Wednesday, February 20, 2013

PINSPIRED: Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been trying to think of some regular features for my blog and I was "inspired" by some pinterest ideas I've run across so I thought "PINSPIRED" might be a nice tagline. 

A couple of weeks ago I had at least a half dozen friends pin the same cookie recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. Salted caramel is all the rage and I needed to bring something to a superbowl party so I thought I'd give it a shot. 

Yum! about all I can say about them. Rave reviews!

I’ve included the original recipe below, but basically:
  1. Mix a batch of your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.
  2. Cut a fun-size Milky Way Simply Caramel in half.
  3. Dip the open end in sea salt (secret? I just used regular table salt).
  4. Cover the candy with your cookie dough and form into a ball.
  5. Sprinkle the top with a little more salt (I used kosher salt on top).
  6. BAKE! (325 for 17 minutes)

A few tips: I went according to the recipe but the recipe dough is a little buttery for me so the cookies were more flat and crunchy than mine usually are. Next time I think I’ll try my own favorite cookie batter and see how it goes. Just a preference thing. Trust me...there were no complaints about the awesome result of the original recipe.

Also, I wasn’t sure how much cookie dough I should use with the candy so my first batch I used too much. My cookies were flat and the caramel was a little lost. I would recommend using as little cookie dough as you can to just cover the candy—about golf ball size in all.

Try it out! I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Milky Way Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Milky Way Simply Caramel fun-sze (I used two bags of the fun-size)
4c flour
1ts baking soda
1t salt, (sea salt preferred) and extra for dipping your candy
1 ½ c unsalted butter, melted
2c brown sugar, packed
1c granulated sugar
1TB vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
3c semi-sweet chocolate chips (or milk chocolate if you’re a totally sweet tooth like me)

Sift or whisk together the flour with your salt and baking soda, set aside.  Cream together the melted butter, brown and granulated sugar.  Once incorporated, beat in the eggs, then vanilla.  After the wet ingredients are combined, add in your dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined and then add the chocolate chips, gently stir them in. 

Cut the Milky Way candies in half, dip them into sea salt to seal the open caramel end.  Take a ball of dough, just big enough to cover the half-bar, add more dough if needed.  Roll into a ball and sprinkle the top with more sea salt.

Bake at 325 degrees for 17 minutes with 12 cookies per sheet.  Let cool before transferring to a cooling rack.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I love Valentine’s Day! … not for fancy dinners or flowers or sweet words from your honey (not that those aren't great) but, to me, it’s a day meant for expressing your love and appreciation for the special people in your life. It brings back all those warm fuzzy feelings from those ridiculous but wonderful “punny” valentine cards of our elementary school days.

Since curly girl was born I’ve started an unintentional tradition of a cute Valentine’s picture turned into a card. Now that GiGi has entered the picture, I realize that these Valentine cards have meant more to me than my Christmas cards so I knew I needed to think of something extra special this year. 

Here's what I did:

Maybe it's hard to see so...

I took a picture of Curly Girl holding a sucker with her hand out. I used a utility knife to cut a slit on top and under her fist in the picture then inserted a sucker through it. I used “Stick with me, Valentine!” for her tagline.

GiGi was a much more willing model so I was able to tape a mustache cut-out on her lip (mother of the year!) Then used the old “I mustache you a question… Will you be my Valentine” for her line. I cut slits at the top and bottom of the picture so that I could attach a silly straw with a mustache hot glued on.

You can get kid cut-out cards printed at your local photo center (Walmart or Walgreens each had the option on their websites). These were only 28 cents for a set of three!

here's Curly Girl's original picture... then I cropped it tight on her face and hand to make the sucker stand out

They were definitely a hit! 

Curly Girl's Valentine pictures from the last two years:

 about three months old

15 months


this was my actual favorite picture from that photo session

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Biscotti

My very best friend used to make me this delicious treat. Even now whenever I make this, I think of her and her fabulousness. She had the recipe on a little index card in her recipe book. I copied it some time ago and lost it in my many travels since college. It’s a Betty Crocker recipe from some old cook book but I’ve never been able to find the true reference for it (if you do, let me know!) I finally found it on some obscure website that I’ve never been able to find again. Luckily I printed it out and cherish that printed copy. Now I’m blogging it so that I’ll always know where to find it. 

I’m generally not a huge biscotti fan. Sure it’s great to dunk in coffee… but really, without the coffee I'm afraid I'll chip a tooth! This biscotti is in a whole different category. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still crunchy like biscotti should be but that little touch of banana gives it a soft and crumbly consistency that won’t break any teeth. 

Try it out! It’ll make you a lover of the crunchy cookie variety.

Banana Chocolate Chip Biscotti

1 cup sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 1 medium)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar. Mash up your banana in a separate bowl. Add bananas, egg and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture.  Sift (or stir) together the flour and baking powder then add to the wet ingredients. Fold in the miniature chocolate chips.

