Ecstasy Bars (aka, magic bars on crack or salted caramel magic bars)

It’s 3:00 a.m. and I’m exhausted.  The caffeine is starting to wear off.  Do you ever feel nauseous when you are lacking in the sleep department?  Well, I just reached that point.  One more hour and I will have been awake for 24 hours.  I worked 13 hours today.  Thirteen!  It wasn’t really by choice either.  It was mandatory over time.  You may (or may) not be wondering why I am still up at this ridiculous hour of the morning.

I’m still up because I’m forcing myself to stay awake so that I can sleep soon.  I am working the graveyard shift the next two nights.  And guess what?  I have NEVER worked a graveyard shift before.  So my brilliant plan is to stay up as late as I can so that I can sleep until about 4:00 p.m., have dinner, and head off to work for my 12 hour shift that starts at 7:00 p.m.  I have another brilliant plan to take pseudoephedrine (i.e., the derivative to methamphetamine) and coffee to keep me awake through the wee hours of the night while I work tomorrow and the day after.  In fact, that used to be a favorite cocktail combination of mine while I was in pharmacy school trying to stay up for midterms and finals.  However, do as I say and not as I do, in that I do not advise anyone to take this drug combination.  It can really get your heart racing and blood pressure rising, which can be a no-no especially for those with a pre-existing (or even unknown) heart condition.  Therefore, avoid this.   Actually, just pretend you didn’t even read the last half of this paragraph.  Anyhow, I digress, as usual.

I was so anxious about not being able to stay up tonight that I bought a new movie and a new Nintendo Wii game to keep myself entertained/awake until I can go to sleep.  Well, instead of watching TV or playing video games (which I had every intention of doing), I entertained myself by concocting yummy things in the kitchen.  I’m making my version of magic bars (aka, seven layer bars), except that my magic bars are on crack.  They have been finished with a generous drizzle of my salted caramel sauce.  So they’re not just any magic bars… they’re magic bars on crack.  Actually, they’re even better than that.  They are ecstasy bars.

And as I sit here while blogging this post and listening to the snores of my sleeping dog, my brain is slowly shutting down and my eyes barely open.  I think it may be bedtime soon…

Ecstasy Bars

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup dark chocolate morsels
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup salted caramel sauce

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat muffin tin with cooking spray.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into bottoms of muffin tin.  Layer evenly with sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips, followed by the shredded coconut.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from muffin tin.  Drizzle with salted caramel sauce.  Store covered at room temperature.

[If you don't want to go through the hassle of using a mini muffin pan, use a 13x9 inch baking pan.  Line the pan with foil, coat with nonstick spray, and layer as directed above.  Allow to cool, and then simply lift up the foil up and out to remove from baking pan.  You're left with perfect magic bars.  Cut into squares and devour.]

Makes 36 servings (small, as these are very rich)

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

We had a small tasting of a similar dish at a backyard wedding we recently attended.  The original was made with red and yellow beets, and butternut squash with a lemony vinaigrette with a hint of truffle oil.  The salad was very tasty, but a little mushy from the butternut squash.   So while I was consuming my large plate of food [It was, in fact, a very large plate of food... my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  But what's new?], a light bulb came on… roasted sweet potatoes.  It would be the perfect substitution flavor- and texture-wise.  And so what did I do two days after the wedding?  Well, I recreated this dish, of course, and it was perfect.

Inspiration.  It such a lovely thing.

What inspires you in the kitchen?

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

4 large beets
3 large sweet potatoes, skinned and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 small shallot, finely diced
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon truffle oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. [I usually like to double wrap mine in foil.] Drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a singe layer on the baking sheet. Place the foil-wrapped beets on the same baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender, but slightly crispy in the outside. Stir the sweet potatoes once or twice during roasting. [Watch the sweet potatoes closely, because they can go from perfectly roasted to imperfectly burnt.] Roast the beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the shallots, lemon, olive oil, and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Remove the sweet potatoes firstly from oven, followed by the beets when they have cooked through, and allow to cool just enough to be easily handled. Once cooled, peel “skin” off the beets. [They'll come off easily with just your hands... no need for a paring knife.] Slice beets into 1 inch cubes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the beets, sweet potatoes, and vinaigrette. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients. Divide onto small plates, sprinkle with chives, and drizzle with a little truffle oil, and enjoy!

Makes 4 to 6 small salad servings.

