Finally some time to play in the kitchen.
It's perfect weather for baking now. Most of the day it was cloudy and barely 50º. A bit chillier than I would like considering various sports are still going on, but great for baking and heating up the kitchen.
The Apples: We simply melted caramels from a package for these. Not only am I candy-phobic (a fear and a jinx that I do hope to overcome some day), but using caramels from a package and melting them in a microwave meant that DS could do it almost completely be himself. The boys decided on sprinkles for their apples and DH and I chose a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate. We don't quite have the technique down - most of the caramel ran off. I tried to dip them again, but that made the caramel come off even more. Not sure how to correct that - will have to do some research. I also hope to master caramel some day - I'd much prefer a caramel made with butter rather than one made with partially hydrogenated soy oil. Yuck.
The Brownies: For my next attempt at the perfect brownie, I went back to an old recipe that I thought was pretty good. I took Cook's Illustrated's Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies and tweaked it a little. When I first made them as written, I felt they had a good texture, but were not chocolatey enough. The next time, I added 1 ounce of chocolate, along with 1 tablespoon of butter - not huge changes because I wanted to get the right flavor by adding as little fat as was absolutely necessary. This produced a better-tasting brownie, but it still wasn't quite there. With today's attempt, I added the 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate and 1 additional tablespoon of cocoa, but I skipped the added butter. Not only would I like to keep the fat down, but it's simply convenient to use one stick of butter. Update: It is the next day and I like these brownies even better. They have a very nice chocolate flavor, are a little fudgy in the center but a bit chewy on the edges and they cut easily, holding together very well. I have had very little luck with brownies holding together well, so I am very pleased. Ideally I'd like a slightly chewier brownie, but this recipe is a winner. I may play around with using more unsweetened chocolate versus bittersweet and increase the sugar to see if I can get a chewier brownie. Stay tuned!
The Salad: Over the summer we became quite fond of grilled chicken salads. As soon as the weather turns a bit warm, we gravitate toward the grill. Grilled chicken salads are healthy, easy and very versatile, not to mention tasty. One of our favorites is a Mexican Chicken Salad. I don't really have a recipe, just a list of ingredients. Along with the grilled chicken and obligatory greens, we add black beans, grilled corn, red bell pepper, shredded cheese, avocado, scallions (or red onion) and crushed tortilla chips. I put the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips on the side, since they don't tend to fare well for very long if we have leftovers. For the dressing, I mixed together salsa, ranch dressing, a bit of lime juice and a pinch of ground chipotle powder. Running this mixture through the blender will produce a nice, more evenly textured dressing, which I prefer to a chunky dressing. That's it! You may notice in the picture that the greens look like spinach. It is spinach. I prefer Romaine lettuce for this salad, but apparently I forgot to get some at the store, so spinach it was.
That's it for today. I hope to get more baking accomplished tomorrow and perhaps some candied apples too.