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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

02/13/2019

~ Milk-Chocolate-Lovers Nestlé-Crunch-Bar Cookies ~

IMG_8475The Nestlé Crunch Bar -- creamy milk chocolate chocked full of crunchy-crisped rice.  As one who has always preferred milk to dark chocolate, it, along with the Reese's peanut butter cup (milk chocolate and peanut butter) is at the top of my "favorite candy bars of my youth list".  As with several other favorites, for an adult activity, I prefer to chop up said candy bars and bake cookies with their bits and pieces -- I prefer a cookie to a candy bar and I adore a candy bar in a cookie.    

IMG_8417"Candy-bar cookies" and sweet treats made with my favorite candy bars are some of my favorite cookies to bake -- and what's not to love about a cookie that evokes childhood memories. Amongst all my other cookie recipes, it seems it's the candy-bar cookie recipes that get made the most often, and, get eaten almost as fast as I can fill the cookie jar -- a couple here, a couple there, and in a day or two, poof, they've disappeared.  Try my: Whoppers Milk-Chocolate Malted-Milk-Ball Cookies, Chewy Coconut & Crispy White-Kit-Kat Cookies, Over-the-Top Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies, and, Chocolate & Peanut-Butter-Snickers Cookie Squares.  Today I'm adding my Nestlé Crunch Bar Cookies to KE. Long story short, it is an amped-up spin-off of  The Original Nestlé's Toll House Cookie recipe.

IMG_8456Milk chocolate + crisped rice = simply irresistible cookies: 

IMG_84292 1/4 + 2 tablespoons  cups all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  baking powder and baking soda

1  teaspoon salt

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

2  teaspoons pure chocolate extract

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2  large eggs

18  ounces Nestlé Crunch Bars, chopped into morsel-sized 1/4" pieces

IMG_9622 IMG_9622 IMG_9622 IMG_9622 IMG_9622~Step 1.  In a small mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.  In a large bowl, place butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.  On high-speed of hand-held mixer, beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in eggs, about 1 minute.  Lower mixer speed and gradually beat in the flour until a smooth, sticky dough forms.

IMG_8432 IMG_8432 IMG_8432 IMG_8432 IMG_8432 IMG_8432~Step 2.  Using a large rubber spatula, add and fold in the chocolate pieces.  Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop cookies, well apart, by rounded tablespoonfuls onto each of 4, parchment-lined, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans.

IMG_8454 IMG_8457~Step 3.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 325º oven 13-15 minutes, until light-golden.  If you like cookies a bit chewy, do not bake until golden.  Remove from oven and use a small spatula to transfer to wire cooling rack to cool.

What could be better than eating your favorite candy bar?  Eating a cookie made from a favorite candy bar.

IMG_8463Milk-Chocolate-Lovers Nestlé-Crunch-Bar Cookies:  Recipe yields 5-5 1/2 dozen cookies.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01bb092fba3d970dCook's Note: Hold the chocolate candy and  everything you can put in a chocolate cookie to impress me. Don't sprinkle them with sea salt, slather them with caramel frosting or sandwich them together with buttercream.  It won't work.  As a foodie who lives in the blog world where everyone strives to make every recipe unique, in my kitchen, every once in a while, plain is the best flavor of all -- especially when ~ I'm in the Mood for:  Plain-Jane Chocolate Cookies ~. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

02/11/2019

~ Effortlessly-Regal No-Brainer Blackberry Clafoutis ~

IMG_8378I'm continually astonished by how many cooks have no idea what clafoutis is, or, assume from its name that it's hard to make.  If I were to write The Big Book of No-Brainer Desserts, clafoutis would be on the cover.  Whisk up a simple batter (eggs, cream or milk, sugar, salt, flour, melted butter and brandy or extract), pour it over some fresh fruit and bake. Cherries are the classic addition, with any type of berries, combination of berries, or tender stone fruit like apricots, plums and peaches being common substitutions.  Currently, I'm secretly addicted to the one-pound boxes of giant-sized Driscoll's blackberries we've been purchasing at our local Sam's Club.  I eat a box every week -- every time I open the refrigerator, five or six of come out with me.

Perfect for Valentine's Day, or any occasion you can name... 

IMG_8393... and even easier to make than a cobbler, crisp or crumble...

