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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ham and Cheese Filled Crepes

My big indulgence each week is my Thursday "card" playing day with the gals. We play Mah Jongg. Not the computer version, but the old fashioned tile version. To be honest, I didn't even know such a thing existed until I started playing with this group. While the game is a little more involved than most card games, once you get the hang of it, it's great fun!

One of the best things about this group, however, is that each week someone new is responsible for bring lunch. I served my recently posted Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Bars when it was my turn about a month ago. Being military wives, we all come from such diverse backgrounds that each week's lunch is a pleasant surprise.

Take lunch from a couple weeks ago, for instance. We were served a delicious lunch of ham and cheese wrapped in crepes. Now, if you've been with me long enough, you might remember that I have a thing for crepes. In fact, usually, when I make them, it's all I can do to not eat every single crepe the second it comes out of the pan... makes it kind of hard to collect enough to make anything! Well, this lunch reminded me with a vengence just how much I love crepes, so I had to make them myself for dinner.

These little rolls are so easy and delicious! In fact, my husband, who kind of rolled his eyes when I told him what I was making for dinner, took one bite, gave me a wink and a little Cheshire grin and said, "I guess these are OK." Okay, indeed! Silly husband for doubting me!

All you need to make these are a few simple ingredients. To make the crepes, you just need some eggs, milk, flour, and butter. I've included a crepe recipe below so that you have enough batter for this recipe, but if you need a refresher on making crepes, just go take a look at my crepes post. I make my crepes for this recipe a little thicker than I normally do. In addition to crepes ingredients, you will need 9 ounces of thinly sliced ham (I used a container of Oscar Meyer Deli Fresh Honey Ham) and 6 ounces of cheese (I used Muenster).

For each roll, place a small amount of shredded cheese on the inside of the crepe. Place four slices of ham on top and then sprinkle a little more cheese. Note that you don't need a lot of cheese on each roll. A little goes a long way.

Then just loosely roll up the crepe and place in a greased 13x9 pan. Bake at 375° F for 20-25 minutes, or until heated through.

As soon as they'rer heated through, they're ready to serve. I'd start with two. These things are deceptively satisfying and filling!


Crepe Recipe
Yield: 8 thick crepes (1/4 cup batter each)

3 eggs
1 1/2 TBS butter, melted
3/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup flour
1 cup milk

Mix and then run through a sieve to make sure you don't end up with lumpy crepes. Cook over medium heat in a ten-inch non-stick skillet. A ten-inch skillet will typically result in eight-inch crepes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Bars

A couple of weeks ago, I was responsible for bringing lunch to a function I was attending. While I was smart as a whip for the main part of the meal, preparing items that we're tried and true winners I had already prepared before, I was not so smart when it came to preparing a dessert.

I had been wanting to try making Parisian macaroons for some time and I figured this lunch provided the perfect opportunity. Therein, I broke Rule 1 of cooking for others on a time line: don't try something new when you don't have time for a re-do if it flops. Needless to say, as you might guess, I had some issues with my macaroons. Apparently where my recipe said almond meal, what they really meant to say was almond flour. Big difference when you are making such light and delicate treats! They turned out horrible! Unservable! And it was after 9 pm when I realized that they were hopeless.

I had to teach in the morning, so if I was going to serve a dessert at that lunch, I had to come up with something quick... and easy. I was getting tired! Cookies would've been fairly easy, but I didn't feel like standing over the oven in 8 to 10 minute batches. So, I turned to the Internet to find a suitable last minute rescue!

I found this little gem on The Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen site. They are so easy to make and quite tasty (ha ha). They are not overly sweet as so many cookie bars can be. I mixed and baked and was in bed in less than 40 minutes! The following morning, I cut up the bars and was on my way. They were a great hit with the ladies. Disaster averted!

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Bars
Yield: 24 to 40 bars, depending on how you cut them
Adapted from Melissa McCauley's Recipe on Tasty Kitchen

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 TBS butter, melted
3 TBS hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Cream together the shortening, sugars, and peanut butter. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, oats, salt, and soda. Add all at once to the creamed mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed. Smooth mixture into a 9x13 inch, parchment lined pan. I leave the edges of the parchment long in one direction so that I can use them as handles when I'm ready to lift the bars out of the pan for cutting. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool thoroughly.

Beat together the powdered sugar, cocoa, butter, water, and vanilla until smooth. Spread evenly over the cooled bars. Place, covered, in the refrigerator overnight to firm up.

After they have chilled overnight (or at least four hours), use the parchment to lift the mass out of the pan onto a cutting board. Use a large pizza cutter to cut uniform pieces. Let the bars come to room temperature before serving for best flavor.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bran Muffins

Do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man?

Well... apparently, you do. Except that she's not a man and she certainly doesn't deliver muffins to others because she is too busy eating them herself.

I admit it. I eat a lot of muffins. More, in fact, that I ever realized. Almost a year ago, I was in Tampa for spring break and - since they have a GFS store there and I don't here - I stocked up on muffin papers. I purchased a box of 500 muffin wrappers. They are almost gone. Hmmm... so, let's see. That's over 40 dozen muffins.

So sue me! They're my go-to breakfast. I usually eat two (regular sized muffins) each morning. My favorite muffins are chocolate chip and banana nut, but occasionally I like to branch out and get crazy. I have been searching for a bran muffin recipe that matches the perfect bran muffin taste memory that I have in my brain. I've tried a number of recipes, and finally I have found it!

These are good tasting bran muffins, not to be confused with "health" muffins. These suckers have plenty of fiber in them, but they also have a decent bit of sugar and oil. That's what makes them so tasty! Oh, and as far as I'm concerned, the dates are mandatory... even if you don't like dates (which I don't).

Bran Muffins
Yield: approx. 12 regular sized or 6 large muffins
Adapted from Advanced Bread and Pastry

1/3 cup oil
1 TBS honey
3 TBS molasses (unsulphured)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk

1 1/4 cup plus 1 TBS flour (preferably bread flour)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp table salt
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup wheat bran

1 1/2 cup chopped dates (rolled in sugar to prevent sticking if you cut them yourself)

Mix the dry ingredients together and set aside. Stir the wet ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet along with the chopped dates and stir thoroughly. At this point, the batter will be much thinner than a typical muffin batter. Set the mixture aside to for 20 minutes. This step in important because the bran needs to hydrate a bit before the batter has a decent consistency.

While the batter sits, preheat the oven to 375° F and line your muffin pan with papers. When the 20 minutes are up, fill the muffin cups almost full, maybe four-fifths full. Sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar and rolled oats, if desired. Bake for 18-25 minutes, or until done. Test with a cake tester as the muffins can look done before they are fully baked in the center. Remove from the pans to cool fully on a rack.
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