Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I'm taking a little break from the blogging world over the next couple of weeks. If you couldn't tell, my posts have been pretty scarce here and here. I've been busy taking kids to the pool almost everyday and just trying to enjoy summer...the heat and all. Our little miss is in the beginning stages of crawling and the above picture has been her current favorite position on the ground for the past month. I personally think it is so cute. I might make an appearance or two, but for the most part, I am checking out. Ciao!

Natural Peanut Butter Winners

And the winners of the Krema/Crazy Richard's natural peanut butter are....

Teri said... 
Well, of course, the "Sticky and Sweet". What could be better?
Thanks for the giveaway.

erica e said...
mmm... i think i must try the grilled pb and banana split sandwich! i was sold when i realized there weren't only mini chocolate chips but also strawberries! oh yum!

Damaris said...
Peanut Butter Cup Bliss=yumm.

this also looks yumm.

Please email me at thecooknextdoor@gmail.com and leave your address so your peanut butter can be sent to you.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peanut Butter Bars and a Giveaway


Peanut Butter Bars With Chocolate Fudge Frosting
from Brooke at Cheeky Kitchen

Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Bars
1 c. peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. Coach's Oats
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. white flour
1/2 tsp. soda

In a large bowl, cream together peanut butter, egg, butter and brown sugar until light an whippy. Add remaining ingredients, then press into a small cookies sheet. Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for exactly nine minutes. Don't overcook it! It might look a little soft and gooey, but it will set as it cools. Allow to cool before frosting & cutting into bars.

Whippy Cocoa Fudge Frosting
2 sticks butter, softened
4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. milk
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips just until barely melted. Using and electric beater/mixer, beat in the butter, then slowly add the powdered sugar and just enough milk to make the frosting a nice, spreadable consistency. Frost cooled bars. Allow frosting to set up for about 30 minutes before cutting. ENJOY!

Remember when I had Melissa on from Krema and Crazy Richard's Natural Peanut Butter?  Well, when they sent me some of their peanut butter, I got right to work in my kitchen.  This is the Crazy Richard's brand.

This is the Krema brand.  

All N.A.T.U.R.A.L baby!

The ingredients.  I love how there are oats, natural peanut butter and whole wheat flour in these.  That makes them totally healthy, right?

Mix all of the wet ingredients together.  

Next, add the dry ingredients.

Press into a small cookie sheet.  I used my sheet that is half the size of my regular cookie sheets.  Otherwise known as a quarter sheet pan.

Do not overbake.  These are supposed to be moist.  I cooked mine until I could just barely see it browning on the top.

The whippy cocoa fudge frosting ingredients.  

Oh, la, la!

These are easy and fast to put together for an impromptu summer party or picnic outside.

The folks at Krema and Crazy Richard's Natural Peanut Butter would like to do a giveaway for my readers.
Here is the deal:

Go to their blog.  In your comment on my blog, state what your favorite "Sammy of the Week" from their blog would be and why.  There are many to choose from, so good luck.  They want three winners...how can I argue with that?  Each winner will have two jars of natural peanut butter sent to them.  One creamy and one crunchy.  

The giveaway ends Monday night at 11:59 pm.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak

Marinade Ingredients
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Other Ingredients
2 pounds flank steak
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1  Score the surface of the steak with 1/4 inch deep knife cuts, about an inch apart, across the grain of the meat. Combine the marinade ingredients. Place steak and marinade ingredients in a large freezer bag. Coat the steak well with the marinade. Seal the bag and place in a bowl. Chill and marinate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

2  Using olive oil soaked onto a paper towel, coat the grill rack of your grill with olive oil. Preheat the grill with high, direct heat. The grill is hot enough when you hold your hand about an inch over it and you can only hold it there for about a second.

3  Take the steak out of the marinade bag and sprinkle generously on all sides with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. The salt and pepper will help form a savory crust on the steak. Place steak on the hot grill. If you are using a gas grill, cover the grill. Grill for 4-6 minutes on each side. Half way through grilling on each side, turn the steak 90° so that you get more grill marks.

