate beans into her diet so she doesn't continue to have issues. Sure, I could just stop serving them to her all together, but I know that we can get past this bean chewing/non-chewing problem. I've tried mashing them up but that caused the same problem. She saw the black skins and knew they were there and got scared. If I could get her to stop being scared of beans that would be the first step. Once, I told Blockette the beans were magic fairy eggs. She wasn't buying into that schpeel. She just gave me the stink eye and very seriously and sternly said, "No, mom. They are beans." She is getting too clever for cheater tactics like that.

When we had leftovers, I wanted to make sure there wasn't an underlying issue with Blockette not liking the soup. I picked out all the beans in her portion. She had no troubles eating the beanless soup, and even said it was tasty. Now that I know Blockette likes the base of the soup, I don't have any qualms about making it again. I'll only use 1 can of beans along with the turkey sausage. I'll also add a can of corn so the soup has a bit more substance. Who knows, the corn may even be a distraction for the small amount of beans in the soup. (Hey, let me live in my fantasy world. Don't pop my dream bubble.) Oh, I also think the soup would be even more flavorful if I swapped fire roasted tomatoes for the regular kind.

Pumpkin and Black bean soup from Gimme some Oven
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 cans (15 1/2 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped
4 cups beef broth
1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup dry Sherry (or other dry white wine)
Garnish: sour cream and/or lightly toasted pumpkin seeds

In a 6-quart heavy kettle cook onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and pepper in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Stir in black beans, tomatoes, broth, pumpkin, and Sherry until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you’d like a more chili-like consistency, serve as is. To puree, use an immersion blender to either partly or completely puree the hot soup. Or, puree the soup in a regular blender, working in batches. (Be careful not to fill too full, since the soup is hot!) Serve soup garnished with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Beer Cheese Drop Biscuits

These beer cheese biscuits were another great recipe swiped from the Byerlys website. They are drop biscuits that use beer instead of yeast for a leavening agent. I thought they might be similar to the beer bread I made back in October. They smelled the same in dough form but did not taste anything alike.

The biscuits were different from the bread in that they contained oats and cheese. They also lacked the copious amounts of butter that the bread did. While the bread was delicious in it's buttery goodness, I think if the biscuits had as much butter as the bread did they wouldn't have risen at all.

Of course I made a few changes to the recipe. I used old fashioned oats instead of quick cooking so the finished product was speckled with white spots. At first I mistook these spots for not mixing the dough enough. The old fashioned oats gave the biscuits an interesting extra bit of texture. I also used 3 teaspoons of Penzey's Bavarian style seasoning in lieu of 3 Tablespoons of fresh chives. The Bavarian Seasoning contains crushed brown mustard, rosemary, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and sage. I thought that these spices would complement the extra sharp cheese. The spice combination exceeded my expectations.

I originally made these biscuits as a side for Peach Roasted Chicken. I used my large cookie scoop to portion out the biscuits. This gave me 18 biscuits versus the 12 the recipe stated was the yield. Naturally I had a plethora of extra biscuits. We used the leftover biscuits for another meal of Biscuits and gravy. The first bite was weird because I'd only ever had plain buttermilk biscuits from a can for biscuits and gravy, but then the spices really grew on me.

I'll definitely be making this recipe again. It will be interesting to play with the flavors by changing the beer, cheese and spices. This is a recipe with endless possibilities.

Byerly's Beer Cheese Drop Biscuits
2 cups flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped chives
1 cup pale lager beer

Lightly grease baking sheet. In large bowl, combine first 6 ingredients. Stir in cheese and chives. Add beer; stir until soft dough forms. Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 F oven until light golden brown (14-18 min). Serve warm. Amount: 12 biscuits

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sweet n Spicy Baked Chicken Meatballs

It's almost Superbowl time, so why not talk about the meatballs I made for a Superbowl party last year? They are a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy (or a lot if you add lots of chipotle peppers.)

