Friday, April 17, 2009

Millionaire Shortbread Bars

For Kat's birthday last week, I made a batch of these caramel-y, chocolate-y cookie bars and brought them into the office. They were such a huge hit that I made a another batch for happy hour at a pub the next night. By the end of the evening, the whole box was demolished. They were rich, sticky, and crumbly - a perfect late night snack.

I found the recipe on the Joy of Baking website, but these are a classic recipe you can find in just about any cookbook.

Millionaire Shortbread Bars


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Caramel Filling:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate Topping:
6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon unsalted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Grease a 9 x 9 inch pan with butter or cooking spray.

In an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and beat until the dough just comes together. Press onto the bottom of your greased pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until pale golden in color. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the caramel.

Caramel Filling:
On the stove top: Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a heatproof bowl and place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cover and cook, over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 60 to 90 minutes or until the milk has thickened and has turned a caramel color. Remove from heat and beat until smooth.

Or in your microwave: Place the sweetened condensed milk in a large microwaveable bowl and cook on medium power for about 4 minutes, stirring halfway through. Reduce the powder to medium-low and continue to cook for another 8 to 12 minutes, or until the milk has thicken and has turned a light caramel color. Make sure to watch carefully and stir often - the sugar has a tendency to boil over and burn. Remove from microwave and beat until smooth.

Pour the caramel over the baked shortbread and let cool.

Chocolate Topping:
Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Pour the melted chocolate evenly over the caramel and let cool.

Cut the cookies into pieces (about 16 squares) using a sharp knife. Store any leftover shortbread in the refrigerator to keep the chocolate and caramel firm.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cafe Firenze

Cafe Firenze
(In the Mission Bell Plaza)
563 W Los Angeles Ave
Moorpark, CA 93021
(805) 532-0048

Kat and I got my Mom a gift card to Cafe Firenze for Christmas since she's a fan of the show Top Chef, and the restaurant is owned by Fabio, who came in 4th place on the most recent season. Fabio instantly became our favorite contestant on the show because he was a smartass and had a lot of personality. He had quite a few quotable lines on the show as he became our favorite. My Mom decided to use the gift card this past weekend and invited me to go with her for dinner. Yippee!

Once you're inside (or near) the restaurant, it thankfully doesn't feel like you're in Moorpark. I'm quite surprised they put someplace this nice in a strip mall near a Big Lots and El Pollo Loco, but that's also kind of cool, too. I've never been to any of the other Top Chefs' restaurants but I imagine most, if not all, of them are from big cities and trendy areas. One thing that annoyed me about the booth we sat at is the pillows on the seat. There were 3 pillows on each side, which we had to move out of the way. It's a nice decoration when you're looking at an empty table but really, they just get in the way when you're trying to sit comfortably.

The interior of the restaurant is really nice, although it's a little on the dark side. They have seating right in front of the open kitchen so you can watch the chefs cook if you want. Fabio was indeed there, so even if I wanted to harass him for a photograph, he was kinda busy throwing down braised rabbit and gnocchi. They have traditional Italian faire on the menu - pastas, pizzas, steaks, salads, etc. My Mom and I each have our favorite dishes, which are nowhere near exciting or adventurous - spaghetti and lasagna. I'm guessing Fabio might get bored cooking those, but both of them were absolutely delicious. I may even dare to say it's the best lasagna I've ever had.

Prices are average - a meal for two will probably run you in the neighborhood of $40, including tax and tip. I've read some bad reviews with regards to their service, but we didn't have any problems. But maybe that's because we were there early at 5PM to avoid the dinner crowd. At any rate, I really liked the food and the atmosphere and want to take Kat there when she comes back home!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jalapeno Pepper Spread

A new, yummy recipe to share. For those of you that like spicy food (like me!) substitute fresh jalapeno for the canned. I also substituted low- or non-fat cream cheese, and sour cream in place of the mayo. This tastes better after it sits in the fridge overnight and the flavors blend.

Jalapeno Pepper Spread


2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies, drained
2 ounces canned diced jalapeno peppers, drained
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Stir together cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in green chiles and jalapeno peppers. Pour mixture into a microwave safe serving dish, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Microwave on High until hot, about 3 minutes. If you would like to brown the cheese, bake at 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hill Street Cafe

Yesterday was my sister's birthday. In celebration, we went to this restaurant that my other sister works - Hill Street Cafe in La Canada. I was a little underwhelmed with this place, which is unfortunate because they had a lot potential.

Hill Street Cafe
1004 Foothill Blvd.
La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011
tel: (818) 952-1019

All of us got breakfast at Hill Street Cafe, and the food wasn't bad - it was just... uninspiring. The coffee was good, and the bread they serve is decent - but very sticky because of the sweet onions they put on it, which is not a huge plus for me. I prefer not-sticky bread.

I got my standby for a new breakfast place - two eggs over medium with corned beef hash. I know it's not all that creative, but it's a good dish to judge how well a place does other dishes. I asked for the hash browns and corned beef hash to be made crispy, but you wouldn't have known it from how my meal came out. My eggs were a bit watery, which I hate (and why I order them over medium instead of over easy), and they had butter all over them. And my hash browns and corned beef hash were not crispy. The flavors were fine, I was just rather disappointed in the execution.

My dad had Eggs Benedict which he said was ok, except that the hollandaise sauce was not very awe-inspiring. My stepmom had a "fruit" crepe that had bananas and canned peaches on it. My sister had a giant California omelet, which seems to be one of the things they do correctly. And my sister's boyfriend had a crazy spicy chorizo scramble that came with tortillas that were on their way out of life. Overall, we were extremely disappointed, even in the free dessert they brought for my sister. It was this apple cobbler type thing, only the cobbler layers were vanilla cake mix, basically raw.

On top of everything else, it was all pretty expensive. There were six of us eating breakfast and the bill was almost $100. Crazy.

They're supposed to have good lunch combos - soups and sandwiches and salads, etc. I don't know much about the restaurant in general, and I would be open to trying it again for lunch. But I highly doubt this place will ever be one of my favorites.

Good for:

- not entirely sure yet

Bad for:

- bang for your buck
- breakfast

Adriana'a overall rating: 4/10 (and 1 of those points is due to my sister working there)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Muddy Buddies

Okay, so the recipes for NYE didn't go as planned. The cheesecake came out alright, but not as spectacular as I envisioned, so I gave up on the cheese appetizers. Luckily, my hubby helped me make Muddy Buddies the night before. I can't believe how many people at the party had never experienced the joy of Muddy Buddies! They're super easy to make and addictive as hell - it's a good thing this recipe makes 9 cups of the stuff.


9 cups Chex® (any flavor; I did rice)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


Measure the cereal into a large bowl; set aside.

Microwave the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir until smooth. If needed, microwave about 30 seconds longer or until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated (and be careful to not break the cereal!).

Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag and add the powdered sugar. Seal the bag and shake until well coated. (I only had 1-gallon bags so I split the recipe up into 2 bags with 3/4 cup powdered sugar in each). Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.