4  How do you know if the steak is done? The best way to tell is to poke it with your finger tips. While the steak is still raw, test it with your fingers; it will be quite squishy. That's what a very rare steak feels like. As the steak cooks the muscles contract and firm up. Touch the tip of your nose and that's what a very well done steak feels like. Here's a visual guide, the finger test to check the doneness of steak.

5  Flank steak is best eaten medium rare; well done will make it too tough. When the steak has cooked to your preferred level of doneness, remove from the grill and place on a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil to hold in the heat and to keep the steak from drying out, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Make very thin slices, against the grain, and at a slight diagonal so that the slices are wide.

If you want, you can take the excess marinade and bring it to a boil, simmer for several minutes, and serve with the flank steak. Great also with salsa or horseradish sauce.

Serves 6.

{cooks note}

I made this for Cody on Father's Day and it was a huge success.  The meat was tender and juicy and grilled to perfection (thanks to Cody).  I marinated the steak overnight to let all of the marinade soak into the meat.  I boiled the excess marinade and then simmered it for a few minutes.  The added juices to the meat and potatoes was a welcomed addition.  I served the meat with garlic red mashed potatoes, fresh fruit bowls and green beans with bacon and cheese (recipes coming soon).  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry Shortcakes


2 1/2 C + 2 T (12 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 c sugar
3/4 t salt
7 T unsalted butter, very cold
1 C heavy cream, very cold
Extra cream and sugar for the tops
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. Cut butter into small pieces, and cut butter into dry ingredients. I used a pastry blender, but you can use two knives or your fingers to get pea size pieces of butter.
4. Make a well in the center and pour in the cream. Gently mix the dough together with a wooden spoon or your hands. Don't overmix...it'll look shaggy.
5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll out to 1-inch thick. I didn't have time for a roller so I just patted it out. Tartine uses a 4-inch circle cutter (for 6 circles). I used a small 2-inch circle cutter and got 15 biscuits.
6. Place biscuits on baking sheet (I placed on a Silpat) and brush tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
7. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.
For my shortcakes, I cut about a pint of strawberries and macerated them in some sugar - amount of sugar depends on the sweetness of your strawberries. I whipped some heavy cream (about 1 1/2 cups) and with sugar and vanilla (to taste). Assemble and serve immediately or within a few hours.

{cooks note}

These were a huge hit.  Not too sweet, but sweet enough with the sugar on the strawberries and the whipping cream.  Just make sure you do not overbake the shortcakes.  You want them to be moist, not dry.

Sift all dry ingredients together.

Cut butter into small pieces and add to the dry ingredients.

Once the butter is cut in, make a well in the center of your dry ingredients.  

Place the 1 cup of heavy cream in the center and gently mix the two together.

I used a small biscuit cutter to shape my shortcakes.  You can make them any size you want.  I was serving individual strawberry shortcakes for dessert, so I wanted mine to be larger than a bite size shortcake.  Don't forget to sprinkle sugar on the tops.

Not too light and not too dark.

A wonderful summer treat to serve after dinner.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Picture upload problems

I have a problem.  Blogger is not letting me upload photos to both of my blogs.  Has anyone ever had this problem?  It's driving me crazy!  Do I have to buy more storage?  Please help a girl out.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Natural Peanut Butter: Guest Post by Melissa Sonksen of Krema and Crazy Richard's Peanut Butter

My mom and Melissa were roommates on a Study Abroad to Europe back in their college days.  They have kept in contact all of these years and see each other from time to time.  Krema and Crazy Richard's Peanut Butter is a family owned company based out of Dublin, Ohio.  I asked Melissa to share a few things about their natural peanut butter and why it has been rated one of the best natural peanut butter's out on the market.  Trust me, this stuff is really good. They sent me some of their creamy and chunky and it's already gone.  I love that the only ingredient is peanuts.  

"Do you feel this good about everything you eat?" That's one of our slogans. Apparently Men's Health Magazine, Prevention Magazine and Cooking Light Magazine agree as they have named our Peanut Butters in the listings of their top favorite healthy foods. They love our single ingredient, minimal processing, and top quality ingredients as some of the reasons they recommend us to their readers. We were also featured on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda on March 10, 2010. They Loved tasting our Crazy Richard's Peanut Butter and they especially loved the smooth and creamy texture and pure peanutty taste! If you're wondering what's the difference between our two brands, there isn't any! It's the exact same Peanut Butter but Crazy Richard's is sold on the East Coast and Krema is sold mainly in the Midwest.