IMG_8321A bit about clafoutis (kla-foo-tee): Hailing from the Limousin region in Central Southern France, this country-style dessert is made with unpitted black cherries -- which lend a slight almond flavor to the dessert. The name is derived from the verb "clafir", which means "to fill" (the thick, flan-like batter with cherries). Purists will tell you that if made with anything other than black cherries, the name of the dessert changes to "flaugnarde" (which, to me, sounds like a derogatory term for a clafoutis that got thrown under the bus).

After baking, clafoutis is usually served warm with a dusting of Confectioners' sugar or a dollop of freshly-whipped cream. Depending who's making it, where and what recipe, a clafoutis can have a cake-like texture, but French farm-kitchen versions, which are the most luxurious, are typically pudding-like.  In either case, it's an impressive dessert that can be successfully made by novice cooks.

IMG_8398... clafoutis is my secret-weapon year-round fruit dessert.

IMG_83241 1/2-2  pounds fresh (not frozen), ripe (not over-ripe) whole blackberries

3  large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/4  cups heavy or whipping cream, at room temperature

1/2  cup sugar

1  tablespoon pure blackberry extract (Note:  I purchase blackberry extract on-line from www.OliveNation.com.  If you are not inclined to do that, substitute an equal amount of blackberry brandy.)

1  teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2  teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour (10 tablespoons)

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

2  tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled

Confectioners' sugar and/or freshly whipped cream, for garnish and topping

IMG_8330 IMG_8330 IMG_8330 IMG_8330~Step 1. Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly.  In a 1-quart measuring container, place eggs, cream, sugar, extracts, flour and salt.  Using a hand-held rotary mixer, whisk the mixture until smooth, about 1 minute.  Drizzle in the butter and whisk again, until butter is incorporated.

IMG_8327 IMG_8327 IMG_8327 IMG_8355~Step 2. Gently place the delicate blackberries in an 11" x 7", 1 1/2-quart casserole, NOT a 13" x 9" x 2", 3-quart casserole, then drizzle the batter slowly and evenly over the blackberries, allowing it plenty of time to seep down through all the cracks and crevices.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325º oven 40-45 minutes, or until puffed up to center, lightly-browned and just set.

Read the recipe, don't be fooled by a photo:  this is an 11" x 7", 1 1/2-quart casserole, NOT, a 13" x 9", 3-quart casserole!

IMG_8350Bake in a 325º oven, 40-45 minutes or until just set.

IMG_8357Cool 45-60 minutes, slice & serve warm (or at room temp)...

IMG_8364... dusted w/Confectioners' sugar or whipped cream: 

IMG_8375Effortlessly-Regal No-Brainer Blackberry Clafoutis:  Recipe yields 12-14-16 servings.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; 1-quart measuring container; hand-held rotary mixer, or, hand-held electric mixer; 1 1/2-quart casserole, NOT, a 3-quart casserole, preferably ceramic

6a0120a8551282970b0224e03f9a04200dCook's Note: Here today, gone today.  That's the lifespan of blackberries entering my kitchen. I've been told their dark color makes them really good for me -- even more antioxidants than blueberries.  Rah-rah-sis-boom-bah, I'd eat them even if they were on on the not-so-good-for-me foods short list.   When I buy a box of blackberries, I eat a box of blackberries. When I pick blackberries, they disappear on the walk to my door.  I do not share blackberries -- perhaps I would, but, I've yet to be tested on this point. ~ Have a Very-Berry Blackberry-Cobbler Kind of Day ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

02/09/2019

~ A Great Garlic Bread Spread for Great Garlic Bread ~

IMG_8282Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  A double-whammy of calories and carbohydrates are going on our dinner table tonight.  Why?  Because eating spaghetti and meatballs without a great big basket of garlic bread on the table is, gulp, culinarily criminal.  We'll have a salad too, because it too goes great with this meal (not because it's healthy or to make me feel less guilty). Everybody knows spaghetti and meatballs require garlic bread, a salad and a bottle of red wine.

Garlic bread isn't Italian.  Neither is spaghetti & meatballs.

