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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

12/07/2017

~ Over-the-Top Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies ~

IMG_1287Amongst the foodie cravings I get, chocolate isn't in my top ten.  That said, I confess to a weakness for Reese's peanut butter cups and Snickers bars.  There's just something about the combination of mellow milk chocolate and salty peanuts or peanut butter that I find hard to resist. I love it enough to keep a bag of mini-Reese's cups and a bag of snack-sized peanut-butter Snickers bars in my freezer.  A bite-sized nibble of either one and I am a happy woman. 

0100bdaf-ad5f-4856-acc3-190309dea9b9Two things transpired this week:  I replenished my supply of mini-Reese's cups via Amazon. My candy delivery prompted me to get on the internet and search "Reese's peanut butter cup cookies".  I wanted to see if I could find something other than the original Peanut Butter Cup Cookies that I've made in the past, courtesy of Betty Crocker (pictured here).  I found several on the Hershey corporation's site -- a company website is a good place to start when looking to cook or bake using one of their products.  When I was finished perusing Hershey's recipes, I noticed three or four sites touting a recipe for Over-the-Top-Peanut-Butter-Cookies.  When the blogging community is giving accolades for a common recipe, and more importantly, crediting the source, that's a recipe I'm inclined to try.

The recipe originated at a blog called Real Mom Kitchen.  As Laura explains in her post:  in Utah there is a cookie shop by the name of Over the Top Cookies. Instead of mixing specialty ingredients, like unique candy pieces, into their cookie dough, they scatter them over the tops of the cookies (hence the name of their shop).  What Laura shared was her copycat recipe for their Peanut Butter Cup Collision Cookies -- a peanut butter cookie with peanut butter cups on top.

I wish this recipe had been around when my kids were young.

Besides adding my signature step-by-step photos and detailed instructions, the changes I made to Laura's recipe, while small, are worth noting:  I made the cookies smaller by using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop instead of a 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop (which Laura did not specify in her recipe).  My recipe yields 3 dozen, 3"-round cookies.  Laura's yields 18 larger cookies.  I did this for no other reason than a big cookie is too much richness in one sitting for me.  I chose to use crunchy peanut butter too -- a preference of mine.  To insure that all of my cookies baked up identically, I chose to chill each pan of cookie dough for exactly 15 minutes, as well as keep the chopped Reese's cups chilled too, prior to baking -- a technique I highly recommend to you.

IMG_11753/4  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1  cup sugar

1  cup light brown sugar

1  cup Jiff extra-crunchy peanut butter

2  large eggs, at room temperature

1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 1/4  teaspoons baking soda

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2  cups milk chocolate chips

45  mini-Reeses peanut butter cups

IMG_1177~ Step 1.  While the butter and eggs are coming to room temperature, unwrap, then chill the peanut butter cups for about an hour.  Once they are cold, which makes them easier to cut, slice each one into four pieces, placing the pieces in a  bowl as you work.  Place the bowl of chilled peanut butter cup pieces back in the refrigerator and keep them chilled for the entirety of the the mixing, and parts of the baking process, meaning:  remove them from the refrigerator on an as-needed basis as you bake.

IMG_1181 IMG_1181~Step 2.  In a large bowl, on medium-high speed of electric mixer, place and thoroughly combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, eggs and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula, about 1 minute.

IMG_1187 IMG_1187 IMG_1187 IMG_1187~Step 3.  Remove the mixer.  Add the flour, baking soda and salt.  Using the rubber spatula, thoroughly fold in the the flour -- this will take a minute or two.  A thick, uniformly colored cookie dough will have formed.  Add and fold the milk chocolate chips into the cookie dough.

IMG_1200 IMG_1200 IMG_1200 IMG_1200~Step 4.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place 12 rounded-scoops of cookie dough, well-apart on each of 3, 17 1/2" x 11 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper (12 cookies on each pan).  Using the palm of your hand, slightly flatten the tops of the cookies.  When all cookies are on the pans and all the cookies are slightly flattened:

IMG_1221 IMG_1221 IMG_1221 IMG_1221 IMG_1234~Step 5.  Work one-pan-at-a-time, meaning:  Chill a pan of cookies in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. When first pan comes of out of refrigerator, place the second pan in. When the second pan comes out, place the third pan in.  When each pan comes out of refrigerator:  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven for 10 minutes -- cookies will be very soft but puffed through to their centers.  Remove from oven and lightly press 5 pieces of chilled and chopped Reese's cups into the top of each cookie.  Return to oven and bake an additional 3 1/2-4 minutes.  Cookies will be slightly brown around the edges.  Cool cookies, on pans, about 5 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

Cool on pans 5 minutes.  Cool completely on wire rack.