Mrblocko wanted them more spicy than sweet, so this time I added 2 T of the adobo sauce to the meatball mix, and 3 large chipotles to the sauce. He probably would have liked it hotter, but I wanted to eat them too. Silly me and my wimpy taste buds.

My blender was dirty when I was made this recipe. I was lazy and didn't feel like washing the blender by hand, or waiting for the dishwasher, so I just chopped up the chipotles as fine as I could and mixed everything up with a spoon. As a result, my sauce was lighter in color and occasionally you got a meatball with a extra bit of chipotle.Mrblocko was in charge of watching these in the oven. I forgot to tell him that I wanted the sauce to caramelize a bit while they cooked. As a result, he took them out a little earlier than I would have liked. That was my fault because he was, gasp, following the recipe, and not reading my mind. Tisk tisk.

I got more meatballs than the recipe suggested because I used my small scooper to portion out the meatballs. With the small scooper, the meatballs were the perfect bite size. To me, if something is bite size, you should be able to pop the whole thing in your mouth with out completely stuffing your mouth.

The recipe calls for ground chicken, but sometimes I have a hard time finding this at the store, and don't feel like grinding my own chicken. In the past I have made this dish with all chicken, all turkey and a combination of both. They all taste equally delicious.

If I'm bringing this to a party, once the meatballs have been completely cooked, I will toss them in a crockpot and let them hang out on warm or low all night. Just remember to peek in on them every once and a while to give them a stir. This is more for your sanity later. If you don't give the meatballs a stir, the sauce will get all crusty and make clean up not so much fun.
Should you find that you have leftovers, these meatballs taste great in a sandwich. You can either eat the meatballs cold, or heat them up. I've mentioned how much of a microwave fanatic I am, but this is one exception to that rule. I prefer the leftovers warmed up in a skillet on the stove. The sauce will get caramelized and make the outside of the meatballs slightly crispy. Just make sure to turn the meatballs frequently if you are reheating them in this fashion. If you don't, they'll wind up cold on one side and charred on the other.

Here's the link to the recipe I found on Noble pig: chicken meatballs with chipotle honey sauce
2 pounds ground chicken
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can (4 ounce) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Chipotle-Honey Sauce
3/4 cup honey
2 to 3 whole chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine ground chicken, eggs, bread crumbs, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, adobo sauce and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and form chicken mixture into 48 meatballs. Place the meatballs on the baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.

While the meatballs are chilling, make the sauce. In a food processor or blender combine honey, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chicken broth, tomato paste, lime juice, Dijon mustard and salt. Process until smooth. Set aside.

Remove meatballs from the refrigerator and lightly brush with vegetable oil. Bake both trays in a 400 oven for 12 min. Remove the trays from the oven and place meatballs in a baking dish. Add Chipotle-Honey Sauce and brush the meatballs until they are coated. Bake another 12-15 min until meatballs are heated through and glazed with sauce.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sopapilla Cheesecake

I found this recipe for Sopapilla Cheesecake while surfing around on the craftster message boards. Sopapillas (or Sopaipillas) are a kind of fried pastry dough often sweetened with honey.

As far as desserts go, you can't get much easier than this. This recipe makes the apple dumplings I made last month look more complicated than something you'd find in a fancy French Cookbook, written in French...and you don't know any French.
Be very careful when making this, you may have to put a lock on your fridge so you don't eat the whole thing in one sitting. You have been warned!!!

Sopapilla Cheesecake
two 8 oz containers of Cream Cheese,Softened
1 c sugar
1 T vanilla
2 cans Crescent Rolls
1 stick butter, melted
at least 2 T sugar mixed with 1/4 t cinnamon (I used cinnamon sugar with orange zest, I just sprinkled it on until I thought it was covered enough)

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with a mixer. Unroll and press 1 can of crescent roll dough in bottom of 9x9" baking dish. (I used a 8x8" pan and it worked out just fine.) Some of the crescents will overlap and that's ok. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over the top. Arrange second can of crescent roll dough on top of mixture to cover cream cheese. Pour melted butter on top of crescent rolls. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over all. Bake at 350F for 35 min. Let the dessert cool and once it reaches room temp, let it chill in the fridge for a few hours before slicing and serving.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blueberry Wild Rice Muffins

