Brown Sugar Toffee Bars

You know those hard little nuggets of sugar you sometimes get in a bag of brown sugar?   Ya know what I do with them?  I eat them!!   Yup!  In fact whenever I open a new bag of brown sugar I look for them first, so I can give myself a little treat.  Around here I do all the cooking and baking so a girl’s got to reward herself once in a while.

Brown Sugar Toffee Bars

Brown Sugar Toffee Bars

Today I was wishing for something made with brown sugar so I came up with  this idea for brown sugar bars with toffee bits mixed in.  Thus….. Brown Sugar Toffee Bars.  These bars are so simple really, but they have flavors that are so outstanding.  Chewy, buttery, and rich.  They are deceptively delicious.

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The Leaning Tower of Toffee Bars 😀

If you’re not as nuts-o for dark brown sugar as I am then by all means use light brown sugar, you’ll get a somewhat milder flavor, and lighter colored bar.  All the other usual pals go into these bars like butter, eggs, vanilla, etc, but you’ll also need a bag of toffee bits.  I wanted to use the kind that are covered in milk chocolate but didn’t have any on hand.  Went to my grocery store but they didn’t have them so I used the plain toffee bits, and added about 1/2 cup chocolate chips.  You can use  the plain toffee bits, chocolate covered bits, or add chocolate chips as I did.  It’s totally up to you.

This is what I used.

This is what I used.

The batter mixes up quickly, stir in the toffee, spread in a baking pan and pop into the oven.  Before long your tummy will be thanking you in a big way.

Here’s what your bars will look like……

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BROWN SUGAR TOFFEE BARS

Yield:  Makes approximately 30 bars

All this good stuff goes into these fab bars.

All this good stuff goes into these fab bars.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter ( 2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 2  1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 (8oz)bag of Toffee Bits (Heath Toffee Bits, with or without chocolate covering)

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F.   Spray a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray.

2.  With an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together, about 2 minutes on medium speed until combined and fluffy…..

Cream together the brown sugar and butter.

Cream together the brown sugar and butter.

Add in eggs and vanilla and continue mixing until incorporated.

3.  Turn mixer to low speed and add in baking soda, salt and flour, mixing until incorporated.

4.  Pour in the toffee bits and stir until evenly combined…..

Add in all those yummy toffee bits and chocolate chips.

Add in all those yummy toffee bits and chocolate chips.

5.  Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden and center is just set.  Don’t over bake.

6.  Cool pan on wire rack and cut into squares when ready to serve.

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SOURCE:   A major adaptation of a recipe for Toffee Squares from Taste of Home Baking Book

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Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

I just love to roast pork at this time of year.  Probably because there are so many vegetables and fruits that pair well with it.  This meal was outstanding served with baked sweet potato wedges,  steamed broccoli, and apple sauce.

I got the recipe for the pork tenderloin recently from another blogger’s web site, one that I follow: RantingChef.com.  Please make an effort to visit his site.  I’m sure you will be pleased with some of the recipes you’ll find there.

What you do is cut a large tenderloin into 4 pieces.  Then wrap  (gift wrap :-)), the pieces in sliced bacon.  I Know!  A little bacon makes everything better, but lots of bacon makes it crazy good.  This is so easy to do.  Pour the marinade over it all, then you refrigerate it at least 2 hours, but I left mine for almost 24 hours—it only gets better–then throw it into the oven set for 300*F, and let it slow roast for 2 hours.  Your kitchen will smell so good, everyone will be asking “what’s cooking, what’s for dinner?”   Guys will definitely love this, but you ladies are going to think it’s pretty good, too.   Makes a great Sunday dinner!!

Is this beautiful, or what?

Is this beautiful, or what?

