Author Archives: Chris

My long time passion for food and nutrition lead me to Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, where I develop recipes for major magazines and online resources. I follow food trends and translate them into everyday recipes for busy families. While I put taste first, healthy options are always top of mind. I’m a mother of triplets, so my specialty includes simple, nutritious recipes.

How to Make Easy Lemon Bars with Sweetened Condensed Milk

Written by : Chris

easy lemon bars image 1 400

Freshen up spring celebrations with these simple, sweet and vibrant lemon bars! Lemon bars are a classic American dessert composed of a shortbread crust topped with a simple, tangy lemon filling.

We’ve simplified the traditional recipe by using sweetened condensed milk. So once you make the crust, all you need to do is whisk together egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, fresh lemon juice and lemon peel. It couldn’t be easier!

Here’s the recipe for Easy Lemon Bars:

easy lemon bars image 2 400

Ingredients for 20 bars:

Directions:

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Line 8-inch-square baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

BEAT butter, powdered sugar and salt in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour on low speed just until combined (mixture will be crumbly). Press dough onto bottom of prepared pan.

BAKE for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden.

WHISK together egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and lemon peel until smooth. Pour over crust. Bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

REFRIGERATE for 2 hours or until firm. Using foil overhang, lift onto a work surface; cut into 20 bars. Dust with additional powdered sugar before serving. Squares will hold, covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

easy lemon bars image 3 400

A few tips:
If you make the bars in advance, don’t dust with powdered sugar. Only do this right before serving.

To produce really clean slices, place the baking pan with lemon bars in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting. Wipe the knife between cuts. If desired, trim away edges (I didn’t trim all the edges on the photo above, but I did freeze them).

For serving, place bars in individual paper cupcake liners. This way guests can easily help themselves and you don’t need to worry about dessert plates.

Happy spring!

All trademarks are owned by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A., Vevey, Switzerland.

Related Recipes:

Lemon Spring Tart Ginger Bites with Zesty Lemon Sorbet
Lemon Spring Tart
Ginger Bites with Zesty
Lemon Sorbet

Stout Brownies for St. Patrick’s Day

Written by: Chris

Brownies 1

Beer in a brownie may seem unconventional, but the malt actually adds depth by intensifying the chocolate flavor. Stout and other dark beers are often described as having chocolate and coffee overtones, so this combination may not be too far-fetched. 

These brownies couldn’t be any easier to make. In fact, most of the ingredients you likely have on hand. And with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, you might even have stout!

Speaking of stout, if you want a more intensely flavored chocolate brownie, you can boil the stout to concentrate the flavors. To do this, place the stout (1/2 cup total) in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until reduced by half. Allow it to cool a bit before adding to the chocolate mixture. I’ve made the brownies this way as well as straight from the bottle and loved both. You really don’t taste the stout in the brownies – it just intensifies the chocolate flavor and makes them a bit more fudge-like.

Here’s a look at the ingredients.

Brownies 2

Easy Dark Chocolate Stout Brownies

Ingredients needed for 16 brownies:

  • 1 2/3 cups (10-ounce package) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Dark Chocolate Morsels, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup stout beer
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:

Brownies 3

PREHEAT oven to 325° F. Line an 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan with foil leaving a 2-inch overhang. If you like thick brownies use an 8-inch pan.

Brownies 4

MELT 1 cup morsels and butter in large, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) power for 1 minute; stir until smooth.

Brownies 5

STIR in granulated sugar, beer, vanilla extract and salt with a whisk or wooden spoon. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition.

Brownies 6

STIR in flour.

Brownies 7

FOLD in remaining 2/3 cup morsels. Spread into prepared baking pan.

brownies 8

BAKE for 38 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan; cut into bars. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

brownie final baked

Now if you are really pressed for time and want to try your hand with beer and brownies, you can use your favorite box mix brownie and replace the water with stout beer. I’d also recommend stirring in a half cup of NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Dark Chocolate Morsels into the batter.

All trademarks are owned by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A., Vevey, Switzerland.

Related Recipes:

Oven Irish Stew   Lucky You Mint Pie  
Oven Irish Stew
“Lucky You” Mint Pie

A Unique Use for Apple Juice

Written by: Chris

Every now and again I come across a recipe or creative way to use an ingredient that really gets me thinking – like infusing chocolate with herbs. Infusing chocolate isn’t new, but it certainly was when I created this  Chocolate Rosemary Tart nearly 10 years ago.  The flavors are pretty adventurous, so the recipe can be a hit or a miss (especially if you introduce it before the trend really takes off!).