When I brought up this recipe to Mrblocko he turned up his nose and looked at me like I had four heads. Blueberries and wild rice...in a muffin. Then I brought up that I found this recipe on the Byerlys website. His response was, "OK, well if Byerlys came up with it, lets give a try."I was extremely nervous about how this combination would taste. I was pleasantly surprised. The wild rice added a bit of a crunch, while the blueberries had just the right amount of sweetness.

The muffins were the best the first day. The second day the wild rice started to dry out and got a bit chewy. By the third day the muffins were past their prime. The blueberries made the muffins soggy, so the last 2 muffins met their end in the garbage can.

I thought this was a great way to use up extra wild rice. The next time I make wild rice and have extra floating around, I'll whip up another batch of these muffins. There are a few things I'd like to do differently though.

First, I would have liked to use wild blueberries. I'm not a big fan of the big blueberries in the muffins. I'd rather have little blueberries dispersed through the whole muffin instead of a big random burst of blueberry here and there. (Of course Mrblocko has to be difficult. He says he prefers the large berries.) I'll also make sure that I have muffin cup liners. As the blueberries cooked and caramelized, they stuck to the pan and made them difficult to remove. The cleanup was also a pain in the butt. Other than these 2 small things, I will make the recipe as is.

Check out the recipe here: blueberry and wild rice muffins from Byerly's
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted, cooled
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 cup unsweetened frozen blueberries
1 cup cooked wild rice

Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper baking cups. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, coriander and salt in large bowl. In small bowl, whisk together margarine, eggs and milk. Coat blueberries with 1 tablespoon dry ingredients. Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients only until blended. Fold in blueberries and wild rice. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until test done with wooden pick (20-25 minutes). Let stand on wire rack 5 minutes; remove muffins from pan. Serve warm. Amount: 12 muffins

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

"But mommy...I don't like Oatmeal!!!" cried Blockette when she learned this was what I made for breakfast one leisurely Saturday morning. Mrblocko told her it was like a big Oatmeal cookie...and she liked Oatmeal cookies, didn't she?
I gave her a small portion in a bowl with a little bit of milk. She took one bite and she closed her eyes in bliss. "MMM!!! This is good! It's oatmeal pie."
This baked oatmeal was so good, Blockette even asked for seconds. She asked for seconds!!!! Seconds people. She doesn't even ask for seconds with ice cream. Someone please alert the media, Blockette asked for seconds.

Besides being scrumpdidililyumptious, this recipe is great because you can totally mess around with it and add whatever strikes your breakfast fancy. I added 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon and scant tsp almond extract because that was all that was left in the bottle.

Here are some add in combinations I think would be tasty:
1 c chopped apples, 1/2 c chopped walnuts or pecans and 2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c dried cranberries and 1/2 c chopped pecans
1 or 2 ripe mashed bananas and 1/2 c chopped walnuts

I think maple syrup or orange zest would be a tasty add in but I'm not sure about the quantities. I'll also test out replacing half or all of the oil for applesauce. That's a part of that new math. Food-fat=OK to eat large amounts of sugar. Yay new math!

I halved recipe and baked it in 8x8 dish. I wasn't sure we'd like it or if we did how the leftovers would taste reheated. Of course the leftovers were awesome. The only difference was that they lost some of their crunchiness sitting in the fridge overnight. We reheated ours in the microwave for a minute, but I'm sure you could pop the pan back in the oven to reheat. I bet the oatmeal would crisp up again too. I'm just too lazy on a weekday morning to wait for the oven to preheat. Next time I make this, I'll be whipping up a full recipe.

If you want to experience a breakfast so tasty that even a persnickety four year old begs for more, head on over to my kitchen cafe for the baked oatmeal recipe.

