Saturday, November 17, 2012

Spiced Chai Cookie Bars

Gooey, warm, baked mac and cheese; chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles; Mom's delicious meatloaf; homemade giant cinnamon rolls or caramel rolls; spicy, chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside molasses cookies; DQ's chocolate malt.  All of these things epitomize to me what all-American, genuine comfort food is. Food that evokes fond childhood memories.  Food that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and food that takes you back in time to when the most important thing in life is what color eye shadow to wear or if you should tell your best friend that you experienced your first kiss that left you totally breathless and feeling like you could simply just die.

Well, there's one more thing to add to that list that makes me feel so content and satisfied that I couldn't care less if that load of laundry gets folded right now.  Chai tea. That exotic Indian spiced tea that you'd swear has some kind of drug in it because it is so devinely delicious and completely addicting. I absolutely adore this stuff and over the last couple of years there has been an explosion of desserts, pies, cakes and cookies that all have Chai tea as the main component.


These bars are no exception, and I must say that they are just as addicting as Chai itself.  They are incredibly simple to make and are delicious both with the icing and without...your choice, but I made these with.  What the heck, I'm gonna blow the diet anyway the minute they hit my mouth whether they're frosted or not, so I may as well do it up right and add the frosting.  Now don't say I didn't warn you...they're addicting and I challenge you to even try and eat just one!

Spiced Chai Cookie Bars

2 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

2 Tbs instant Chai tea powder

1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or grease bottom only of a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  In small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In large bowl, beat butter on high until creamy.  Beat in sugars.  Gradually beat in eggs and vanilla into sugar mixture until combined.  In low speed, beat in dry ingredients until combined.

Spoon half of the batter into pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the filling on top.  Drop the rest of the batter by teaspoons on top of the cinnamon filling mixture.  Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown or until toothpick inserted comes clean.  Let cool for an hour.  Drizzle the glaze over the bars.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Apologies and Mom's Sausage Gravy

Firstly, my sincere apologies for such a long absence with no blog posts; I know it doesn't speak well of me when such a long period of time lapses with no word at all, especially when beginning a brand new blog.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way at some of the most inopportune times.  In any case, I'm back now, and I promise to do my best to keep you informed and up to date on a regular basis.  

The recipe I've chosen for today is incredibly simple to make, and has been a staple around our house since I was a teenager...but first let me give you a little background information.  

When I was 14, my parents packed all five of us kids up and moved us to Nashville, TN...Dad had gotten a cushy new job as Food & Beverage Director at (sadly, the now defunct) Opryland USA, and Mom was going to be working at the Grand Ole Opry ticket office. Anyway, we were all in store for some major culture shock, and that included our taste buds.  All of a sudden, we were slammed right and left with an explosion of new tastes and flavors, as well as new methods of cooking and new ways to cook old dishes.

Early on, my Mom learned how to make Sausage gravy to serve over mind you, she had been making milk gravy with her pork chops for years, and I HATED that, so I didn't hold out much hope that I was going to like this new sausage gravy stuff.  But, as with everything Mom or Dad cooked, if it was brought to the table, we HAD to at least try it.  Then if we didn't like it, we didn't have to eat it, but we wouldn't get anything else to eat either.

So on this particular Sunday after church, Mom decided to try the new recipe for sausage gravy that one of her new friends had taught her to make.  So she stirred and whisked, fried up sausage, made the biscuits, and it all came to the table piping hot and looking, much to my surprise, not bad at all.  And when I tasted it, oh my, what an explosion of flavor!  I LOVED it, as did all my brothers and my sister.  So, here it is, Mom's recipe for Sausage Gravy, and I hope you love it as much as we do!

Mom’s Sausage Gravy

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Ready In: 30 Minutes
Servings: 8

1 pound ground pork sausage
3 tablespoons bacon grease*
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste

1.         Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Set aside, leaving the drippings in the skillet.
2.         Mix bacon grease into the sausage drippings. Reduce heat to medium, combine with flour, and stir constantly until mixture just turns golden brown.
3.         Gradually whisk milk into skillet. When the mixture is smooth, thickened, and begins to bubble, return the sausage to skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes.

*Although you may be tempted to substitute oil, butter or margarine for the bacon drippings, please don't do that.  Bacon grease is a must have for this recipe to successfully replicate that of true Southern sausage gravy.  Just try the bacon grease the first time, then, if you must use one of the other fats next time. I guarantee you'll go back to the bacon grease in short order!