Why choose Natural Peanut Butter??

Why do Men's Health Magazine, Cooking Light Magazine and Prevention Magazine choose Natural Peanut Butter? They have chosen Peanut Butter by the Krema Product Company because of the fact that there are no hydrogenated oils, sugars, or salt added in. Our Krema and Crazy Richard's brands of Peanut Butter are just Peanuts! That's all ! We use the top quality runner split peanuts from Georgia in the good old USA, carefully roast and grind in our time honored tradition and get it quickly to you and your families. We have been doing it the same way since our founding in 1898. Forget all this new fangled reduced fat, low fat, smart whatever peanut butter. Many of those have hidden ingredients like evaporated cane juice (sugar), palm oil, defatted peanut meal and salt, yuck! All you do is stir it up to mix in the peanut oil that has separated to the top. Once mixed, your jar of peanut butter will stay that way if kept in the refrigerator. But don't take out word for it! There's a new nutritional scoring system that allows consumers to see - at a glance - the nutritional value of the foods they buy. It's a summary of the overall nutritional value of grocery store products. It provides one simple score from 1 to 100. The higher the nutritional value, the higher the NuVal Score. Many grocery store chains are adding the NuVal score right on the shelf tags so the comsumers can see at a glance which product scores the highest. The NuVal System is based on a unique patented food scoring formula developed over the course of two years of research by an independent team of nutrition and medical experts from leading universities and health organizations. Led by Dr. David Katz of the Yale University/Griffin Hospital Prevention Research Center, the team's mission was to develop a science-based formula for all foods and beverages to be consumed. So, without all the boring stuff here's how a few peanut butters have scored.

Krema Natural Crunchy & Creamy 51
Crazy Richard's Natural Crunchy & Creamy 51
Maranatha Organic Creamy 21
Jiff Natural Creamy 21
Jiff Regular Creamy 21
Skippy Regular Creamy 20
Smuckers Natural Creamy 20
Skippy Natural Creamy 18
Jiff Reduced Fat Creamy 7

I love that Krema and Crazy Richard's Peanut Butter is made from start to finish in the USA.  They were recently featured on the Today Show.  Check it out here.  You can go here to find out more about Krema and Crazy Richard's products, where they are sold and how you can order them.  They also have an awesome blog with a variety of recipes incorporating natural peanut butter.  Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of my favorite recipes to use peanut butter in.  Luckily for me, I can purchase Krema at my local Kroger's.  

Friday, June 11, 2010

Winners of Vanilla Bean Paste

Happy Friday everyone! This day couldn't have come any sooner for me. 
How about you?

Random Generator randomly chose 3 lucky winners for the Vanilla Bean Paste Giveaway.

#17 Jenn said...
I've never used a vanilla paste before. Sounds delish! I use mine in homemade whipped cream all the time for a yummy dessert. Especially with berries on top of waffles. I also always use it in my Costco giant bag of Krustez pancake mix. They taste soooo much better that way.

#27 Gina said...
Love me some good vanilla! I love vanilla bean ice cream.

#8 Marge said...
There's hardly anything I don't use vanilla in. But since I'm a big french toast fan lately, I'll start with that one.

Congratulations everyone! Please send me your addresses to thecooknextdoor(at)gmail(dot)com. 
Nielsen-Massey will send your Vanilla Bean Paste as soon as possible.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Raspberry Muffins

Raspberry Muffins
adapted from The Pioneer Woman's recipe for Blueberry Muffins

3 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch of salt
Dash of Nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 generous cup plain, unflavored yogurt (throw in extra if you want)
2 cups fresh raspberries (or blueberries)
Vanilla Extract
Softened Butter, for muffin tins
Turbinado sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 385 degrees.

In a large bowl sift flour, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In another large bowl whisk together sugar, oil, cap-ful of vanilla, egg, and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and stir to a count of 10.

Add raspberries, reserving 1/2 cup, to mixture and stir 3 times.

Add mixture to well-buttered muffin pans. Sprinkle remaining berries on top and press down lightly. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over top. (Brown sugar can be used instead.)

