I’ve had a very exciting weekend and am so glad that I can come share it with you. As it happens, everything in today’s post works well for families. I recently got an e-mail from Redbox letting me know that they’re having a game week. From now til Thursday (3/1), you can reserve a game online here and get the first night free. I can’t find anywhere that you have to keep the game out for more than one night, so it looks like you should be able to have a free game night. If you don’t have a gaming system, you might want a movie night. I just finished watching Dolphin Tale, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a family movie, so you don’t have to worry about anything inappropriate. (I’m fairly certain there’s not even a single cuss word in it.) I found it to be touching, inspiring, and heartwarming. There were some silly bits in it that kids would particularly enjoy, and it had a good message about family and working hard.
I’ve also been trying some family friendly, husband-approved foods lately. One thing I tried was this super easy egg sandwich from one of my favorite bloggers, Deb from Smitten Kitchen. One look at the gooey cheese coming out of the egg “crepe”, and I knew this would be the perfect breakfast for my husband. I’ve made it several times already. It couldn’t be easier, and my husband just gobbles it up.
I also created a new family favorite recipe: Almond Joy Brownies! This past weekend was our church’s chili/dessert cook-off, so I decided to create my own quick and easy brownie recipe for it. I knew that I wanted to make a brownie recipe since those are always popular, and I could use a boxed mix to cut down on costs, time, and # of ingredients. I was bouncing ideas off the hubby, and he suggested an almond joy brownie. Since almond joys are one of my favorite candy bars, I thought it was a great idea. The plate that I took to the fellowship was picked clean, so I’d say they were a hit. The oil/water/egg amounts I’m listing are what were called for on the box; feel free to adjust to your mix or use your own favorite brownie recipe.
Almond Joy Brownies
1 box of brownie mix ( I just picked a regular box calling for water, oil, and eggs; whatever was cheap.)
1/4 c. coconut milk subbed in for the 1/4 c. water called for on the box (to enhance the coconut flavor, though you could make it without)
2/3 c. vegetable oil
1 14 oz. can sweetened, condensed milk
1 14 oz. bag of sweetened, shredded coconut
1 5 oz. bag of sliced almonds
1. Preheat the oven to the temperature called for on the box of brownie mix (350 degrees for mine), and make the mix as directed on the box, subbing the coconut milk for the water. Pour half of the brownie batter in a lightly greased 13×9 in. pan.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut and the sweetened, condensed milk. Drop the coconut mix by spoonfuls over the brownie batter in the pan. When it’s all in the pan, use an offset spatula to smooth it out. Sprinkle the almonds on top of the coconut; top the almonds with the remaining brownie batter and smooth it out when done.
3. Cook for the recommended time, though you will probably have to cook it a little longer, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean of chocolate (it will be wet because of the coconut). The recommended time for my brownie mix was 26-30 min. I think I cooked min for 35 min.
The brownies stay nice and fudgy, and the coconut is a great moist center. Alternately, you could put the almonds on top of the 2nd layer of brownie batter, but then you’ll have to keep a closer eye on it to make sure they don’t burn.
For that same cook-off, my husband created his own chili that took a very close 2nd place. I’m kind of upset that his tasted so good, because we didn’t get to take home any leftovers (it was gone before half the people went through the line). He has graciously allowed me to share his recipe with y’all.
Smoky Maple-Sausage Chili (Award winning!)
1 lb. breakfast sausage
1 lb. 80/20 ground beef
1/2 lb. cooked, chopped, hickory-smoked bacon
1/2 onion, diced
2 diced jalapenos (He kept the seeds and ribs, but you could remove them for an even milder chili.)
1 14 oz. can beef broth
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes, pureed
1 15 oz. can drained black beans
1 15 o. can drained red beans (not kidney beans)
2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1. In a large skillet, brown and break up the breakfast sausage over med. heat. When it’s crisped and broken in small pieces, put it on a paper-towel lined plate and drain all but 1 tbsp. of the dripping. In the same pan (with the drippings), add the ground beef. Season it with salt and pepper, brown it, and break it up into small pieces.
2. While the beef is browning, start sweating the onion in the bottom of your soup pot over med. heat. When the onion starts to get soft, add the jalapenos. When both veggies are tender, add the broth. While the broth is heating, stir the pot to scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom. After deglazing, add the tomatoes, both types of beans, and the spices. Bring to a simmer.
3. Once the chili is simmering, add the sausage, beef, and bacon. Return to a simmer and let cook for 20-30 min. Before serving, taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. (We added a little bit more salt.)
This is a mild, thick chili that you can really adjust to your particular tastes. You could use a spicier sausage or a maple flavored one. You could use a maple bacon. Add more jalapenos or spices, or sweeten it with maple syrup. You could also use more broth if you prefer a soupier chili. We really liked it this way, but I definitely see a lot more possibilities for it.
The last part of today’s family favorites is the continuation of our movie and recipe series. This week’s movie was A Cinderella Story. (Watch a trailer for it here.) I think you can already guess the basic plot line, so I won’t rehash it for you. To me, this is a nice summery, high school movie. It’s fun to watch with good characters and a nice upbeat soundtrack. If you aren’t in high school, it might transport you back to that time, but I find it’s a nice way to relax and leave your worries for a bit. A couple of my favorite lines are: “I’m a very appealing person” and “Well, I hate to tell you this, dude, but I starred in Pirates of Penzance three summers in a row. Say hello to act two, scene one.” I really enjoy the ball scene (her outfit and entrance are truly fairy tale worthy) and the football game at the end.
Since the diner is a big part of the movie, I thought I’d put a spin on a favorite diner classic: pancakes. For breakfast this morning, I made us coconut pancakes. Now, I’m a HUGE fan of pancakes, and I love adding all sorts of toppings. I’ve made coconut pancakes before, but these were taken to another level. Instead of just adding coconut to the batter, I used coconut milk instead of regular milk. It really made a big difference in the taste. I’m not including a recipe, because this is just a tweak to be used with your favorite standby pancake recipe. I usually just make mine with Bisquick, and that’s what I did today. You could also toast the shredded coconut before adding it; I didn’t have time, but ours were still delicious. Since the coconut milk makes the batter pretty thick, you’ll probably need a splash of regular milk or cream just to loosen it up to the right consistency. I hope you enjoy these! Have a great night and spend some quality time with your family.