So how about adding apple juice to savory recipes? I’ve added it to quinoa, chicken, salmon, and even beef empanadas. But I’ve never thought of adding it to tacos. So when this Tacos to Go recipe came through for testing, I couldn’t wait to dive in. Would it taste like apple? Would it be too sweet? What benefit could there be?

Tacos To Go Recipe

Apple juice is added to the skillet with lean ground turkey and cooked until the apple juice is nearly gone. The turkey takes on just a hint of sweetness, which complements the turkey perfectly. The apple juice adds moisture too, making it great for leftovers. So to answer my questions above, it’s not too sweet and it doesn’t taste like apple. The real benefits I see are the delicate flavor and the ability to keep the lean turkey moist.

For a delicious weeknight meal, simply serve in tortillas with assorted toppings. Or, take it on the go! For those of us who struggle with school lunches (that would be me), this is a wonderful solution!

Baked taco shell cups really hold up well in lunch boxes and kids absolutely love them. All you need to do is cut circles out of your tortillas, press into a muffin tin and bake. To keep the turkey filling hot, it’s best to preheat your thermos. Simply fill your thermos with piping hot water, put on the lid and seal it. Empty the thermos after letting it sit for several minutes, and then fill with the taco filling. Place all of the toppings in sealed containers with an ice pack. Easy peasy.

Here’s a look at the ingredients. I like to add a clove of finely chopped garlic when cooking the turkey, but this is completely optional.

Tacos To Go

Ingredients for 6 servings (2 taco cups per serving):

TACO FILLING

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon MAGGI Granulated Chicken Flavor Bouillon
  • 1 cup Apple NESTLÉ® JUICY JUICE® 100% Juice

TACO SHELLS

  • 6 (8-inch) soft taco-size whole wheat flour tortillas
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Toppings of your choice: chopped tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa

Directions:
FOR TACO FILLING:
HEAT oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add turkey and bouillon; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes or until no longer pink.

POUR apple juice over turkey. Increase heat to high; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook for 10 minutes until almost all of the juice is absorbed.

FOR TACO SHELLS:
PREHEAT oven to 400° F.

CUT tortillas into twelve 4-inch circles using a cookie cutter or the top of a glass. You will cut 2 circles out of each tortilla.

SPRAY a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Press tortilla circles into each cup.

BAKE for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden and crispy.

FILL taco shells with taco filling and your choice of toppings.

Short cut: instead of baking the taco shell, cut rounds out of a tortilla and serve like a soft taco.

Now it’s your turn. What unique uses for ingredients have you come across?

JUICY JUICE® is a registered trademark of Société des Produits Nestlé S.A., Vevey, Switzerland. 

Related Recipes:

Juicy Juice Apple Pork Chops Mixed Greens with Apple Vinaigrette
Juicy Juice Apple
Pork Chops
Mixed Greens with Apple
Vinaigrette

Game Day Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Written by Chris -

chicken tacos 1

Do you like to host game day parties? Regardless of who is playing, game day is a great excuse to try new recipes! And we have a new one for you that’s made in a slow cooker, packs a little heat and serves a crowd. Plus, it’s versatile! Think tacos, wraps and nachos. I’ve made these Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos a number of times so I can tell you, they’re tried and true and sure to become a favorite!

From start to finish, you need to give yourself about 5 hours before you plan to serve it. No pre-cooking or browning is required. Just add the chicken, onion, garlic, fresh jalapeños, bouillon and tomato sauce to the slow cooker. Cook for approximately 4 hours or until tender. Shred the chicken, add a can of black beans and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes. The recipe serves 5, but you can double the ingredients if your slow cooker can handle the volume.  Then you can serve a crowd, or have plenty of leftovers.

To make it easier on you, set up a self-serve station for your guests. Next to the slow cooker, set out plates, napkins and utensils and toppings (like shredded lettuce, fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeños, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, guacamole and lime wedges). Offer tortillas for tacos or wraps and baked tortilla chips for nachos.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients.

ingredients 2

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN TACOS

Ingredients for 5 servings (2 tacos each):

  • 1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon MAGGI® Granulated Chicken Flavor Bouillon OR 1 tablet MAGGI® Chicken Flavor Bouillon, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • Toppings of your choice: cilantro, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole

DIRECTIONS:

slow cooker ingredients 3

PLACE chicken in 5-quart slow cooker. Add onion, garlic, jalapeños, bouillon mixture and tomato sauce.

slow cooker ingredients 4

STIR to combine; cover.  Cook on low setting for 4 hours or until chicken is tender.

slow cooker cooked 5

SHRED with a fork.

slow cooker add beans 5

STIR in black beans. Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

slow cooker with beans 5

So easy! This is what it looks like when done.

chicken tacos final 6

SERVE warm in corn tortillas with toppings of your choice.

chicken tacos final 7

Or…make nachos.

