Sunday, March 10, 2013

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I didn't think it was possible, but chocolate chip cookie bars just got even more amazing!! These are very similar to the chocolate chip brownie bars I have been making for years, but a layer of salted caramel in the middle makes this new version absolutely ingenious. This recipe was recommended to me by my co-op manager Linda, who I worked closely with when I lived in New Jersey last year. She is an excellent baker and chef so we frequently talked about food and swapped recipes. I have been dying to try these bars and finally made them this weekend on my trip home. I can't take all the credit because my sister and I baked them together, so she did half the work. Thankfully we made plenty to go around so everyone was rewarded!

See that caramel? Yeah. Exactly. These cookie bars are nothing short of heaven, and so irresistible that I literally just ran upstairs and ate the last one because I couldn't stand to look at the pictures anymore. Do yourself a favor and make yourself a batch of these ASAP. They're easy and perfect for sharing! Or not.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod)
Makes: 24 bars  Prep: 15 minutes  Total: 50 minutes

2 1/8 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips
10 ounce caramel candies
3 tbs heavy cream
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Melt butter and place in a large bowl. Add sugars, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture and combine. Mix in chocolate chips.
Place the unwrapped caramel candies and heavy cream in a small microwaveable bowl and melt in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until the candy and cream make a smooth caramel.
Press half of the cookie dough into a greased baking dish. Pour the caramel mixture on top of the dough and spread evenly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Press the remaining dough on top of the caramel and cover caramel completely. Top with sea salt.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the brownies are slightly golden.

Broccoli Cheddar Ale Sausage Soup

Sometimes life gets in the way of doing the things you love; case in point – this blog. It’s been a busy past few months and I have been kicking myself to update but time got the better of me. Since I last posted I celebrated the holidays at home with family, did a week of training in New Jersey and started my new job in Rhode Island. I’ve also taken trips to DC, Montreal and upstate NY in between! I am still living in Boston while working my second co-op for Johnson & Johnson. I love where I work and what I do, but long days and a two-hour daily commute kill my free time and my cooking has definitely taken a toll. Recently however, I have developed a habit of cooking all day Sunday to prepare food for the week. I’ve still done a lot of cooking in the past few months but haven’t taken the time to showcase them here, so today I am grabbing life by the whisk! I’m hoping this post will give me some motivation to keep up my creativity in the kitchen and continue doing what I love. :)

All right, so this soup has a funny name but I don’t know what else to call it. Sometimes I get these weird food ideas in my head that I have to see through. Almost every time the results are surprisingly good, but this one…. This one was fantastic! I had a craving for three different types of soup and decided to make a three-in-one, mouthwatering masterpiece. A hybrid of classic broccoli cheddar soup with cheddar ale, PLUS Italian sausage, is sure to cure all your comfort food cravings. Good for the soul, not so good for the body…

Broccoli Cheddar Ale Sausage Soup
Makes: 6-8 servings  Prep: 40 minutes  Total: 1 hour

1 lb sweet Italian sausage meat
6 cups broccoli, chopped
3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup Parmesan
1 ½ cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 cup ale
1 onion, diced
2 cups baby carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 ½ tbs Worcestershire sauce
3 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry sausage meat in a large skillet for 6-8 minutes, breaking it up and stirring occasionally until the meat is completely cooked through. Drain grease and set aside. (I bought the meat uncased, but you can also buy the sausage links and remove meat from the casing by hand.)
Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pot on medium heat. Add flour and whisk, stirring constantly for several minutes until the mixture creates a thick roux. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add broth, milk and ale and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes.
Next, add the broccoli and carrots and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and transfer the soup to a food processor. Blend for 3 seconds at a time two or three times, just enough to break up the vegetables but do not over-blend.
Place the soup back into the pot and add sausage and cheeses. Mix well and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cheese is melted and completely incorporated. Cool and serve.
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