Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Brownie Babe (Fingers crossed)

While in search of the best brownie recipe that I can win the coveted Brownie Babe of the Month apron, I stumbled upon an interesting recipe. The recipe was posted on the Pillsbury Bake-Off website and it was the scrumptious bar/cookie. The base of the bar was a chocolate chip cookie with granola bars mixed in, then this caramel popcorn/marshmallow topping. As I read over this recipe a most brilliant idea captivated my brain---what if I use a brownie for the base instead of the chocolate chip cookie. That brilliant idea is the brownie you see before you! I give to you my Caramel Popcorn Brownie!

I was a little hesitant when first starting this recipe because I didn't know how well brownies would go with granola I did a little taste test. I took a chunk of the granola bar and scooped up some brownie mix and OH MY GOSH!!! It was amazing, the brownie mix didn't have nuts, so the granola gave it that nutty taste, but also added a surprising yet subtle crunch to the brownies! By the way I also ventured out and tried Pillsbury's ready to bake refrigerated brownie mix and can I just say, that when you're in a pinch to meet your Brownie Babe deadline, these brownies are awesome.

Ok, after the brownie mixture bakes for a little bit you start getting into the fun part - the ooey gooey topping! After the brownies have baked you'll add your mini marshmallows, and since I L-O-V-E marshmallows I just dumped a bunch on top of the brownies until I saw no more brownie :) You'll want to put your brownies back into the oven to melt/puff the marshmallows. This was one of the more difficult steps for me, because warm gooey marshmallows scream my name and I had to use all of my will power not to just eat the whole tray of brownies w/ marshmallows right then and there!

The second component to the ooey gooey topping is the "caramel" popcorn. The funniest part about this is that it's not really caramel, it's peanut butter chips...imagine that! While I was melting down my PB chips, corn syrup and butter I started popping my microwave popcorn. But, since I was so enthralled with the "caramel" mixture I accidentally burnt my first bag of popcorn, good thing I had back up. Another side note, the original recipe uses microwave butter popcorn, but I'm a huge addict for Kettle Corn so I thought that would go much better in my brownie creation. I'm pretty sure you could use whatever flavor of popcorn you like.

Once the "caramel" mixture had melted I dumped in the popcorn and stirred it all up, occasionally taking chucks of popcorn out and putting it into my mouth (well maybe not occasionally, but that's beside the point). This mixture then got dumped on top of the marshmallows. While I let that cool, I melted down some chocolate chips and drizzled that over the entire brownie pan. Then into the refrigerator to go nite-nite!

I don't even know how to explain to you the first bite of this magnificent, perfectly scrumptious, sweet yet salty, gooey but crunchy brownie!!!!! I literally had to force myself to quite cutting pieces out of the pan at 6:30 this morning as I was preparing to take my brownies to work. You know how it its, when your cutting up your brownies and putting them out on the serving dish, but chucks of them will fall of as your making the transfer. Those chucks always seem to find a first class ticket right into my brownie craving mouth!! And should there be no chunks of brownies falling off, then I'm forced to take desperate measures and make my own damn brownie chucks...I JUST CAN"T HELP IT!! It's like a disease that takes over my mouth, brain and body--The dreaded "Stuffing face with Brownie disease", which is very, very hazardous to your health!

When I got to work with my precious little brownies I must admit I was a little nervous that people might not like them, but after the plate had only been on the table for ten minutes and I had two co-workers come and express their overwhelming love for my brownies I knew I had conquered the challenge! I went home with not one single, piece, crumb or kernel of my brownies, which is always a good sign! I invite you to give this recipe a try, because it is the BOMB, and I'm praying that this will be my token to the apron I've been dying to achieve!!

Caramel Popcorn Brownies
1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated brownie mix
4 Nature Valley® oats 'n honey crunchy granola bars (2 pouches from 8.9-oz box), crushed*

3 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 bag (10 oz) peanut butter chips
1 bag (3.5 oz) Pop•Secret® butter-flavor microwave popcorn, popped (I used Kettle corn)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


1 . Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, mix brownie batter and crushed granola bars. Press evenly in bottom of ungreased 8x8-inch pan to form crust. Bake 23 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out almost clean.
2 . Remove from oven. Immediately sprinkle with marshmallows. Return to oven; bake 1 to 2 minutes longer or until marshmallows begin to puff. (Brownies should be fully cooked at this point)
3 . In 3-quart saucepan, heat corn syrup, butter and peanut butter chips over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in popcorn (mixture will be thick). Spoon over marshmallows; spread evenly to just barely cover marshmallows. Cool 30 minutes.
4 . In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips on High 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring once halfway through microwaving. Pour melted chocolate into quart-size resealable food-storage plastic bag. Cut off tiny bottom corner of bag; drizzle chocolate over bars. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Cut and serve!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Peachy Keen

This is an ode to my late Granny who made the best peach cobbler I have ever had. There's something about having hot peach cobbler that Granny made by hand, pouring everyone once of her heart, love and soul into a dessert that was to be shared amongst the family. My Granny was a wonderful woman who lost her battle two years ago with lung and brain cancer. I often find myself remembering the warm embraces, which lasted forever because Granny would never let me go, the unique laugh that would fill the room and of course the infamous "my word" remark to anything that Granny found unbelievable. As much as it hurts to have lost her, I know she is in a better place and free of pain, which is the most important thing.
And although this recipe isn't the exact recipe of my Granny, it is very much in remembrance of her. I found a "quick" version of peach cobbler that actually uses cake mix for the batter. The recipe can be found on the Betty Crocker website. I was shocked at how well the cake batter worked for this recipe. I was worried at first that the cobbler would be too cakey, but it actually had the doughy consistency of a traditional cobbler, not to mention the intense butter flavor (my favorite part) of cobbler. The steps to making this are basically the same as cobbler, you melt the butter in the baking dish, pour down the batter, place peaches on top, then add pecans.
I took this cobbler/cake to work and it was half way gone by the middle of the day. Bringing the rest of the cake home proved to be lethal because all I keep doing is picking at the darn thing even though I know I don't really need to eat anymore of it :0) But hey, dessert is my weakness...if it's in front of me I'll eat it! And this one is definitely worth eating.
Some tips: as you know I always try to make a "healthier" version of my recipes so for this one I used canned peaches in LITE syrup which cut the calories by half, I also used Blue Bonnet reduced calorie butter which worked out very nicely still lending the butter taste, but with less calories.