Bake 20 to 25 minutes and allow to cool completely.

{cooks note}

I filled my parchment cups up with quite a lot of batter.  This recipe made 11 muffins total.  I also cooked mine a little too long (one of my kids may or may not have turned off the timer without me knowing--that seems to happen a lot).  I still think they turned out great.  They are best when served 5-10 minutes out of the oven.

I love raspberries.  Last weekend I happened to have an extra container of them, so I decided to make raspberry muffins.  I searched and searched for a good recipe, but couldn't find one I liked.  I decided to turn The Pioneer Woman's Blueberry Muffins into Raspberry Muffins.  

I made my own muffin liners with parchment paper.  I really like how they turned out.  I didn't fold my raspberries into the batter like the recipe calls for.  I thought it would break up the raspberries too much.  Instead, I filled each parchment cup with batter, lightly pushed 5 raspberries into each and sprinkled the tops with sugar.

Don't they look like they came straight from a bakery?  I really love this look.  

Don't make this if you have a sweet tooth.  It's definitely more on the side of breakfast/brunch food.  

Monday, June 7, 2010

Vanilla Bean Paste Giveaway

Because it's Monday, my kids are driving me crazy, I'm not feeling the best, I broke my waffle iron (I'm hoping my husband can fix it) and I STILL have tons of laundry to do, I'm going to do a little giveaway. Plus, it goes along perfectly with today's post, which was not planned. The awesome people at Nielsen-Massey want to give away one of their Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste's to three lucky readers. I LOVE this stuff. I feel like I am using it daily. They even sent me their cookbook, which is absolutely beautiful and full of fun recipes.

To enter, leave a comment stating what recipe you love to use vanilla in.

Giveaway ends Thursday June 10th at 11:59 pm. 

Good Luck!

{I fixed the first and last pictures on my last post}

Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream: Guest Blogger Lindsey Johnson

Lindsey Johnson, blogger at Fresh Clean Start, is a pro when it comes to making homemade ice cream.  She put together an awesome step-by-step tutorial for all of you.  Lindsey has amazing recipes, ideas and photography.  We share a love for the Bosch too!  

It's June.  Time to pull out that ice cream maker and get going.  You don't have one?  Get one.  Preferably as soon as possible.  But, I warn you, you will probably never go back to store-bought ice cream again.

Let's talk about homemade ice cream.  Some of us have better memories of homemade ice cream than others.  Remember how sometimes Grandma's ice cream was a bit too sweet and icy?  Or it would leave that greasy film on the roof of your mouth?  Mmm-hmm.

I'm going to show you how to make a perfect French-style custard base that makes a luxurious ice cream that is not too sweet and doesn't leave you feeling like you just ate a gazillion calories, even though you did.  (I've included variations at the bottom of the recipe.)

Custards can be tricky, but not impossible.  All it takes is a bit of patience and a bit of babysitting.

You'll need a few special tools:  a fine mesh sieve or strainer and an instant read thermometer.  Why?  Well, you'll see here in a minute.  (If you don't, it's okay, there are a few ways around it.)

Our cast of characters:  whole milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, granulated sugar, a vanilla bean.

Pour 2 cups each:  whole milk and heavy cream into a heavy-duty pot or pan.

Then you're going to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.

Open it up and use the knife to scrape out the little seeds.

Both the vanilla bean and its innerds go into the milk/cream and the pot goes onto the stove.

Turn the stove on to a moderate heat.  We don't want this to boil, but we want it to get hot.

Little bubbles will form around the edge of the pan and steam will rise from the surface.  Take the pot off the heat and let it steep for at least 30 minutes.

After you've let it steep for a bit, bring it back up to temperature, making sure not to let it boil.  Meanwhile you'll start prepping the eggs and sugar.

Whisk the egg yolks into the sugar.  Don't do this step more than a few minutes in advance because the sugar will "burn" the eggs.

Keep whisking until you have a thick, light yellow mixture.

While you are whisking, slowly ladle or drizzle a bit of the hot milk/cream into the eggs/sugar.

This is called tempering, which brings the eggs up to temperature and helps prevent them from scrambling or curdling.