Oven-Fried Truffle and Parmesan Potato Chips

Alright, so I have another new favorite obsession.  What’s new, right?  My obsessions don’t seem to last very long.  Out with the old, in with the new!  These truffle and parmesan potato chips are incredibly addicting.  And the smell of the truffle oil!  OMG, it’s intoxicating!  Our house was filled with the fragrant aroma of truffles!  These potato chips are hard to resist, so make a large batch!  Nosh on these bad boys by themselves, with a beer, alongside a sandwich or burger, or whatever you fancy.  Me?  Well, I like mine with a cold bottle of beer, but will eat them all sorts of ways.  I’m not picky :)

What’s your favorite way of devouring potato chips?

Oven-Fried Truffle and Parmesan Potato Chips (adapted slightly from The Family Kitchen)

3 medium to large baking potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
3-4 pinches of sea salt
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an 18×13 jelly roll pan, brush on two tablespoons of olive oil until fully coated. Place pan in the oven and heat for 10 minutes.

While the pan is heating in the oven, place the potato slices into a large mixing bowl, and toss with truffle oil and salt. Set aside.

Carefully line the potato slices on the hot baking sheet. Place pan into the hot oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes. Flip the potato chips with a pair of tongs and bake them for another 5 minutes. The chips will darken a little as they bake, but just don’t let them burn. If the potato chips still aren’t crispy, flip those potato chips over and bake for another few minutes. [Do not walk away from these chips, as they can easily go from almost crispy, to burnt.]

Remove the pan from the oven, and transfer the chips to a payer of paper towels. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, and allow them to cool. The excess oil will be absorbed by the towels. The potato chips will also crisp up slightly as they cool.  Once cooled, store in an air tight container for a few days.

Life Changes and Mexican (aka, Spanish) Rice

It seems like forever since the last time I was in the kitchen or  blogged.  Life has gotten in the way.  It’s been busy and filled with lots of changes, all for the better, of course.

I had been experiencing this quarter-life existential crises over the last six months, and I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was causing all this turmoil within myself.  After some serious soul searching, I realized that I was feeling unchallenged and bored with my current job.  My dream job.  The job that challenged me.  Excited me.  I actually looked forward to going to work.  I’m not kidding.  The job was perfect for me.  I get bored easily, it’s just my personality.  But this job kept me on my toes, and challenged me minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, and day-to-day.  It was a fast-paced environment with very little down time.  I didn’t think I was ever wanted to leave this job.  Ever.  If you asked me five years ago what my five year career goal was going to be, I’d quickly respond with my current job.  Patient care was my thing.

So as you can see, I really struggled with the idea of no longer feeling satisfied by my job.  I felt like I was (and still am) letting down my mentor who I admire, and helped mold me into the clinician that I am today.  I didn’t want to accept the idea of needing to find another job.  I thought this unsettled feeling of my career would pass with time, and so I let time pass.

Well, time didn’t resolve my problem.  As my lucky stars would have it, while at a mutual friend’s wedding, my coworker’s husband mentioned his company was looking to hire.  This intrigued me.  A light bulb went off and I realized that I needed a new career move.  So I applied for two completely different jobs within the pharmacy sector, and I recently accepted the position as a pharmacy IS (information systems) specialist within the company I currently work for.  I start my new position in a month and a half.

The job will be VERY different from what I do now.  I’m going to be a pharmacy computer geek, and I’m so excited by this!  It’s certainly going to challenge me in a whole different way, and I know it’s going to require a lot of my time and attention.  I won’t be involved in direct patient care, which doesn’t bother me anymore.  I’m actually relieved of not being heavily involved with patient care.  Patient care has burnt me out, as well as the nature of the emergency room, and long hospital work hours.

Let’s see, other changes… my brother and sister-in-law will be moving to Zurich, Switzerland, for amazing job opportunities to advance their careers.  They have committed to a two year contract.  So not only did we get the keys to their amazing condo in Manhattan, but we also get a free place to stay when we visit them next summer.  Viva la Europe!

And last but not least, my partner has decided to pursue a second Master’s degree, this time in fine arts.  She current has her Masters in special education, but her passion has always been art.  She’s a talented painter, and would benefit greatly with a MFA.  So, she’s planning to apply for the upcoming 2012 school year.  What does this mean for us?  Well, back for another long distance relationship.  Hopefully, she’ll only be 2.5 hours away.

Too many changes.  I wanted some comfort food today, and Mexican food was what I needed.

What are your comfort foods?

Mexican Rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups long grain rice
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a large skillet, and brown rice over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute, stirring frequently for about five minutes, or until the onions have softened.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Fluff the rice when the rice is cooked, and then cover with the lid for another five minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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