IMG_1250Cooled Reese's will firm-up-slightly but remain pleasantly soft.

IMG_1262Milk chocolate and peanut butter nirvana:

IMG_1313Over-the-Top Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies:  Recipe yields 3 dozen, 3"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; thin spatula; wire cooling rack.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb094ab501970d-800wiCook's Note:  To make candy out of milk chocolate and peanut butter, I can't say enough about the recipe I was given by my friend and pastry chef from Ohio:  ~ Confection Perfection:  Theresa's Buckeye Candies ~.  There are a lot of recipes for these famous candies out there, but, they all pale in comparison to hers.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

12/05/2017

~ My Favorite Big Salad: A Hoagie Chef Sans Bread ~

IMG_1147Let's discuss it over a salad at lunch.  There's no counting how many times I've said those words. One thing is for certain, I said them and I meant them, because: a classically-made chef salad is my favorite item to order on a lunch menu.  Let's be clear -- I don't diet and don't believe in dieting unless it's for real-deal medical reasons.  Eating real and well, anything I want, in moderation + avoiding the drive-thru, has always worked for me.  My opinion of trend-setting self-imposed diets is one you don't want to hear -- you can't handle the truth.  That said, after Thanksgiving and prior to Christmas, I'm ready to eat a few less carbohydrates, so, I eat a few more salads.  It's easy for me to do -- I love salad, and, they do not necessarily have to be fancy-schmancy.  I made the one in the photo this morning.  I'll eat half for lunch and half for dinner. That said, it's harder than one might think to serve me a salad that'll thrill me, and I'm talking about restaurant salads.  

Dear restaurant chef:  Take the salads you serve seriously.

IMG_1146If you bring me a salad with brown-tinged or wet lettuce, or, so help me, hard-cooked eggs with horrid green rings around the yolks, it's going to be sent back to you -- as many times as it takes for your kitchen to get it right.  If I request extra onion and tomato, they'd better be there in force -- piled high for me to sit up and take notice (I am happy to pay extra for extras I ask for).  If I ask for all turkey and no ham, or vice versa, and I find a chard of either, I will know someone picked through a previously-constructed salad and served it to me.  I always ask for my dressing to the side, and, if you do not comply, there's a very good chance I will leave a tip but refuse to pay for your shoddy salad.  And, always remember:  We eat with our eyes first.  Salad is no exception and when mine arrives at the table, you should want it to bring a giant smile to my face.

Make me a great chef's salad:  I'll be loyal to you forever.

IMG_1152Truly I will.  I am of the opinion that:  If a restaurant kitchen can't pull off a proper salad, there's little hope for the rest of their menu.  I don't mind croutons occasionally -- as long as they're made fresh in your kitchen -- if they aren't, leave them out.  Trust me, no one likes cardboard croutons. I don't mind, under the right circumstances, your using deli-meat -- as long they're of high-quality and my salad isn't your reason to use up the "sticky stuff" that's too old to put on sandwiches -- one touch of my fingertip and I will know.  That said, if it's chicken, steak or shrimp you're peddling, it needs to be perfectly-cooked and freshly-cooked -- tender, moist and at the proper temperature -- if it's been previously-cooked and refrigerated, don't serve it to me.   While I would prefer your dressing be made in house, even I have some store-bought favorites in my own refrigerator, so, you get a pass for that -- unless it comes in those horribly silly packets.  Sigh.

Even if it arrives via delivery to me:  Make my dang day.

IMG_1169Yours truly, Your local salad snob.

IMG_1123 IMG_1123 IMG_1123 IMG_1123 IMG_1123 IMG_1123 IMG_1123Iceberg lettuce leaves, diced sweet onion and seedless cucumber, Campari tomato and hard-cooked egg wedges, plus, super-thin-sliced deli- American cheese, turkey breast, deluxe ham and hard salami were used in the construction of this fantastic salad.  The dressing is courtesy of Wish-Bone Lite Italian.