Baked Oatmeal from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
6 cups oatmeal, either quick or old-fashioned
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups milk
4 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased 9X13-inch baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with milk and/or fresh fruit. Can be halved and baked in an 8X8-inch pan.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Byerlys' Wild Rice Soup

If you're from Minnesota, chances are that you're familiar with Byerlys. It's a fancy upscale grocery store with carpet on the floors and everything. If you go on the weekends they have so many samples you could eat lunch for free. Many moons ago they had a restaurant attached to the grocery store. They made the best soups, namely Wild Rice and Beer Cheese. These days you can buy the stuff by the cup in the deli or in a tub in the freezer section.

Sometimes my mom will bring up one of the big frozen tubs of the delicious Wild Rice soup. Most of the time I forget to pick up some when I go up to visit her, or forget to ask her to bring some up. Well, I need to yearn in vein no longer. The Byerlys website has the recipe for their wild rice soup.

This didn't taste exactly like the original, but it was pretty close. I bet if I followed the recipe it would taste even better. I forgot to buy half and half at the grocery store, but found that I had exactly the right amount of evaporated milk left over from the last time I made a cream based soup. Half way through the recipe I thought the soup looked way too thick so I added another cup of stock. The soup wasn't too thick...I just hadn't added the milk yet. The extra stock and lack of fat in the milk resulted in a less rich tasting soup.

I also used half vegetable stock and half chicken stock because I was trying to get rid of the stuff I had in the freezer before I made another vat of chicken stock. Chicken stock is so much more flavorful than it's veggie cousin. I don't plan on using vegetable stock in anything anytime soon...unless I'm making something for a vegan friend. This soup would have been better if I used all chicken stock.
The recipe also stated that the Sherry was optional. I assumed that it was. It's not. Don't make the same mistake I did and leave it out. It's an essential element to the soup's deliciousness

Overall, this was a good first run, and a great use of half the wild rice I made in the crockpot the other day.


Byerly's Wild Rice Soup
6 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 cup finely grated carrots
1/3 cup minced ham
3 tablespoons chopped slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons dry sherry, (optional)
snipped fresh parsley or chives

In large saucepan, melt margarine; saute onion until tender. Blend in flour; gradually add broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in rice, carrots, ham, almonds and salt; simmer about 5 minutes. Blend in half and half and sherry; heat to serving temperature. Garnish with snipped parsley or chives.

Amount: 6 cups.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Crockpot Wild Rice

We don't eat a lot of wild rice in our house. My mom gave me 2 small bags a while back when I complained that it was difficult to find here. I've still only used half of the first bag. A little goes a long way. Rice usually doubles in volume when you cook it. Wild rice quadruples when you cook it! This is probably because wild rice isn't technically a rice, it's actually a grass.

If the wild rice is cooked properly, it will split and the whitish gray interior will poof out like tiny skinny popcorn. That's the kicker though...if you cook it properly. I have tried in the past to cook it over the stove and I just can't get the kernels to burst. It's supposed to take around 30 minutes. Last time I gave up at 45 minutes and said we were going to eat it extra crunchy. I don't recommend doing this. It's not the tastiest thing.

Back in October I checked a book out from the library called Slow Cooker Cooking by Laura Brody. In it was this awesome recipe for cooking wild rice in your crockpot. I will never go back to preparing wild rice on the stove again!

I did have a moment of panic when I first made this. I had cooked everything for the suggested time and the rice had only just begun to split. I turned the slow cooker off and decided to lay down for a bit while Blockette was taking a nap...I mean having "quiet time". After an hour and a half, I peeked in on the wild rice. Tada! Poof city. It was perfect.

I'll write later about what I made with this rice so stay tuned!