BACON WRAPPED PORK TENDERLOIN

Yield:  about 8 servings

Ingredients:IMG_5349

  • 3 – 4 pound boneless pork tenderloin
  • 1 pound package sliced bacon
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce,  Low sodium, preferred
  • 1 Tbsp. minced dried onion
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • dash pepper
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

Directions:

1.  Cut the tenderloin into 4 pieces.  Wrap each with bacon strips.  Place in a greased 9 x 13″ baking pan.

Wrap each piece of pork in bacon.

Wrap each piece of pork in bacon.

2.  Poke holes in the meat with a long-tined fork.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl or large measuring cup and whisk together until well blended.  Pour over the meat.  Refrigerate uncovered for 2 – 3 hours or as long as overnight.

Pour the marinade over the pork.

Pour the marinade over the pork.

3.  Bake at 300*F for about 2 hours, or until internal meat temperature reaches 145*.  For the last 5 minutes or so, turn on the broiler to crisp the bacon.

If you think it looks good, you NEED to taste it!

If you think it looks good, you NEED to taste it!

4.  Remove from the oven and let rest about 5 minutes.  Slice, and serve with pan juices.

That marinade penetrates the meat making it salty, sweet, smoky, dee-lish!

That marinade penetrates the meat making it salty, sweet, smoky, dee-lish!

SOURCE:  The Ranting of an Amateur Chef.com

Brown Butter White Chocolate Pretzel Blondies

Brown Butter Blondies with White Chocolate M & M’s and Pretzels

I do believe I’m becoming a convert to blondies.  I used to think they were sort of second-rate to “real” brownies.  But since early Spring when I first started writing this blog,  I’ve found three recipes for blondies, all of which appealed to me enough to want to make them.

I’ve been saving this recipe since late winter/early spring when it was featured for Easter using pastel colored M & M’s.  My thought at the time was that it could easily be adapted to any time of year just by changing the M & M’s.  So this past week, when I saw white chocolate M & M’s on display for Halloween I grabbed them and thought “now is the time to try that recipe”.

These squares are so easy and quick to make– mixed by hand, no need to get out your mixer–and so pretty to serve with the colorful M & M’s.  They taste a little salty from the pretzels, have crunch from the  pretzels and candy, and the browned butter provides a nutty background flavor to all of it.   My only concern about these bars is related to the salt content.  Unsalted butter is not specified but I would recommend it, since the pretzels add salt and the recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  If you use salted butter, cut back the added salt to 1/4 teaspoon, since browning the butter adds to its saltiness.

BROWN BUTTER WHITE CHOCOLATE PRETZEL BLONDIES

SERVINGS:   24 squares

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, browned and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup pretzels, crushed
  • 1 cup white chocolate M & M’s ( or white chocolate chips)

Browned Butter

1.  Begin by browning your butter.  Use a light colored pan rather than one with a dark interior, so you can see the color change in the butter.  Allow the butter to melt over low heat,  once melted raise heat to medium and let butter cook, watching it all the while for a color change to golden brown.  This can take from 2-3 minutes, but it will happen quickly.  Remove from the heat at that point, otherwise it will burn.  Allow to cool.

2.  Crush the pretzels:  Place in a zip-lock bag and crush with a rolling pin or meat mallet.  They will be a variety of sizes. Break some of the larger pieces with your hands.  Large pretzel pieces will make it difficult to cut the squares, but you don’t want them to be all crumbs either.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 13″ x 9″ pan with foil, and spray the foil with non-stick spray.

4.  In a medium bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients.

5.  In a large bowl, mix butter with brown sugar, stirring until all the sugar is saturated with the butter.  Add eggs and vanilla, stir to combine well.

6.  Fold in dry ingredients using a spatula.  Don’t overmix.

7.  Add in pretzels and white chocolate M & M’s and stir to distribute.

8.  Transfer to prepared pan and bake for 22-25 minutes.  The top will be shiny and somewhat crackled.  A toothpick should test clean.  Remove from oven and cool on rack.

Ready for the Oven.

Out of the Oven.

