Vanilla Wafer Bar

In my last post, I mentioned cutting the sugar habit and looking for things that are not over-the-top sweet, and these bars are the exact opposite of that.  But, for me, they were filled with nostalgia.  I’m not sure if this happened with other people’s grandparents, but I associate the vanilla (or strawberry or chocolate) wafers so strongly with my mom’s parents.  I think they must have always had them around when I was growing up.  So, when I saw a bar that called for them in the Minnesota Catholic Daughter Cookbook, it looked intriguing enough to try.

When cutting them up, I decided to cut along the lines of the vanilla wafers.  Had I waited and let them saturate a little bit more, I think I could have cut however I wanted to the next day.

Vanilla Wafer Bars

Vanilla Wafer Bars

1 pkg vanilla wafers
1 c graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c coconut flakes
1/2 c butter
1/2 c milk

Bring crumbs, brown sugar, coconut flakes, butter, milk to a boil.  While this is cooling, line the pan with vanilla wafers.  Pour filling on wafers, then top with whole wafers.  Frost with powdered sugar frosting.


Spicy Vanilla Chicken

As I mentioned in my last post, we had a little heatwave in the midwest last week that meant breaking out the grill and making sure it still worked.  And, being a sucker for savory recipes that include an unusual flavor, such as vanilla, I had been waiting most of the winter to cook this spicy vanilla chicken.  I found the recipe as I was sorting through an old bunch of recipes I printed off, so unfortunately, I’m unsure where to attribute it.  However, if you are looking for a recipe that has a little bit of a different (but delicious) flavor, you should consider trying this one.

Spicy Vanilla Chicken.jpg

Spicy Vanilla Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1 c mango or pineapple salsa (such as Newman’s Own pineapple salsa)
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 tsp hot pepper sauce

Preheat grill or broiler. Coat chicken with cooking spray and season with lemon pepper. Coat rack of grill or broiler with spray. Cook chicken 2 to 3 inches from heat source, about 4 minutes per side.

Combine salsa, vanilla and hot sauce while chicken cooks. Place half the mixture on the chicken and grill 2 minutes longer. Serve with remaining salsa mixture.

4 servings

Pork Chops, Vegetables, and the Grill

Last week I mentioned I had been doing some cooking and would have recipes to post in the near future.  I thought I’d start by talking about one of these meals.  Since it has finally gotten nice and we have enjoyed the weather outside (although this week it’s gotten hot and humid), we’ve been able to spend quite a bit of time outside on the porch.  It’s been absolutely delightful.  Last week I invited my summer student staff member over for dinner.  It has been great to work with Dan this summer.  He has quickly become one of those students who helps us as student affairs professionals remember why we do the work we do.  His positive attitude is contagious as he comes to work and brings forward ideas.  He asks good questions, and since it has been some time since I have had a student employee who is with me on a daily basis, it is a flurry of seeing lightbulb moments.  I love it.  In my daily gratitude journal, Dan more often than not makes the list of people and things for which I am grateful.

vanilla maple pork chopsWhen Dan came over, I decided to fire up the grill.  We had two things I loved and one item which did not taste satisfactory to me.  I made:

  • Vanilla Maple Pork Chops (win)
  • Grilled Vegetables (win)
  • Grilled Sweet Potatoes (not a win)

I think the grilled sweet potatoes could have a future, but I maybe did not give them the right seasoning or oil or other things which could improve their flavor.

I used a family favorite for the grilled vegetables.  When I found my grill on craigslist in April, I knew one of the things I needed to acquire was a grilling basket.  I looked at a few different options, but eventually settled on the same grilling basket my parents have.  It’s always worked great and is nice and deep, to allow lots of grilled vegetables to be a part of the meal.  In this case, I used mushrooms, asparagus, and peppers, but I use a lot of different things to make sure I’m getting vegetables in my diet.  By tossing them with Italian dressing, I then put them in the basket and put them on the grill for about 45 minutes, or until they are cooked.  Delectable.  While they are best right then and there, I’ve also brought leftovers for lunch and reheated them in the microwave to my satisfaction.

grilled vegetablesFinally, I made Vanilla-Maple Pork Chops.  These turned out as good or better than my wildest dreams could have imagined and I will definitely make the recipe again in the future.  I used the recipe from TGI Paleo and made them almost spot on.  I did grill them instead of baking them in the oven.  I seasoned them and grilled them.  After they were cooked, I utilized the vanilla-maple glaze and brushed it on the pork chops to add a hint of flavor to caramelize them at the end of the grill.  Those around the table enjoyed, with most of us having more than one, which for me, is a great reflection of how people are enjoying the food.
Overall, being outdoors and enjoying good company helped me to feel like it was a good kickoff to the summer starting and deliciousness being had.  I’ll definitely make the pork chops and vegetables again, and I’ll keep searching for a way to improve the sweet potatoes!

Vanilla Maple Glazed Pork Chops

Serves: 6ish

6-8 boneless pork chops
1 tsp seasoned salt
4 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Vanilla

Sprinkle the chops with salt on both sides.  Heat the grill.  Cook pork chops on 8 minutes per side.  Whisk the vanilla, cinnamon, and syrup together.  Brush pork chops with mixture, turn pork chops and repeat.

Vanilla Cardamom Pear Pie

For Thanksgiving, my dad and I decided we were doing the majority of the cooking this year.  Like often happens, my aunt and uncle who live close by came up to my parents house and we had a great time together.  We always end up talking about people in the area and as I’ve gotten older, I appreciate more and more the genealogy aspects we explore, so I appreciate things increasingly.

On Wednesday morning, I realized I’d left the pie crusts at my place, but luckily my parents had anticipated this problem.

Anyhoo, this year we decided to move away from the traditional pumpkin or pecan pies, which, although we love them, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue to move through some other favorite pies.  A few years ago I was on a kick with this pie recipe and realized I don’t have it written down anywhere.  The milk, eggs, chocolate blog has a lot of great recipes, and before the blog goes away, I wanted to make sure the recipe was in my list of recipes.  I decided to make vanilla cardamom pear pie.

Remember how I shared that I forgot the pie crusts?  Well, I also forgot the cardamom, and that’s not a spice my parents keep on hand.  I considered going up to the store to get it, but my commute had increased significantly due to heavy snow in my hometown (8 inches throughout the morning) and the mile to the grocery store just didn’t feel worth it.  So, in this situation, I substituted the cardamom with cinnamon.  Both are great.  The original (modified) recipe is below.

I’ve also made a few adjustments in order to accommodate for ingredients I had.  Check out the pie crust recipe over on the milk, eggs, chocolate blog.  While I didn’t use it this time, it has worked quite well in the past.

Cardamom Pear Pie

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