Wild rice in your crockpot
1c wild rice
3 c chicken, beef or veg broth/stock (I used half water and half veg stock)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 T butter

Put the rice in a strainer and rinse off the rice. Place the rice, broth, salt, pepper and butter in the crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours until the rice is slightly crunchy and half the kernels have opened. Drain off any excess liquid before serving. Yields 4 cups.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thai Roasted Peas

Most people have heard of the spicy snack that is Wasabi peas. I'm not a big fan of wasabi, but I had plain roasted peas once many many moons ago. I thought they were delicious, but I'd never seen or tasted anything that came close. Then I happened upon roasted peas from About.com in the Thai Food section.

These peas weren't the exact same ones I had over a decade ago, but they were still a tasty, crunchy snack.
I don't think I've quite got the hang of the recipe though. The first time I made these peas I used petite peas. I stuck the peas in the oven and went about my business for an hour. When my oven timer went off my nose was greeted with the stench of stinky burning. The peas were perfectly blackened and perfectly awful. I guess the petite peas need a shorter cooking time.

Since I used the last of my petite peas in the first round of this recipe, I attempted the recipe again with what I thought were larger peas. I just grabbed the cheapest, smallest bag of frozen peas I could find. While it cost less than a dollar, the peas were a wide range of sizes. At least the petite peas were uniform in size. The variety of sizes resulted in some peas that were nice and crunchy and others that were slightly chewy.

The crunchy peas were delicious. The best thing about them were that they didn't taste a thing like peas. The roasting gave them a nutty taste. The spices also had just enough heat to make my lips tingle, but not too much where my mouth was ablaze. Mrblocko wasn't impressed with the first taste, but I warned him that after he had one he would want another one. The spices make you want to come back for more.

Because the peas didn't cook evenly, after 2 days the less than crunchy peas continued to get more chewy and tasted more and more like mushy peas. This is not my idea of a tasty snack. I think if I use petite peas and watch the oven like a hawk, I won't run into the soggy pea issue.

Mrblocko didn't like the peas as much as I did, but I think once I finish tweaking this recipe, I might have to share more than I'm willing to!

Roasted peas from About.com
2 cups green peas (I used frozen) - MAKES 1+1/2 cups roasted green peas
2+1/2 Tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending how spicy you want them)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. white pepper s)

Preheat oven to 375 and prepare a baking sheet. Thaw peas and pour off any water. Use a paper towel to gently pat them, ensuring they're as dry as possible. Place peas in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and toss to coat. Now add all the other ingredients and toss again. Spread the peas out on your prepared sheet. Gently tamp them down with the back of a large spoon to ensure they're in a single layer. Place them on the centre rack of your oven and bake for 1 hour. RThey will reduce to half their size, and should be brownish in color. Allow to cool completely before covering or storing. These peas will keep for weeks in a jar or other covered container.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sorta good for you if you squint Granola

For a while, I was on a kick where I ate yogurt and granola everyday for breakfast. Store bought granola cannot hold a candle to the homemade variety. I found this recipe back in 2008 but I don't remember from where.

I had to stop eating this daily because I was having some sort of weird sugar intolerance issue. The doctors did a whole mess of tests and couldn't figure it out. I was able to resolve the problem by watching my sugar intake, especially at breakfast. Also, my sugar issue seems to be worse in the warmer months. That's great for the holidays when sweets abound, but not so great for my yogurt and granola cravings which are most prominent in the spring and summer.

I figured out that this recipe makes roughly twenty 1/2 cup servings, with around 12 grams of sugar per serving. While that isn't great, it isn't horrible when it comes to granola. The problem for me was that the yogurt had at least that much or more grams of sugar. I tried the sugar free yogurt but I just wasn't thrilled with it. I also tried substituting splenda brown sugar, sugar free syrup, sugar free applesauce and only using 1/2 c raisins. These changes brought the sugars down to 5 grams a serving. Much more reasonable, but since I didn't like the sugar free yogurt I didn't see the point.

Mrblocko naturally likes the sugared up version best, so that's what I make these days. When it gets super cold out, he likes to crumble granola over a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal. I made this particular batch of granola for him, but somehow a small container of Greek yogurt fell into my grocery cart the other day. I wouldn't want that yogurt to go to waste! Besides, I'm all about quality control. He might just be saying the granola is good just to be nice. It's best to be 100% sure about these things. You know what they say, if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. They are so right.