Shredded Chicken Wrap

Or…make a wrap!

For more Game Day recipe ideas, check out meals.com.

MAGGI® is a registered trademark of Société des Produits Nestlé S.A., Vevey, Switzerland.

Related Recipes:

Tequila Citrus Wings BBQ Beef Sandwiches
Tequila Citrus Chicken Wings
Barbecued Beef Sandwiches

We Love Potlucks!

Written by Chris -

Potlucks

I absolutely love potlucks! There is nothing better than getting together to share favorite recipes and celebrate good family, friends and food. It seems like every month there is a work function, school activity or gathering of friends that revolves around a buffet style meal, and I love it!

Here are some tips and ideas to help with your next potluck:

Feeding a Crowd
One of the biggest questions when cooking for a potluck is, “How much do I make?” Try to take an estimated headcount and plan accordingly, but you don’t need to make full portions for each person. Remember, there are always many options and dishes at potlucks! Typically, count on having enough food for 8-15 small servings, depending on the dish.

Making the Perfect Dish
When choosing a main dish to share, think simplicity and portability. Focus on recipes that combine common ingredients into one dish or pot so that it’s recognizable, easy to serve and will please even the picky eaters. Casserole and crock pot recipes are great ways to combine flavorful ingredients into one transportable meal – just make sure the dish is cooked prior to transporting.

Keep Cool with Appetizers
One concern with potlucks is keeping food warm. You can avoid the hassle by bringing a dish that can sit at room temperature. Salads, vegetable and fruit dishes, and dips are great contributions to the buffet line!

Don’t Forget Dessert
Potlucks are a great time to try out a new cookie, brownie or other decadent recipe. Dessert recipes are often easy to multiply or divide to accommodate any amount of guests, and are an added bonus to the end of the meal.

Find Your Go-To Dish
There is nothing wrong with bringing the same crowd-pleasing dish to multiple potlucks. Find a couple fool-proof dishes that you can rotate throughout the year. Having your go-to meals will reduce the amount of time and planning spent on your end.

Tips and Etiquette
Serving: Be sure to bring the appropriate serving ware for your dish so people can easily fill their plate and move on to the next yummy treat.

Portions: Everything on the table looks amazing! Don’t let your eyes fill up your plate! Be sure to take small portions of the dishes you like, and pass on others.

Thank the host: Always thank the host or coordinator of the evening before leaving. For an added touch, bring a small gift as a special way to show your appreciation.

Recipe Ideas
Looking for a new recipe to wow the crowd? Check out some of our favorite potluck dishes!
Baked Potato Casserole
Cheesy Macaroni and Cheese
Creamy Chicken and Rice Bake
Spinach and Fresh Fruit Salad
Slow Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip
Italian Antipasta Cold Salad
Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

What’s in Your Drawer? Top 10 Kitchen Tools & Gadgets

Written by Chris

Kitchen Gadgets

Whether you are setting up your very first kitchen or have mastered the art of cooking, certain tools and gadgets are essential.

  1. You don’t necessarily need a big block of knives.  But I’d recommend having a good sharp Chef’s and a bread knife at minimum.
  2. Every kitchen needs a cutting board whether it be wood (I like Boos brand) or plastic.
  3. A digital instant-read thermometer that can be used for checking doneness of meat and poultry, as well as for use with deep frying and candy making, is essential.
  4. I love my microplane zester, this is another must.  You can add instant flavor with a little grated citrus or even spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.).
  5. To measure the correct amount of flour or cheese or to make sure that pieces of meat, poultry, and fish are the specified size, use a food scale.
  6. Kitchen shears are perfect for cutting small amounts of herbs, chopping canned tomatoes directly in the can and trimming fat from meat and skin from poultry. When pinched for time, I even cut my kids cooked meat with kitchen shears. It’s much faster than using a knife.
  7. Stainless steel measuring cups are used for measuring ingredients like flour, sugar, grains and cereals.  Liquid glass measuring cups, sized from 1 cup to 4 cups, used for measuring wet ingredients. Both are must haves. As are measuring spoons. These items ensure that your recipes come out just right. Use them for your baking recipes, at minimum.
  8. Whisks in assorted sizes are ideal for beating eggs and egg whites, blending salad dressings, and dissolving solids in liquids. They are available both in stainless steel and nylon; the nylon ones won’t harm nonstick surfaces. I’d recommend having both.
  9. A peeler removes the skin from both vegetables and fruits. It’s also handy for making chocolate curls!
  10. A cookie scoop makes the most uniform cookies every single time. You can also use it to make melon balls.

What kitchen tool or gadget are you most passionate about?

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