IMG_1155My Favorite Big Salad:  A hoagie Chef Sans Bread:  Recipe yields instructions to construct one classic chef-type salad.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1, 9"-round, shallow, rimmed soup-type or untrimmed pasta-type bowl; 1 condiment dish (coupelle)

IMG_2190Cook's Note:  ~ The Maurice Chef Salad ~ was the #1 selling item in the history of all the Marshall Field's Michigan restaurants.  Composed a bit differently than today's chef salad, this one is indeed: All about the scratch-made Maurice salad dressing -- lemony, laced with sweet pickles and mayonnaise-based.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

12/02/2017

~ Easy Kentucky Hot Brown-Style Naan Snack Pizza ~

IMG_1106I made open-faced Kentucky hot brown sandwiches with some of my leftover Thanksgiving turkey this year.  One thing led to the next:  Kentucky hot brown macaroni and cheese.  Now, today: Kentucky hot brown naan pizza.  Admittedly, I get carried away sometimes.  Hey!  What's a gal with some high-quality, super-yummy leftovers supposed to do?  I learned something too:  My family will eat hot browns any way I can think of to prepare them.  It was a very tasty week.

IMG_0929The Kentucky hot brown, invented in 1926 by Fred K. Schmidt at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, unlike many other famous sandwiches, was no accident.  It was created, from some carefully-selected, well-thought out ingredients, to please his late-night crowd (as an alternative to the ham and eggs on toast meal that was already on his late-night menu).  It was a sort-of spin-off of the British Welsh rarebit and Scotch woodcock (a fondue-like cheese sauce "on toast").

When Mr. Schmidt created his sandwich, roasted and sliced turkey was a rarity, as turkey was usually reserved for holiday feasts -- at the time, turkeys were only sold during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season and had just become available to restaurants all year long.  What he came up with was: an open-faced sandwich consisting of oven-roasted sliced turkey on white or brioche bread, covered in Mornay (Gruyère cheese) sauce and a few pimentos or tomato slices plus a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  It goes under the boiler for a few short minutes, until the bread is toasted around the edges and the sauce is bubbly and beginning to brown. Served hot out of the broiler, crisply-fried bacon strips and a parsley garnish go on just before serving.

IMG_1004In the traditional style of the Kentucky hot brown, I didn't alter the way the hot brown mac and cheese got layered and broiled. Mornay sauce, rich with milk, Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses are a fantastic, alfredo-esque sauce for pasta.  That said, my choice to use tubular penne, instead of stranded fettuccini, was no accident.  The sauce flowed into the tubes of this fork-friendly pasta dish -- an integral part of keeping with a typical mac-and-cheese-inspired theme.

Stonefire naan -- It's always on hand in my kitchen.

61d8ed69be506b2fab64fc072c87c0e1I remember when Naan flatbreads first appeared in our market -- original and garlic flavor.  I remember it as being early in the 1980's.  I was well-familiar with naan, as friend and neighbor, an Indian gal, made it almost every day.  My three boys adored it, and, when Stonefire naan showed up in our grocery store, it was they who begged me to buy it.  The leap to making naan pizza as a snack for them was an easy one (they each topped their own personal pizza), and, over the years, it saved me a lot of money on pizza delivery.  

Stonefire naan is baked in a tandoor oven at high heat creating the signature bubbles and smoky flavor found in traditional naan.  Stonefire bakery is a family-owned business of over 40 years. Their flatbreads are made with traditional ingredients and baking methods, containing no synthetic dyes, artificial preservatives, trans fat or hydrogenated oils.

One 7 1/2"-8" free-form naan = a great personal pizza crust:

IMG_1065Slather 6-8 tablespoons Mornay sauce over the top:

IMG_1070Arrange 1/2 cup roasted turkey or poached chicken over sauce:

IMG_1073Sprinkle 1/2 cup grated gruyère cheese over all:

IMG_1079Top with 3-4 sliced grape tomatoes (or pimientos):

IMG_1084A sprinkling of parmigiano-reggiano:

IMG_1088One slice of crisply-fried bacon bits are nice:

IMG_1094Bake in 375° oven, until bubbly & brown, 6-8 minutes: 

IMG_1096Naan:  Never underestimate the power of snack pizza!

IMG_1117Easy Kentucky  Hot-Brown-Style Naan Snack Pizza:  Recipe yields instructions to assemble and bake one personal-sized naan pizza.

