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Two-plus years after Tony’s son left home to work and snowboard in Vail, Colo., we’re finally reconnecting. Tony closed the sushi bar last Saturday for a four-day trip to Denver and Vail to ski and catch up with our 21-year-old. In photos Nico looks thin and fit. On the phone he sounds mature. As I write this, pre-trip, we can’t wait to see him.
My newsletter will be short this week, to give myself time to pack and round up chocolate Easter bunnies to take to Nico. If I have an extra half hour or so, I’ll make some Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Crunch Brownies, too.
The brownie recipe is compliments of Erin Johnson, a contestant in the Lauren Braman Memorial Chili Cook-Off I judged a couple of weeks ago at Copley High School. Erin won the dessert category with the crunchy layered brownies. She found the recipe in Taste of Home magazine, she said.
While Erin’s chili didn’t take home a ribbon, I gave it high points for originality and flavor. It is actually a creamy soup made with jalapenos and chicken. She based it on a recipe for Jalapeno Popper Chili from the Internet, but changed it so thoroughly that it is her own recipe now.
PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP CRUNCH BROWNIES
• 1 cup butter, softened
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 eggs
• 1/2 cup cocoa powder
• 1 1/2 cups flour
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme
• 1 cup creamy peanut butter
• 2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
• 3 cups crisp rice cereal
In a large bowl, mix cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture until blended. Spread into a greased 9- by-13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 24 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool in pan on a wire rack.
Spread marshmallow creme over cooled brownies. In a small saucepan, melt peanut butter and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from the heat; stir in cereal. Spread over top. Refrigerate until set. Cut into bars. Makes about 3 dozen.
Note: Brownies may be made from a box mix, Erin says, and the recipe continued from the marshmallow crème.
CREAMY JALAPENO CHICKEN CHILI
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 6 canned jalapeno pepper slices, diced (leave some seeds for extra heat)
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• Salt, fresh-ground black pepper
• 1 1/4 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
• 2 teaspoons chili powder
• Pinch of crushed red pepper
• 1 can (10 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chilies
• 1 1/2 cups milk
• 1 can (14 oz.) cannelloni or navy beans, drained
• 1 can (14 oz.) corn, drained
• 8 oz. cream cheese
In a large saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion, jalapeno, and garlic until tender. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then add to the saucepan along with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in chili powder and crushed red pepper. Lightly brown chicken on all sides.
Stir in can of diced tomatoes, milk, corn, and beans and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Add more milk if too thick. Ladle into bowls.
I am on board to try the Cuban baked cornmeal pudding — what a great gluten-free dessert! But since I don’t have a bottle of dark rum in the liquor cabinet and don’t drink rum so don’t want to buy a whole bottle, can I substitute some kind of rum flavoring, do you think?
Dear Pam: Sure. In fact, I used diluted white rum (the kind sold for cooking). You could substitute a teaspoon of rum flavoring for the tablespoon of dark rum in the recipe, with no big change in flavor.
From Cheryl P.:
I was looking for a way to use up some oatmeal before it went bad and I came upon a delicious recipe. This one is from a 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine, called “Baked Oatmeal.” I added some chopped cinnamon almonds and used dried cranberries instead of raisins. It’s almost a cross between a cake and a shortbread. Very delicious, especially on these cold mornings! Leftovers can be heated in the oven or microwave.
This is another great gluten-free recipe. Thanks for sharing.
• 3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
• 1 cup raisins
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 3/4 tsp. salt
• 1/2 cup applesauce
• 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/4 cup oil
• 2 eggs
Combine oats, raisins, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk applesauce with yogurt, milk, oil and eggs. Stir into oat mixture. Pour into a greased pan. (The original recipes says to use an 8-by-8-inch pan but we like it a little crunchy so I use a 9-by-11 or 11-by-7-inch pan. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. You can also bake it right away but decrease time to about 40 minutes. Serve with brown sugar sprinkled over top.
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