Once all the milk and cream have been added, pour the mixture back into the pot.

Place it on the stove and turn the heat on to medium.

Stir constantly and cook until the temperature reaches 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Side note:  get an instant-read thermometer.  They cost about $10 and are invaluable in the kitchen.  The old "trail on the back of the spoon" trick for custard isn't always so reliable.  A few degrees can also make the difference between a perfect custard and one that is full of scrambled eggs.

Pour the cooked custard through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl.

Side note:  get a sieve.  They are also pretty inexpensive.  If you don't have one, you can use a splatter screen.  It works fine.  The reason you want to do this step is that you want to take out any lumps that could get in the way when the custard is churning.  Also, those little white things in eggs....not so tasty.

Let the custard cool a bit and then chill it for at least 2 hours or until it's very cold.  I usually try to let it chill overnight or for the whole day.  I find that the ice cream turns out better that way.

Pour the chilled custard into your ice cream maker.  (I love my Cuisinart.  I will never go back to salt and ice again.)  Churn it according to manufacturer directions.

When your ice cream looks like this, it's ready to be transferred or eaten.  It will be pretty thick--about like soft serve ice cream.

Make sure you put it into an airtight container.  If you know you won't be using it right away, put some waxed paper on the surface to prevent hoar frost from forming.

If you want to scoop the ice cream, give it a few hours in the freezer to firm up.

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.  If you are going to use one of the big ice cream makers, then you'll want to make three times this recipe, and you'll have a bit of extra custard leftover.  (Which is fine, my husband is always willing to pour it over fruit or something.)

Full recipe:

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream, preferably not the ultra-pasteurized kind
2 cups whole or 2% milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4-8 egg yolks (depending on how rich you like it)
1 vanilla bean*
a pinch of salt

Pour the milk and cream into a non-reactive saucepan.  Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Heat the cream and milk until very hot, but not boiling and add the vanilla bean to the pan.  Remove from the heat and let steep for about 30 minutes.  The longer you let it steep, the stronger the flavor will be.

After the vanilla pod has steeped in the milk/cream, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until very thick and light yellow.

Bring the milk/cream back up to temperature--hot, but not boiling.  Steam will start to rise from the surface and small bubbles will form around the edge of the pan.

Slowly dribble a bit of the hot milk into the eggs and sugar to temper the eggs.  Once you've added all the milk, pour the custard mixture back into the pan.

Turn the heat on to about medium.  Constantly stir the custard as the temperature rises.  Be sure to get the corners and bottom.  You don't want it to burn.  As you stir (this might take up to 10 minutes or as little as 3 depending on how hot the milk was), periodically check the temperature using the instant read thermometer.  Take care when you've reached 160 degrees F.  You want to get it to 170, but not over 180.

Remove it from the heat and pour it through the fine mesh sieve.  This will remove any bits of egg or other lumps.  You'll end up with a perfectly smooth base.

Let it cool to room temperature and then cover it with plastic wrap and chill for several hours or preferably overnight.  You want it to be super cold.

Pour the base into your ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer directions.  Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

*Kelsey Nixon posted about her love of vanilla bean paste last week.  I love it too.  And it would be the perfect thing to add to this ice cream in place of the vanilla bean.


We steeped the vanilla bean to infuse the custard with vanilla flavor.  You can do this with just about any whole spice or herb.

My favorites are lavender, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, and citrus peel.

Chopped nuts are also fabulous choices--almond, pecan, pistachio.  The longer you let the herb, spice, or nut steep, the more pronounced the flavor will be.  Try fresh rosemary, thyme or basil for an interesting accompaniment to a summer fruit pie.  Just be sure to strain the custard before you churn it.

You can also play around with the sweetener--try brown sugar or natural sugars.  Use part honey or maple syrup.  Caramelize the sugar to make caramel ice cream.  (This is a great recipe.)

You can also add 1 tablespoon of your favorite liqueur or a 1 tsp. of a flavoring of your choice--brandy, rum, coffee, coconut, etc.

Of course, you can throw in chopped candy or chocolate a few minutes before the ice cream has churned completely.  Swirl the ice cream with fudge, caramel, or fruit sauce.

The possibilities are truly endless.