Monday, December 27, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

My friend gave me a Cook's Illustrated holiday baking issue and this graced the cover.  It had "Christmas Day" written all over it for me, so I brought the recipe with me to my in-laws where I traditionally try out a new dessert that can more easily be accomplished while the kids are being entertained.  The outcome was good.  The cake itself was surprisingly not that sweet, but very moist and the cream cheese frosting made it plenty sweet to be a dessert.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp natural cocoa powder
2 Tbsp red food coloring (one 1-ounce bottle)
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups sugar

16 Tbsp unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 pinch salt

To make the cake:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350.  Grease and flour two 9-inch pans.

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.

Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and eggs in large measuring cup.

Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until smooth paste forms.

With stand mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary.  Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Add half of buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down bowl as necessary and repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally remaining flour mixture.

Scrape down bowl, add cocoa mixture and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated about 30 seconds.  Using rubber spatula give batter final stir.

Scrape into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

To make the frosting:
With stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add cream cheese, 1 piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Beat in vanilla and salt.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

When cakes are cooled, spread about 2 cups frosting on 1 cake layer.  Top with second cake layer and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes

Might I suggest pancakes for your Christmas breakfast?!  No?  Ok, that's fine.  But these were really good!  We've been into pancakes lately.  It just seems to fit the holiday season - including my daughter's first birthday this week!  These have been my husband's favorite so far and I agree they were delicious, but I'll post my favorites later.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups milk
3/4 cups canned pumpkin
3 large eggs, separated
3 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, allspice, and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin, egg yolks, melted butter, and vanilla.  Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.  In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg whites until peaks form.  Fold into batter.

Preheat nonstick griddle or skillet over medium-high heat.  Lightly spray or brush with vegetable oil (or butter!).  Pour 3/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake.  Cook until bubbles form on the surface, about 2 minutes.  Turn and cook until golden on the other side, 1 minute longer.  Serve with topping of your choice.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Soup Swap

You've GOT to try this!  Plan now to host a Soup Swap in the new year!  I first read about the idea on Leslie's blog and went for it.  This was way better than a cookie exchange, if you ask me.

Invite some friends over, whip up a few tasty snacks (like these, or this, or these), prepare a variety of warm drinks (since this would probably be enjoyed more in cooler weather) and have everyone bring four batches of their favorite soup in four separate ziploc bags.  You could do more, but I thought four was plenty of cooking for everyone to prepare.  Everyone puts their labeled bags-o-soup on a table and then you draw numbers to determine the order of picking.  Number 1 starts and can take one bag of whatever soup they want (except their own!).  Number 2 goes and so on until you get through round one.  Number 1 starts the second round of selecting, but has to take a different kind of soup.  You can't pick the same soup twice.  You do four rounds of everyone picking a bag of soup and then it's over.  Everyone leaves happy with four different bags of soup to freeze and eat during the winter season.  Brilliant! 

I gave bags of homemade croutons as a party favor and was lucky enough to keep Mulligatawny, Sherried Tomato Soup, Potato Kale, and a Chicken Sausage Bean stew for my family.  Yummy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shredded Chicken with Apricots and Dates

I saw this on Alana's blog and went with some of her suggested changes from the original recipe to make two batches for our community group.  It was DELICIOUS!  The flavors were subtle, but fantastic and the chickpeas made it a full-meal-deal in a bowl.  This one convinced me to make a "crowd pleaser" tab.  I doubled the recipe and used two crock pots to feed about 15 very satisfied friends!

1 1/2 pounds chicken meat
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped or 3/4 cups raisins
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup orange juice

Put the chicken into the bottom of a 4 to 6-quart slow cooker.

Add diced onion, and spices. Sprinkle on the apricots and dates. Dump in the chickpeas.  Pour the broth and orange juice evenly over the top. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for 3-5. The chicken should be quite tender and shred easily with a fork.

Serve with quinoa or brown rice with the juices----the broth is delicious!

image found here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Black Beans and Sausage

The whole family loved this!  My husband said (in between bites) this one needs to be a long-time family keeper.  I don't think it needs the yogurt, but a pan of cornbread is a perfect side.  I pulled the picture from the Everyday Food website.  My camera broke this weekend, so you get a break from my amateur food photography until we figure out something else.

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound Kielbasa or other smoked sausage cut into one inch pieces
4 medium carrots, diced small
1 medium onion, chopped small
coarse salt, ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken broth
3 TB chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
1/4 cup plain yogurt, for serving - optional

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high. Add sausage and cook until browned on all sides.  About 8 minutes.Transfer to a plate.
Add carrots and shallots to the skillet, and cook until beginning to soften.  About 4 minutes.
season with salt and pepper.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant - about one minute.
Add black beans and broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Add sausage, reduce heat to a rapid simmer, and cook until carrots are tender - about 12 minutes.
Remove  from heat, stir in parsley, serve with more parsley and a dollop of yogurt.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fruit and Nut Crisps

I took this picture from the same site where I found the recipe - love it!  These were fun to make, and delicious when spread with cream cheese!  I enjoyed them plain as well, but for serving purposes I think it'd be best to pair with spreadable cheese, butter, or a light jam. 

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed, ground

1/2 cup apricots
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup figs
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
Zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Step 1: Bake the Loaves

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir a few strokes.

Add the seeds, (pumpkin, sesame, and flax) apricots, dried figs, hazelnuts, and rosemary and stir just until blended.

