January 27, 2016

Magic Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Brownies

5.3 oz semisweet (70%) baking chocolate
1/3 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup mini marshmallows
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350. Spray with baking spray or grease and flour one 8x8 inch baking pan. In a saucepan, melt the butter, cocoa and chocolate together over low heat. Stir occasionally, and when the chocolate is nearly melted, remove from heat. Whisk until smooth. Set aside. In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Slowly stream the chocolate mixture into the eggs and mix to combine. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is thick and glossy. Stir in the marshmallow and chocolate chips. Scrape the into prepared pan. Smooth until reaching all four corners of the pan and the top is flat. Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out  with one or two crumbs. Cool on a wire rack in the pan fully before serving.

My thoughts:
Well, as I write this it is nearly 6 PM on Tuesday and we are still waiting for the city to send a plow so we can leave our house for the first time since Friday. The good thing is that I had time to randomly bake brownies and watch all of Mr Robot and a good chunk of Gran Hotel. Priorities. Luckily today a friend nicely offered to meet Matt at the end of our street and take him grocery shopping. Dinner options after today were looking sort of grim and I know there is no way my produce box it making it here this week.

Anyway, this brings to me back to the brownies. I had all the ingredients I needed for regular brownies but decided to take it up a notch by adding brownies. The "magic" part is that the marshmallows completely melt into the batter (you might see some when you take them out of the oven but by the time they cool, they disappear) while providing a chewy, fudgy texture. Make sure you use semisweet chocolate and the brownies are surprisingly not too sweet despite the marshmallows. I had bought a stash of Divine Chocolate baking bars a while back and they break into small squares that melt really well, perfect for brownies! If your chocolate is in large pieces, break  it up before melting for best results, melting chocolate with cocoa can be tricky, you don't want the cocoa to scorch. However, I find that melting butter with the baking chocolate and some cocoa leads to the most chocolate-y brownies ever so it is worth the extra effort.

In short, if you like chocolate-y, chewy, fudgy, crackly topped brownies these are the ones for you!

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

January 25, 2016

Porcini Spinach Lasagna (aka Blizzard Lasagna)


1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
4 cups boiling water

for the sauce:
2 lb sweet Italian sausage (casing removed if necessary)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 big carrot, diced
2 28-oz canned petite diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup whole milk

for the filling:
1 lb ricotta
1 lb frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan
1 egg

5-6 sheets of fresh pan-length and width pasta*
extra shredded mozzerella for sprinkling


Cover the porcini mushrooms with 4 cups of boiling water in a heat-safe container. Allow to seep 1 hour. Strain out the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Finely chop the mushrooms, set aside. Strain the mushroom liquid through a damp-paper-towel lined strainer into a bowl (to remove any grit).

Preheat oven to 400.

For the sauce:
Brown the sausage in a large, heavy pot breaking up any large pieces. When nearly fully cooked, drain off as much fat as possible. Add the onion, garlic and carrot. Cook until the vegetables soften then add the wine and cook until mostly evaporated. Add the cup of milk and cook until mostly evaporated. Add the tomatoes, 2 cups of mushroom liquid, salt and pepper. Stir occasionally and simmer 3-4 hours. If the sauce begins to look dry, add small amounts of the reserved mushroom liquid.

For the filling:
Mix all ingredients listed plus the reserved mushrooms in a large bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch pan. Place a (uncooked, fresh) noodle on the bottom of the pan. Top with cheese mixture, add another noodle, top with sauce.

Continue in this pattern until the pan is full, ending with a layer of space. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover in foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake an additional 10 minutes or until heated through. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes before slicing.

Refrigerate leftovers. Remove leftovers from refrigerator 20 minutes prior to baking. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, covered in foil. Remove foil and bake 10-20 additional minutes or until cooked through.

*We bought these at our local Italian store where they cut them to the width of our pan (we cut the length at home using a pizza cutter). Alternately, use (cooked) dried pasta sheets or follow the instructions here to make your own fresh basil lasagna noodles. Slice any leftover fresh pasta into thinner noodles for another dish if desired.

My thoughts:
As you may have heard, Baltimore is under a ton of snow right now. As I type this now on Monday morning, the snow has been stopped since Saturday night but our street is still under nearly 30 inches of snow so we are not going anywhere anytime soon! Luckily, Matt came home early from work on Friday and stopped off at the local Italian store and brought home ingredients to make lasagna and yummy sandwiches. While he was in line, he noticed someone getting fresh lasagna noodles. It turns out they not only sell fresh lasagna noodles, they will cut them to fit your pan! We've been going there for about 10 years and never knew that. Well, that was better than the dried ones we planned on using so he picked some up too and for only about $1 more than the dried! Around lunch time on Saturday, he started the sauce and then we had the best lasagna ever for dinner! The sauce was full of sausage but surprisingly not heavy or overpowering and the filling was awesome. Lots of spinach and you could really taste the mushrooms. In fact there was so much spinach and mushrooms, I didn't even feel bad about not serving the salad I had planned.