So what makes this granola almost good for you? Aside from the fact that there is less sugar than the boxed version, there is very little fat. Almost all the fat comes from the nuts. There zero oil in this recipe. The applesauce and syrup are the binders. Yippee! Oh, did I also mention it is a ton cheaper as well...so it's also good for you in the wallet.

Homemade Granola
3 1/2c oats (Rolled or quick cooking, rolled will be crunchier)
2 c rice krispies
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
pinch of cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c applesauce (I like cinnamon applesauce best because I'm wacky on cinnamon)
1/4 c maple syrup, honey, or agave
1 tsp vanilla
up to 2 c chopped nuts
up to 1 c dried fruit

Preheat oven to 325. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment so you can be lazy and not have to wash the pan later. In a large bowl mix oats, cereal and spices. In a medium bowl whisk sugar, applesauce, syrup and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry. Stir to combine. Add nuts. Stir. Spread evenly on a sheet. Bake 30 minutes. Turn over the granola carefully with a wide spatula. Bake 15 minutes until crisp and golden. If the center isn't dry, remove granola from the edges and set on parchment paper/cooling rack. Sometimes I need to flip the granola again and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on it and if you think it isn't crispy enough cook it until you are satisfied. Cool the granola on the pan or on a wire rack. Break up as desired. Stir in dried fruit. Store in an air tight container.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On the Twelveth Day of Christmas...

...someone gave to me, a new bakers e-e-edge pan. Oh Mystery Giver, if only you could hear me singing a lovely new rendition of the Twelveth Day of Christmas your day would truely be a beautimous one. Thank you mystery pan giver!

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Bacon wrapped water chestnuts were one of those foods I remember eating on New Years Eve as a kid. I'm not certain if we had them every year, or if I just think we had them every year. Now that I'm a grown up, or at least pretending to be one on TV, it's one of the two things I have deemed mandatory for New Years Eve. (The other being lefsa, a Norwegian tortilla like bread made with potatoes. There is much crying and gnashing of teeth if I forget to bring home a package of lefsa when I visit my mom at Christmas. I have had no luck finding it in Chicagoland. If you know of a place that sells lefsa in IL please let me know!)

I found the recipe for bacon wrapped water chestnuts on about.com in the Southern Food section back in 2003. Southern food??? How did this get to be Southern food?? We're about as Yankee as you get. Granted, I don't think my mom marinated the water chestnuts when she made hers, but I hardly think that marinading something is a culinary practice exclusive to the South.

Geographical origins aside, you can't beat something wrapped in Bacon. I usually add some version of Penzeys 4S seasoned salt to the marinade. Mrblocko got some Peppered Bacon Salt from Santa, so I used that instead. Don't bother to use Bacon salt in this recipe. It doesn't make the bacon taste more bacon-y. I'll be sticking with the Smokey 4S from Penzeys. It's my favorite.
The picture above is the leftovers reheated in a skillet, that's why they are sans toothpicks. In all the New Years Eve excitement, I forgot to take a photo when they were right out of the oven.

I'm not a fan of gummy bacon. I much rather prefer the crispy version. If you like your bacon on the limp side go ahead and use a half of a slice of bacon per water chestnut. I've found that if I use a half of a slice the bacon doesn't get crisp enough for my tastes. I use a third of a slice instead and that does the trick.

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts from About.com
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 cans (5 ounces each) water chestnuts, drained
8 slices bacon, cut in half

In a bowl, combine the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and seasoned salt. Add water chestnuts and let marinate for 15 minutes. Drain and wrap a half slice of bacon around each water chestnut, securing with toothpicks. Arrange on rack in broiler pan and broil about 4 inches from heat for 2 minutes on each side. Bacon should be crisp.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Itty Bitty Pies...Do they count?

