Let us deviate from music and food for just a minute to talk about weather. Now, I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding the ideas of global warming and climate change right now, but given the weather patterns for eastern Pennsylvania this past week, I’m definitely a believer that something is up. Generally in eastern PA, winters are cold, we get snow (sometimes 30 inches in one shot like last year), and we’re all miserable and ready for spring by mid-February. So far, this winter has been fairly mild: not too cold, the occasional freezing rain episode, nothing too crazy. This past Wednesday, February 8, temperatures reached upwards of 60 degrees, which is practically unheard of. A friend and I walked in the park after school without coats, which was beautiful. By noon on Thursday, February 9…we had 6 inches of snow. Now, explain that one to me…..
Climate change aside, our snow day was called at 8:00 Wednesday night, which was the BEST phone call I’ve received in a while….teachers tend to get grumpy if it’s February and we haven’t had a snow day yet. Needless to say, it was WONDERFUL to be able to turn off my alarm and sleep until 10:00 on a Thursday. Hubster had to work from home on a big project, so I busied myself with making brunch: peanut butter stuffed French toast.
Super simple and delicious way to start the morning (recipe at the bottom).
I LOVE spending snow days in the kitchen, so after doing a little bit of work for my masters course, I got to baking and cooking. I had a little “Gal-entine’s Day” get together on Friday evening, so I set to making some sweet treats for my guests. I started with this adorable chocolate-pretzel bark. I found a picture of this on the Wilton website and sort of created my own recipe (below) based on the photos, since the link to the recipe was no good.
While the bark was chilling in the fridge, I fired up my oven and stand mixer for chocolate chip cookie bars (basically blondies). These were always a favorite of my brother and me growing up, and it wasn’t a family vacation without them. The recipe (below) is basically the Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe, but poured into a 13×9 pan instead of dropping onto a sheet pan as cookies. And instead of chocolate chips….Valentine M&Ms!
What’s a snow day without some warm, comforting soup? Somehow I’ve gotten in the habit of buying tomatoes and then never using them, so I found this the perfect excuse to make some homemade tomato soup, even though the recipe didn’t call for fresh tomatoes (link below). I’ve been buying the tomato trio from Wegmans, which includes red and yellow grape tomatoes and dark red cherry tomatoes:
This recipe started with bacon (so how bad could it really be?), followed by carrots, onions, garlic, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, dried thyme, a bay leaf, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, simmer for 30 minutes, hit it with the immersion blender, and VOILA: tomato soup. Finished with a little bit of cream and served with a nice grilled cheese sandwich, it was the perfect ending to a snow day.
Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast (for two)
- 4 slices sandwich bread (any kind, I used multigrain)
- creamy peanut butter
- 2 eggs
- splash of milk
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- dash of salt
- 1 tbsp butter
Spread peanut butter on all slices of bread (as much or as little as you like, I used about a tablespoon per slice). Top two slices with the other two slices to make sandwiches.
Mix eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Melt butter in a shallow pan or griddle. Dip sandwiches in egg mixture and place in pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes until browned. Remove from pan, top with powdered sugar or maple syrup and enjoy!
Valentine’s Chocolate Pretzel Bark
- 2 bags (24 ounces) Hershey’s special dark chocolate chips
- 1 bag (12 ounces) white chocolate chips
- mini pretzel twists
- Valentine’s sprinkles
Prepare a sheet pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper, large enough that it comes up the sides. Pour dark chocolate chips in a microwave-safe container. Melt in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until completely melted. Pour onto prepared cookie sheet and spread into even layer. Evenly distribute sprinkles, then press pretzels, spaced evenly, into melted chocolate. Melt white chocolate chips using same method as dark chocolate. Pour into a large zip-top bag either fitted with small-tip pastry bag attachment or with one corner slightly snipped. Pipe into center of pretzels, completely filling to look like hearts. Decorate with candy of choice. Chill for at least 1 hour, allow to come to room temperature, and cut into squares.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
- 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 bag (12 ounces) chocolate chips (or M&Ms)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Mix in dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips and mix well. Pour into ungreased 13×9 baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until batter starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.