     

SOURCE:   Cook’s Illustrated New Best Recipes

Meat Marinades and Rubs

If you really want to spice up your barbecue  you could put on a limbo competition or dance the salsa, but a more conventional way is to use a meat marinade or spice rub.  Many backyard chefs are relying on these mixtures to tenderize and give an infusion of flavor to meats.

There are a multitude of premade marinades and rubs on the market from the classic to the exotic; each one promising to add an  explosion of flavor to an otherwise ho-hum piece of meat.  In my exploration of these products I have found that many of them contain a variety of additives that I’m not keen about eating such as high fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, xanthan gum (whatever that is) and potassium sorbate as a preservative. No thanks, I’ll make my own.

Marinades consist of acids, oils, and aromatics or flavorings.  It’s that simple. But when you have  the wrong proportion of acid to oil you can turn a beautiful steak into a gray, tough, flavorless, expensive embarrassment.  Acids such as vinegars, wines, fruit juices, yogurt, buttermilk, and even fresh ginger break down the collagen on the surface of meats and can denature the proteins, thus damaging the protein’s structure.  Meats,  i.e. proteins,  especially delicate ones like fish and chicken, left in a marinade too long can be totally ruined.  The proteins break down to the point where they lose moisture and structure and become dry and mushy.

So what does it take to make a good marinade?    The general rule is to use a light touch with strong acids such as vinegar or lemon juice, using no more than one part acid to four parts oil.  It’s the oil that carries the flavor anyway.

A tougher cut of meat can tolerate a longer marinating time using this proportion of acid to oil.  A tender cut of meat may not need any acid at all; just a little oil and some aromatics for flavoring.  In fact recent studies concluded that marinades do not tenderize meat as once thought.

So even though marinades aren’t used for tenderizing, they do help to add flavor and moisture.  However for most meats the marinade will generally only soak in about 1/8″ to 1/4″ deep.  The acids soften the exterior of the meat, allowing the oil to penetrate.  The denser the meat, with more connective tissue, the less the marinade will penetrate, so these meats can take a longer marinating time.  Meats in a marinade with oil and very little acid can remain overnight in the refrigerator.  A sure sign that red meat has marinated too long in a too-acidic marinade is a gray exterior.  For chicken or pork the exterior will turn white.

Another way to infuse BBQ with flavor is with dry rubs, a combination of spices, herbs, salt and sugar that creates a flavorful crust, something marinades do not.  A rub is not really rubbed into the meat but rather patted on rather heavily.  When a rub is applied, the browning of the proteins and sugars in the meat create a toasted, roasted, grilled flavor.  The sugar in the rub also creates caramelization.  Larger cuts of meat and especially slow-roasted meats can tolerate being left marinating with a dry rub over night in the refrigerator.  Tender cuts such as steaks, kabobs, and chicken breasts will like a light sprinkling of dry rub before grilling to provide a quick flavor boost.

The combinations of seasonings in a rub can be  tailored to your own particular taste preferences, or to a specific ethnic cuisine.  Mix up the herbs and spices representative of Cajun, Indian, Greek, Italian or Mexican cuisine, and add some brown sugar and salt to the mix.  Start with a few proven rub recipes, then add or subtract ingredients until you get the mix you like.  Now you’ve created your own….    In tomorrow’s post I will be presenting a pork recipe that features a rub that I put together.  Stay tuned!

Hopefully  this post has not been too technical,  but has perhaps answered some questions for you or cleared up some misunderstandings.  Periodically I would like to include posts such as this one seeking to take an in depth look at specific products or methods of food preparation.  Having spent quite a few years of my professional life as a teacher, I frequently say, “once a teacher, always a teacher”, but I do not want to come across too strongly in that regard.   From time to time, I would like to present a post like this as I continue to seek the niche that will satisfy more readers.  However, If this is not the type of post you would like to read, please let me know.  Thanks so much for your comments and input.

Happy Grilling and Barbecuing , and Happy rest of summer!