Please excuse the picture, this is actually the reheated lasagna from the next day, Saturday's lasagna was a bit prettier but it was too dark to get a good picture (it was pretty dark on Sunday too). The downside to cooking in the winter. Anyway, if you find yourself snowed in or with a free day make this lasagna! You will not be disappointed.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

January 15, 2016

Turkey Apple Butter-Cheddar Sliders

1/2 cup Musselman's apple butter
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 lb good quality deli sliced turkey
1-pack Martin’s 12 Sliced Potato Rolls


In a large bowl, mix together the apple butter and cheddar until smooth with the paddle attachment of an electric mixer. Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate 1-2 hours or until well chilled.
Preheat oven to 350°. Evenly divide the turkey among each roll. Spread the apple butter mixture on top of each roll. Close. Wrap individually in foil and bake 10 minutes or until the spread has melted. Serve immediately or transport in a 6-quart slow cooker to share.

My thoughts:
I've been a Musselman's apple butter blogger for a while now and it has been fun developing recipes using their apple butter so when they approached me to develop and game-day-worthy recipe using Martin's potato rolls I thought it would be a neat opportunity. to make something different. I use Martin's rolls pretty much exclusively anyway (check out pretty much any slider or burger recipe on this blog and you will see a Martin's roll). Now we are not big sports fans ourselves but I know this is the time of year people are on a look out for recipes that are tasty, quick and easy to transport. I got the idea from these from a wedding we attended where they had foil-wrapped burgers in chaffing dishes ready for people to take home with them for a post-wedding snack. Now most people do not have chaffing dishes but most people have a slow cooker which can work in a similar way. I wanted to keep it simple and savory so I made a spread of Musselman's sweet-spicy apple butter and extra sharp cheddar, filled them with turkey (although I bet ham would be good too!), wrapped them in foil to melt the cheese and then transported them in a slow cooker. It isn't necessary to even turn on the slow cooker but if you are leaving them out over an hour or two, using the "keep warm" setting is advisable. The perfect make-and-take recipe for game day!

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

January 13, 2016

Instant Pot Hawaiian Kalua Pork (in banana leaf)

1 large banana leaf*
5 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder or butt (may need to cut in half to fit)
1/4 cup Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt
2 tablespoons mesquite liquid smoke
6 oz pineapple juice
6 oz water

Line the Instant Pot with the banana leaf, leaving enough hanging over the sides to cover the pork. Rub the pork thoroughly with the salt and liquid smoke. Add the pork to the Instant Pot. Pour in the juice and water. Cover with leaf. Secure the lid. Select High Pressure and set timer for 90 minutes. When finished, use a natural pressure release (this means you leave the lid on until the valve drops, about 10-20 minutes). Open the Instant Pot. Remove the pork and use forks or meat shredding claws to shred the pork. Serve or keep warm in the Instant Pot by removing the banana leaf, draining any juices and placing the meat into the insert, pressing the "keep warm" button.

*I buy these frozen at my regular supermarket. The most common brand is Goya. I defrost them overnight in the refrigerator before use. Save the remaining leaves for other recipes like my pork sticky rice.

If you would like to use a 6-quart slow cooker for this, follow the same instructions but cook for 8-10 hrs on low.

My thoughts:
Like pretty much everyone I've talked to in the last couple of months, I ordered an Instant Pot when Amazon had them on sale on Black Friday. I lucked out because I missed the flash sale but was able to snag an Amazon Warehouse deal for only $66! That said, it is well worth the current price as well because, unlike my stovetop pressure cooker, it is less scary to use and is a 7-in-1 machine! So far I have pressure cooked in it, sauteed and slow cooked but I can't want to make yogurt, Jiu Niang, beans, congee and grains in it. It was perfect for making kalua pork because it makes meat incredibly tender and moist (I wish I had a picture of the shredded meat for you, I will update when I make it again) and only took 90 minutes, which is on the long side for pressure cooking, to cook almost 6 lbs of pork!

I was making this for our New Year's Eve Hawaiian extravaganza and it was wonderful to have something that required virtually no hands-on time to serve with my mac salad while we were busy making drinks and watching Elvis. Not to mention, it was the juiciest pulled pork I think I have ever had! The pineapple juice added a bit of sweetness, but the banana leaf was the real star. It added an authentic earthy, herbal flavor which is hard to get without digging a pit in your backyard, starting a mesquite fire, and then lining the pit with hot rocks and banana leaves the way Kālua is made in Hawaii. A banana leaf-lined Instant Pot is the much easier alternative and quite flavorful!

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

January 11, 2016

Hawaiian-style Mac Salad

1 lb dry macaroni (jumbo macaroni if possible)
2 medium carrots, shredded (I used rainbow carrots)
1/4 Maui onion, grated
1-1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until 2 minutes or so past al dente, you want it soft. Meanwhile, whisk together the mayo, milk, salt and pepper until well combined. Set aside.

Drain the macaroni and allow to cool in a large bowl. Stir in the carrots and onion. Drizzle with dressing and stir to evenly mix all ingredients. Good right away or refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving.

My thoughts:
Longtime readers may remember that each New Year's Eve we have a theme night where we eat food, watch movies, drink, play games and music all focusing on that theme. For many years it was a different decade then we ran out of decades that had movies so we moved on to other themes. Last year was the Wild West and this year was Hawaii! So fun. Great movies, drinks and most of all, food! We made a ton of food to fit the theme and spread the party out over two days. We served this macaroni salad more than once and it was so good! Don't be put off by the amount of mayo, you really need it for that Hawaiian Mac Salad flavor. You also need to "overcook" the pasta a bit so it soaks up some of the dressing. We like it served with spam musubi, kalua pork.