IMG_8309While many regard spaghetti & meatballs as quintessential Italian, the dish was created in the U.S. in the early 1900's.  Italian meatballs were not initially served with pasta.  They were served alone, as a course at a meal, as was the pasta.  The two got teamed together in Italian restaurants to appease Americans who wanted meat served on the same plate with with their pasta.  The type of garlic bread we have all come to love is believed to have originated in the U.S. in the 1950's, when Italian-American home cooks created a spin-off of Italian bruschetta/garlic toast (a slice of bread brushed with olive oil, grilled, then rubbed with garlic) using on-hand pantry ingredients of the time period.  The end result was a buttery loaf of highly-flavored slightly-crunchy bready snacks to accompany their favorite Italian-American red-sauce-restaurant dishes.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad398c2fd200dA great garlic bread starts with a high-quality loaf of bread.  A firm dense-textured loaf textured bread is the place to start -- a loaf of roasted-garlic bread (meaning roasted garlic has been baked into the bread) is a better place to start, as it lends an extra-layer of garlic flavor.  For ease of service and a prettier presentation, in my kitchen, I believe the French batard (a squatter, plumper, denser version of a baguette) to be the ideal foil for making garlic bread.

1  12-ounce roasted-garlic or plain batard, preferably the bake-at-home kind

IMG_8229For the garlic bread spread:

3  half-sticks salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (6 ounces) (Note:  I'm pointing out half-sticks of butter to make the ratio I use more apparent to you when reading the ingredients list.  This will make it easy to adjust (calculate) the recipe for different-sized loaves of different shapes.  To every half-stick of butter, add 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese and 1/4 teaspoon each of designated herbs and spices.)

1  tablespoon olive oil (3 teaspoons)

3  large garlic cloves, run through a press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons pressed garlic), or, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic paste may be substituted

3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

3/4  teaspoon dehydrated, minced garlic

3/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon white pepper

3  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

IMG_8231 IMG_8231 IMG_8231 IMG_8231 IMG_8231~Step 1.  In a 2-cup food storage container, place all ingredients except cheese.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Add and stir in the cheese. Cover and set aside, at room temperature, 30-45 minutes, to give flavors time to marry.  During this time, preheat oven to 375º with oven rack positioned in the upper third.  Uncover and give the mixture one last thorough stir.

IMG_8251 IMG_8251 IMG_8251 IMG_8251 IMG_8251~Step 2.  Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with parchment paper.  Using a serrated bread knife, slice the batard in half lengthwise horizontally, then slice each half into four even-sized pieces.  Using a butter knife, generously slather each piece of bread with the garlic spread.  Keep slathering until all of the spread is used up and atop the bread pieces.

IMG_8266~Step 3.  Place pan of bread in oven preheated as directed above.  Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the garlic spread has had time to slowly melt down into the bread and the bread has had time to crisp in the buttery meltdown, and, essentially oven-fry.  Remove from oven and cool slightly, in pan, 2-3 minutes prior to transferring to a plate or a basket to serve.

Great garlic bread -- the snack Italian-Americans made...

IMG_8279... crispy outside, chewy inside, lots of butter & garlic flavor:

IMG_8285A Great Garlic Bread Spread for Great Garlic Bread:  Recipe yields 1, 12-ounce loaf garlic bread/8 pieces/8 side-servings or snacks.

Special Equipment List:  garlic press; microplane grater, spoon; cutting board; serrated bread knife; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; butter knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d16e3272970cCook's Note: Garlic knots are a form of garlic bread -- they're typically made using the same butter-garlic mixture the eatery uses to make garlic bread.  In the beginning, they were found primarily in pizzarias in and around New York City and they were a way of making use of scraps of pizza dough.  As an appetizer, they come to you with a side of marinara sauce for dipping, and, because they are made from scraps, a basket of them often comes complimentary with more expensive menu items.  ~ For Times When You Gotta Have Garlic Knots ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

02/06/2019

~Slow-Cooker Italian-Style Sunday Gravy & Meatballs~

IMG_8183Sunday gravy.  Tomato sauce, simmering low and slow in a pot brimming with meatballs bobbing around -- what's not to love.  It's a tradition in the Italian-American kitchen and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon -- stirring a pot of bubbling sauce and sipping wine with the family and some friends milling around.  That said, I grew up in an Eastern European household -- we ate spaghetti and meatballs on Tuesdays, as Sundays were for roast chicken or pot roast and "the other gravy".  Mom and dad designated Tuesdays as our day to have spaghetti and meatballs.

While many regard spaghetti & meatballs as quintessential Italian, the dish was created in the U.S. in the early 1900's.  Meatballs were not initially served with pasta.  They were served alone, as was the pasta.  The two teamed together in Italian restaurants to appease Americans who wanted meat served with pasta.