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter up those beautiful hands of yours. It's about to get sticky. Divide your dough in two. Create two logs that are about 3”x10”. Side by side on the pan is fine. They don’t rise a whole lot so just a few inches apart is fine. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let the logs cool on the pan for 15 minutes or so. Transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut into 1 inch slices .Place the slices back on your parchment papered baking sheet. Bake for another 10-12 minutes until just slightly browned. Take them out of the oven, let them cool for 5-10 minutes until you can touch them. Flip them onto the other side and bake for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them this second time around to make sure they don’t get too dark.

Summon all of your willpower and let them cool completely. Cooling them will harden them up. Remember that they’re crumbly so messing with them too soon with result in a crumbly mess and ugly, broken cookies.

your buttery logs

after the first round of baking, cut into 1 inch slices

brown one side for 10-12 minutes

flip! brown the other side for 10 minutes


…. but not too much. These babies are addicting. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

It’s been a busy week in the Johnson household. We usually take the time on weekends to prep all of our meals for the week but this week we had a great visit to Amma and Afi’s house. (My husband is Icelandic in heritage. “Amma” is Icelandic for grandmother; “Afi” for grandfather.) No time for meal prep so, lucky for us, we have a great stock of freezer meals!

This is one of my favorite homemade recipes that has morphed over the years as I’ve experimented with different ingredients. It makes for an awesome freezer meal so it’s one I love to make in bulk and freeze.

  • 1 to 1 ½ pounds of shredded chicken*
  • 20 small flour tortillas
  • 2-19oz. cans of enchilada sauce (or make your own… way more delicious and you actually know what’s in it. check out the recipe below.)
  • 16 oz. of sour cream
  • 1 small can of diced green chiles
  • 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 green pepper (or substitute in your favorite veggie. I’ve used spinach in place of the green papper for a bigger nutitional bang. You could also through in green onions, corn, etc.)
Makes 20 enchiladas or two 9x13” pans of 10 enchiladas each.

*the shredded chicken could be done in a number of ways .We regularly make our own chicken stock and will pull chicken meat off of the poached chickens. You could just fry up some boneless skinless chicken breasts or, our favorite last minute go-to, buy a rotisserie chicken from the deli and shred that up.

Step 1: Prepare your ingredients

Shred up your chicken. Slice your green peppers julienne style. Mix the sour cream and green chilies together. Put each ingredient in a bowl and create a little assembly line for yourself.

Step 2: Prepare your pans

Spray your baking pans with cooking spray and pour about ½ cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of each.

Step 3: Assemble your enchiladas

I put about a tablespoon of the sour cream mixture in the middle of the tortilla.
Then about an ounce or two of chicken.
Then your green pepper (and/or other veggies).
Then a tablespoon or so of cheese.
And finally a tablespoon of enchilada sauce if you like them saucy.

thanks for your help, Curly Girl!

Roll the enchilada and place seam side down in your baking pan nestled on top of the base enchilada sauce. You should be able to fit eight stacked vertically, then I stuff a couple more on the side. You’ll squish them together in the pan to get eight in there. That’s okay!

Step 4: Pour the remainder of your enchilada sauce on top. 

Use a spoon to move it around and get it into every nook and cranny.

Step 5: Sprinkle your remaining shredded cheese on top.

Step 6: Bake or freeze (or both!)

If you’re eating it right away, bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling, your cheese is melted and exposed edges of the tortillas start to brown.

I love to bake one right away and freeze the other. To freeze, if you’re using an aluminum foil pan, cover it in aluminum foil and the plastic cover if your pan came with one. If you’re using a glass pan to freeze, cover with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil or other lid if your pan comes with it. The idea is that you want to protect it from air so use a couple of layers to cover it. If it’s relatively air tight, it should keep 3-6 months (if you can wait that long to eat them!)

To bake the frozen stuff, I recommend thawing first, then proceed with baking in the oven for 30-45 minutes until hot and bubbly!


Want to take it up a notch? Try making your own enchilada sauce.

I’ve been meaning to do this for forever. We’ve been working hard in our household to move away from processed foods. Sauces in a can are full of sodium and preservatives. Making them fresh typically involves just a few pantry staple ingredients and a few extra minutes of time so why not do them on our own? Time and time again we’ve found making our own has been worth the effort—both knowing what we’re consuming and taking the flavor up ten notches as you can see here.

Easy Enchilada Sauce
Recipe from Emeril

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup chili powder
2 cups chicken stock
10 ounces tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt


  • In a medium saucepan heat oil, add flour, smoothing and stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock, tomato paste, oregano, and cumin. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken and smooth out. Adjust the seasonings. 

canned sauce on the left, fresh stuff on the right

The visual difference between the canned stuff and the homemade stuff is pathetic. I don’t think we’ll ever go back! We made ours true to the recipe but when I make it again, I think I’ll thin it out with more chicken stock. The recipe version is super thick so the enchiladas ended up being a little on the dry side.

I used one recipe’s worth of sauce to make both pans of enchiladas and it worked out perfectly!