Salted Caramel Butter Bars

My church small group ate these fresh out of the oven. Which means we scooped hot plops of caramel dough onto our plates and burned our tongues. No one seemed to mind. But I will admit that these bars set up so nicely once cooled—they were so so so good the next day. So good.

For the Crust:
1 lb. salted butter room temp
1 cup sugar
1½ cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs vanilla
4 cups flour

For the Filling:
1 bag (14 oz.) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped
1/3 cup milk or cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 T. coarse sea salt (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 325.
2) To make the crust: in a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.
3) Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown approx 20 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes. Put remaining dough in fridge to cool.
4) While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the cream. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth. Pour the caramel filling over the crust. If you are going to salt the caramel sprinkle it on caramel layer now.
5) Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 25 – 30 minutes. Let cool before cutting into squares.

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

This was a great recipe for our family. I don’t think Simon has really eaten anything I’ve cooked for weeks. He threw a colossal fit before dinner, but I talked him down with a promise of cereal if he ate three bites and still didn’t like it. No need. He ate his whole piece and asked for seconds too. A totally unsolicited review: “Mommy, this is really good meatloaf. Thank you for making it. If you make it again sometime, I will eat it.” Success! (Jason and Ian went for seconds too, and we polished off the whole loaf.)

The recipe is from What’s Cookin, Chicago? and is a riff on, well, Chicken Parmesan.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chicken (ground turkey can be substituted)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1–2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup pasta sauce (homemade or store bought)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • minced parsley for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a loaf pan with cooking spray, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. To not over handle the mixture otherwise it will get tough. Place the mixture in the greased loaf pan and form into a loaf. Top the meatloaf with pasta sauce.
  3. Place filled loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 40–45 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and sprinkle the top with the remaining shredded cheese. Place the meatloaf back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted.
  4. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow to rest for 5–10 minutes before serving/slicing. Garnish with parsley if desired.

* To make ahead/freezer meal – Prepare the meatloaf mixture as directed and place in a disposable loaf pan. Cover and freeze. When ready to prepare and serve, defrost the meatloaf completely and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Top with pasta sauce and place filled loaf pan on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 40–45 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and sprinkle the top with the remaining shredded cheese. Place the meatloaf back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow to rest for 5–10 minutes before serving/slicing. Garnish with parsley if desired.

 

Pizza Stuffed Pretzels

These are kind of a cross between a calzone and a stromboli — in a fun shape and mini-size (though one pretzel is pretty filling). I’m guessing you could use a store-bought dough, but the dough was really easy to make and we liked the taste a lot. The whole process was quick and easy (and all the more so, I imagine, if you make it ahead of time as a freezer meal), and the results were tasty.
recipe adapted from What’s Cookin’, Chicago?
Pizza Dough:
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package quick-rising yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2/3 cup hot water (120-130°F)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Other ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 -2 cups whatever combination of pizza toppings you like (e.g., pepperoni slices, browned hamburger or sausage, chopped vegetables)
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup marinara or pasta sauce (homemade or store bought)

To make the dough:

  1. Combine flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. Combine hot water and oil in a measuring cup. With the stand mixer is running, gradually pour in enough of the hot liquid until the mixture forms a sticky ball. The dough should be quite soft. If it seems dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons warm water; if too sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour. Continue mixing until the dough forms a ball, then process for 1 minute to knead.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Coat a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place it, sprayed-side down, over the dough. Let the dough rest for 10 to 20 minutes.
To assemble the pretzels:

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Divide the prepared pizza dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each out into a rectangle. Scatter the cheese and other pizza toppings (not the sauce) over the dough.
  3. Brush the one of the long sides with a little egg wash then, starting with the opposite side, roll the dough up into a log, enclosing the toppings inside. Shape the log into a pretzel and transfer to a baking sheet.
  4. Brush the top of the pizza pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. While the pizza pretzel is baking, place a medium pot over medium-high heat to heat up marinara or pasta sauce, until warm. Serve the pizza pretzel with the marinara/pasta sauce dipper alongside.
 * To make ahead/freezer meal – Prepare the pretzels as directed above and do not bake. Instead, wrap prepared pretzels in plastic wrap and foil. Place in a freezer bag and freeze. When ready to prepare, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place frozen stuffed pretzel on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. No need to defrost pretzel before baking.