My New Year's resolution for 2009 was to learn how make a pie crust. Yeah, I know it's a weird resolution, but pastry intimidates the bejeezus out of me. I'm not quite sure if I accomplished my goal.

I'm pretty sure these wee pies don't count. Felt isn't quite what I'd consider a tender flaky crust. They do make mighty cute magnets though. Thanks much to nikki at whiMSy love for the stellar idea.

I think the Single serving pie in a jar is closer to the mark. I first saw this idea on Best Bites, but apparently the concept is all over foodbloggerdom. The concept is quite brilliant. A single serving pie in a wide mouth half pint canning jar. They are frozen and when you're ready to eat one you just pop it in the oven. No defrosting needed.

I had the hardest time finding the right size jars. I looked for them in at least seven different stores. I found every size but the one I needed. I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to make some jar pies for my uncle for Christmas. I asked her if she could look for them around where she lived. Of course she found them at the first place she looked. Grrr! At least she found them.Since it was almost Christmas when she found the jars,it didn't make any sense for my mom to ship the jars to me. I made them at her house and she supervised my crust making. Actually, it was more like me pestering her every step of the way to make sure things looked alright.

While the pies were made with a butter crust, the question that needs to be asked is, does it really qualify as me making a pie crust??? The first jar I put the crust into, I pinched off pieces of dough and smooshed them in there. That seemed like it took forever. Then,I tried rolling out a small circle of a crust and folded it up to fit inside the jar. Well, that took even longer, so I made the remaining jars with the pinch and smoosh technique. (Yeah, that IS a technical term, along with dealie and thing-a-ma-bob.)

Along with one of the bottom crusts in the jar, I also rolled out tops for half the jars. (I made a crumble topping for the remaining servings.) Since some rolling of dough was involved, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I did succeed in my goal of making a pie crust. Granted, I waited until the end of December to even attempt my resolution. There's nothing like procrastination!

I had planned on baking one of these before giving them away, but with all the excitement of Christmas I plum forgot. I'm still waiting for feedback from my uncle as to how they tasted. Hopefully, I haven't heard anything from him because he hasn't baked one up yet, and not because they were absolutely horrid. If they did turn out disgusting, I'd like to know so I can figure out what in the world went wrong.

If you decide to make these pies for yourself or as a gift, make sure you check out Lollychop's site where you can print out cute free labels for the tops of your jars.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Baby Jaguar

A while back I made a mama jaguar for Blockette. (Incidentally, this is the same pattern I used to make the Tinkerbell doll.) Blockette was really into Diego at the time. It had been bothering me that it was a momma jaguar but she didn't have a baby. Then someone created a baby version of the pattern I used to make the Momma doll. So I secretly crafted this doll without Blockette or Mrblocko knowing.


Here are momma and baby together at last.
I think they're both happy!

I also made a quilt for baby jaguar. You can see pics of it here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hair Clippies

I made these little clipies for Blockette for Christmas. The top one is purple with gold butterfly buttons. The kid needed some hair accessories to wear in support of the Vikings.

The Caterpillar pair is my favorite. I used a paper hole punch to get the little dots. Let me tell you, paper punchers do not like synthetic felt. I couldn't think of a better way to get the circles so round and itty bitty. Maybe people are just crafty enough to cut such small things free hand. I am not one of thoes people.

I'll be willing to bet that wool felt is much more cooperative. I guess you get what you pay for. Why don't they sell wool felt in craft stores?? At least at the craft stores by me. Are people just willing to put up with the uncooperative nature of synthetic felt because it is so cheap? Do you think I could ask a few more questions?? Huh? Do ya? Hello????

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Apple Butter Bundt

This apple butter bundt from Fuzzy Koala's Caketastic Adventures was made a few weeks ago for a Christmas party. I was so busy making Christmas cookies that I forgot to write about this cake.

Sweet sassy molassy was this a tasty cake. I accidentally grabbed spiced apple butter at the grocery store, but that just added to the deliciousness. If I could make mistakes like that everyday what a scrumptious world we'd be living in.