IMG_3124 2Fast forward to 1980.  I married Joe and into his Italian-heritaged family, and fast-tracked all I could  -- Sunday sugo and a head-spinning array of other family-favorite main-dishes and desserts.  That said, Joe traveled a lot, so, many a weeknight, it just was me, three boys and their after-school activities.  I too designated Tuesday nights for spaghetti and meatballs, but, a simplified version.  The meatballs and sauce cooked in the slow cooker, which conveniently could be scheduled to be ready at a time I knew we'd all be home to eat dinner and do homework.  

My kid-friendly version is quick to put together and requires no slicing, dicing or frying --  both the sauce and the meat mixture can be prepped in about fifteen minutes.  There's more.  Past the ground beef and some ground pork if you want to add it, all of the ingredients come out of the pantry and off the spice rack.  Unless you have have a really big family or teenage boys, there's easily enough for two meals, which in our house means meatball sandwiches the next day.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c95967d7970bMeet Crockpot's Casserole Crock. For me, it's my latest acquisition in a long line of slow cookers.  I now currently own ten different brands, models and sizes -- which is odd because, me, not-the-queen-of-crockpot-cooking, uses a slow cooker, maybe, five-six times a year. While Crockpot rightfully peddles this one as a casserole crock (because it is essentially a 13" x 9" x 3" casserole), and, it's intended to make-and-take slow-cooked casseroles (it's got lock-in-place handles and a stay-cool handle for carrying the entire contraption), I saw it as a vessel for a big batch of meatballs  (28 to be precise) to cook evenly, in comfort -- single-layer spa-style.

Moist, fork-tender meatballs in a thick, rich tomato sauce...

IMG_8214... an uncompromisingly-delicious time-saving recipe: 

IMG_8121For the Gravy (Tomato Sauce):

2  28-ounce cans high-quality Italian-style crushed tomatoes

2  8-ounce cans tomato sauce

1  teaspoon dried basil or Italian seasoning blend

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper 

IMG_8131For the meatballs:

2  pounds ground beef (85/15), or, 1 pound each: beef & pork

2/3  cup each:  plain dry breadcrumbs and finely-grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2  teaspoons dried basil or Italian seasoning blend

1 1/2 teaspoons each: dehydrated minced garlic and onion, cracked black pepper and sea salt

2  large eggs

IMG_8122 IMG_8122~ Step 1.  To mix the sauce, place and stir all ingredients (crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried basil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper) together in a Crockpot casserole cooker. Set aside and mix meat as directed:

IMG_8133 IMG_8133~ Step 2.  To mix the meat, in a large bowl, place all ingredients (ground beef, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, dried basil, dehydrated minced garlic and onion, salt, pepper and eggs).  Using your hands, thoroughly combine.

IMG_8137 IMG_8137 IMG_8137 IMG_8137~Step 3.  Using a 2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, divide meat mixture into 28 portions, about 1 1/2-ounces each.  Using your hands, form into round balls, placing them, side-by-side in sauce -- do not push down on meatballs.  Cover crockpot and cook on high for 2-2 1/2 hours.

IMG_8151 IMG_8151 IMG_8156 IMG_8156 IMG_8156~Step 4.  After 2-2 1/2 hours, using a pair of tongs, remove meatballs to a platter, a bowl, or a casserole.  Cover and set aside.  Ladle the sauce into two 1-quart food storage bowls and set aside.  To this point, meatballs and sauce can be prepared several hours and up to two days in advance. Reheat and serve with cooked and drained steaming-hot pasta.

A thick rich full-flavored sauce w/tender, juicy meatballs.  

IMG_8177Can I interest you in a side-serving of garlic bread?

IMG_8282Slow-Cooker Italian-Style Gravy & Meatballs:  Recipe yields 28 meatballs and 2 quarts sauce.

Special Equipment List:  Crockpot casserole; large spoon; 2" ice-cream scoop; tongs; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94beaae970bCook's Note: There's no discernible difference between a crockpot-cooked meatloaf vs. an oven-baked meatloaf.  Meatloaf in the crockpot is not crock-our-world crocket science.  Home cooks have been using Betty Crocker's method for slow-cooking meatloaf for decades. That said, after purchasing my new Crockpot casserole, I decided to "think inside the box and dare to be square", and, my ~ Low & Slow-Cooked Crockpot-Casserole Meatloaf ~, which yields a generous 16-20 servings came out great!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)