Special Equipment List:  spoon; cutting board; chef's knife;  hand-held box grater; microplane grater; pizza peel (optional)

IMG_8081Cook's Note:  From biryani to vindaloo, whenever I cook Indian fare, I can't, in good conscience, serve it without flatbread.  My Indian girlfriends have all explained to me the integral role their many varieties of flatbread (and crepes) play in their very diverse Indian culture and cuisine.  Every Indian cook knows how to make their traditional breads, and, they serve one or more types every day with almost every meal.   ~ Flatbread in a Hurry?  Easy No-Yeast Indian Naan ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

11/30/2017

~ Spin Off: My Kentucky Hot Brown Mac and Cheese ~

IMG_0988When it comes to television, we all know what a spin-off is.  A favorite character or two breaks from the original show to start another show with no change to their name or relationship to the original show.  Maude was a spin-off of All in the Family, Rhoda a spin-off of Mary Tyler Moore, and, Better Call Saul a spin-off of Breaking Bad.  Under the right well-thought-through circumstances, spin-offs can be a resounding successes.  The concept is the same for recipes.

I love it when this happens, and, in the case of today's recipe, my turning a decadent open-faced turkey sandwich recipe into a luscious macaroni and cheese meal, the chances of it not being resoundingly successful were minimal.  I only needed to eat a real-deal Kentucky hot brown once to realize that by swapping some cooked pasta for the bread, a terrific pasta entrée would be born.  That one change to this traditional Derby Day favorite meal had me off to the races.  

Another changeable option would be to use cheddar cheese sauce in place of the Mornay sauce. It's acceptable, but the dish needs to be renamed: Pittsburgh's Devonshire-Style Mac and Cheese.  Why?  The Devonshire, which originated at the English-atmosphered Stratford Club in 1934, was a spin-off of Kentucky's hot brown and was topped with  cheddar cheese sauce.

If you've got Mornay (Gruyère and Parmesan) Cheese Sauce:

IMG_1004Oven-broiled skillet macaroni and cheese is moments away.  

IMG_0929The Kentucky hot brown, invented in 1926 by Fred K. Schmidt at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, unlike many other famous sandwiches, was no accident.  It was created, from some carefully-selected, well-thought out ingredients, to please his late-night crowd (as an alternative to the ham and eggs on toast meal that was already on his late-night menu).  It was a sort-of spin-off of the British Welsh rarebit and Scotch woodcock (a fondue-like cheese sauce "on toast").

When Mr. Schmidt created his sandwich, roasted and sliced turkey was a rarity, as turkey was usually reserved for holiday feasts -- at the time, turkeys were only sold during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season and had just become available to restaurants all year long.  What he came up with was: an open-faced sandwich consisting of oven-roasted sliced turkey on white or brioche bread, covered in Mornay (Gruyère cheese) sauce and a few pimentos or tomato slices plus a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  It goes under the boiler for a few short minutes, until the bread is toasted around the edges and the sauce is bubbly and beginning to brown. Served hot out of the broiler, crisply-fried bacon strips and a parsley garnish go on just before serving.

In the traditional style of the Kentucky hot brown, I'm not even altering the way the dish is layered and broiled.  Mornay sauce, rich with milk, Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses makes a fantastic, alfredo-esque sauce for pasta.  That said, my choice to use tubular penne, instead of stranded fettuccini, is no accident.  The sauce flows freely into the tubes of this is fork-friendly pasta dish, which is an integral part in keeping with a typical macaroni-and-cheese-inspired theme.

Get out your favorite 8" oven-safe skillet:

IMG_0959Place 2 cups cooked & well-drained penne in the bottom:

IMG_0960Top w/6-ounces pulled roasted turkey or poached chicken:

IMG_0967Drizzle 3/4-1 cup warm Mornay sauce over the top:

IMG_0973Six sliced grape tomatoes (or some pimientos) are nice:

IMG_0976Sprinkle w/2 teaspoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano:

IMG_09816" under the broiler for 6-8 minutes it goes, lightly-browned & bubbly it emerges, add some bacon bits & a parsley garnish:

IMG_0982It's not deja vu, it's hot brown meal number two!

IMG_1035Spin Off:  My Kentucky Hot Brown Mac and Cheese:  Recipe yields instructions to construct and broil one hot and hearty main-dish macaroni and cheese dinner.

Special Equipment List:  appropriately-sized saucepan; colander; cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; 8" oven-proof skillet

IMG_3032Cook's Note:  How many versions of macaroni and cheese are there? I'm guessing about as many recipes as there are cooks out there, and, if they're anything like me, all of us have several versions in our repertoire.  ~ My Stovetop Green Chile Chicken Mac & Cheese ~, which gets made and served out of the the same pot it is cooked in, uses a cheese sauce made with Monterey Jack w/Jalapeño Cheese.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)