Fuzzy Koala said that she thought there should have been more apples. I took her lead and used a large granny smith apple instead of a small one. Next time, I will use 2 large apples. One apple, even though it was a large one, just didn't pack enough of an apple punch. Hopefully, this won't make the cake too moist.

I don't know what Fuzzy Koala did, but my glaze was super thick. I think I may have needed to use a tablespoon of shortening instead of a teaspoon and a half. Because the glaze was thick and stringy on top of the cake, once it was cut it sort of flaked off the edges of the sliced piece. We all sort of fought over the flaked off bits. OK, I fought over them. I'm greedy like that. (Don't worry I did it in the true spirit of Christmas...gimme!)

There were only a few slices left over which we were forced to take home with us from the party. I shared them with Blockette. After one bite she closed her eyes and said, "Mommy you gotta make this again." I sure will!

Apple Butter Bundt from Fuzzy Koala
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ c. butter, softened
⅔ cup + 2 Tbl. sugar
2 eggs
⅓ cup sour cream
1 cup apple butter
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped (I was a somewhat disappointed with the cake:apple raio. Should have used 2 apples, or one big one.)

Glaze:
⅔ cup cinnamon chips
1½ tsp. vegetable shortening

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; set aside. Beat sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Combine sour cream and apple butter. Add to sugar mixture alternately with flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. Fold in chopped apple. Spoon into prepared Bundt pan, smoothing batter with a spatula. Bake at 325°F for 35-40 minutes or until cake tests done. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire rack or serving platter to finish cooling. Top with glaze.

Cinnamon chip glaze: Place the cinnamon chips and the shortening in a small glass bowl in the microwave on high power. Heat until the chips have just melted, 30-45 seconds. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir the glaze until it is smooth. Or melt the chips and shortening in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Pour glaze over cooled Bundt cake.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Big Bar Fiasco

Along with Chocolate chip cookies, it is tradition, no law, that I make my uncle a "BIG BAR". I shudder to think what would happen if I arrived unarmed with this goodie.
I am about to reveal the big secret! The "BIG BAR" recipe!!!! It's actually Nestle Toll House's recipe for Chewy butterscotch brownies with 1/2 T vanilla and half of the butterscotch chips swapped out for semi sweet chips. And you know what? That was actually an accident. The first time I made this recipe, I mistakenly thought I had enough butterscotch chips. I just used what I had. They were such a mega hit with my uncle I thought, why mess with perfection?

You may have noticed the weird shape of this "BIG BAR". This is due to the scientific marvel that is the bakers edge pan. If you are a fan of edge pieces you gotta get this pan. Every portion has an edge! Brilliant eh?

I am one of those who does like the gooey middle brownie pieces, but when you make cookie bars, sometimes the middle is just too gooey. The pan is designed so that heat can be evenly distributed to every piece of bar or brownie. If you wanted to have an entire pan of gooey bars you could easily do that with this pan. You'd just have to cook your bars for a shorter time and the whole pan would be under cooked. The pan is also rockin awesome for lasagna, but that's a whole other story.
As much as I love this pan, I think my love affair has come to a sad end. Lately, the bar has been increasingly difficult to remove from the pan. At first, I didn't have to do anything to the pan. The "BIG BAR" released from the pan like a dream. Last year I had to start spraying the pan with cooking spray. This year even that didn't work. The entire bottom half stuck to the pan!!

There was much crying and screaming when this happened. The bar was still slightly warm so Mrblocko helped me piece the darn thing back together. You can see our scraggly patchwork here:
Before I give up on this pan completely, I will try using PAM with Flour. If that still doesn't work then I'll just give the bar in the pan and my uncle can figure out how to remove it.

Big Bar Recipe
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 plus 1/3 cups Butterscotch chips, divided
1/2 plus 1/3 cups Butterscotch chips, divided
1 cup chopped nuts

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. COMBINE flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in 1 cup morsels and nuts. Spread into ungreased 13x9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining morsels. BAKE for 30 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.