Pour the batter into 1 8”x4” loaf pan and 2 mini-loaf pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray.  I used five mini loaf pans so the crisps would all be the same size.

Bake for about 22 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.

Wrap tightly and freeze slightly before slicing. OR freeze for up to two months, then partially thaw, slice and bake for fresh crackers.

Step 2: Slice & Bake the Crisps

The cooler the bread, the easier it is to slice thin.  I put mine directly from the freezer onto the cutting board.  Slice the loaves as thinly as you can and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Preheat the oven to 300°F and bake them for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden.

Cool and store in an airtight container.
Makes about 8 dozen crackers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

White Turkey Chili

Odds are you don't have any turkey left over to make this, but be sure to bookmark and use for Christmas or next year.  This was fantastic!

1/2 lb white beans, soaked overnight in water, drained 
3 cups turkey stock 
1 cloves garlic, minced 
1 medium onions, chopped (divided) 
1 Tbsp olive oil 
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, stem and most seeds removed, chopped (optional) 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
Pinch of ground cloves 
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper 
2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies 
2 cups diced cooked turkey 

    Salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon)
    1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese 
    1/3 cup (loose) chopped cilantro 
    1/4 cup chopped green onions 
    1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped (or guacamole) 
    Chopped tomatoes or salsa 
    Corn tortilla chips and/or fresh warmed flour tortillas

    Combine beans, turkey stock, garlic and half the onions in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are very soft, 1 to 3 hours or more. (Depending on the type of white beans you are using. Cannelli beans are tender and tend to cook rather quickly. Navy beans take longer.) Add additional water (or watered-down stock), if necessary.
      Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, cook chopped jalapeno (if using) and remaining onions in oil until tender. Add green chilies and seasonings and mix thoroughly. Add to bean mixture. Add turkey and salt to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes or more (up to an hour) until the beans are thoroughly soft and the stew has thickened.

      Serve topped with grated cheese. Garnish with cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, salsa, chopped green onions, and/or avocados. Serve with fresh warmed flour tortillas or tortilla chips.
      Serves 4 to 5.

      Saturday, December 4, 2010

      Tex-Mex Pot Roast

      I promise the meat is under all that cheese!  I need to start a new label: crock pot crowd pleasers.  This would most certainly go on the list!  Talk about easy and delicious - and perfect for a Saturday full of great college football games.  Go Ducks and Sooners!

      2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast
      1 tsp chipotle chile powder (I just used regular old chili powder and a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper)
      1 15oz. can chili beans, undrained
      1 15oz. can corn, drained
      1 10oz can original Rotel (tomatoes and chilies), undrained 

      Starting with your meat, dump everything in the crock pot.  My meat was half frozen and it didn't make a difference.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours.  Serve over baked potatoes with cheese (and sour cream if you're really going all out!).  You could also serve over tortilla chips or warmed tortillas.

      Monday, November 29, 2010

      Chipotle Pumpkin Soup

      My husband requested more pumpkin soup.  He really wanted the Thai-spiced soup, but I convinced him to let me try a new version.  This one was yet another deliciously wonderful way to add pumpkin to your diet (and spicy with only one pepper), but it still took second place.  

      2 Tbsp olive oil 
      1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
      3 garlic cloves, chopped 
      1 teaspoon ground cumin 
      1-2 chipotle peppers (canned in adobo, chopped 
      8 cups chopped, cooked pumpkin* (1 7-8 pound cooking pumpkin to yield 8 cups cooked pumpkin, or 3 15-ounce cans of canned pumpkin) 
      4 to 6 cups chicken stock, depending on desired thickness and how thick your pumpkin purée is
      1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano 
      2 teaspoons salt, more to taste 
      2 Tbsp lime juice
        Toasted, shelled pumpkin seeds
        Creme fresca, creme fraiche or sour cream thinned with a little water so that it's runny
          *To cook fresh pumpkin, use a good cooking pumpkin (i.e. sugar pumpkin, fairytale pumpkin, hubbard, or kabocha pumpkin), cut in half, scoop out the seeds, place the pumpkin cut side down on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for about an hour, or until soft. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh or cut away the skin. Let cool. Freeze for long term storage.

          Heat oil in a large pot (8-quart) on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, cumin, and chipotle, cook for 1 minute more.

          Add the pumpkin, chicken stock, oregano, and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, partially covered.

          If you are working with raw pumpkin seeds, now would be a good time to toast them. (If your pumpkin seeds are already toasted, skip this step.) Just spread them out in an even layer in a frying pan on medium high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon while toasting, until the pumpkin seeds are fragrant and are lightly browned. Remove to a bowl.

          Remove the soup from heat. Working in batches of 2 cups each, purée the soup in batches, holding down the lid the your blender tightly while puréeing, and starting on a slow speed. Return the puréed soup to the pot.

          Add lime juice. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt, cumin, oregano, or chipotle to taste. If the soup is too thick, add more stock or water to desired consistency.

          Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), crema fresca drizzled over the top, and chopped cilantro.
          Makes 2 to 2 1/2 quarts. 

          Saturday, November 27, 2010

          Turkey Leftovers

          I hope you all enjoyed feasting while focusing on all we have to be grateful for.  We've just about cleaned up all the leftovers save the turkey.  What is it about the Thanksgiving meal that I don't mind eating more every day (both lunch and dinner!) until it's gone?!  I chose a big bird this year so we were sure to have plenty of leftovers!  Last year, this was one of my favorite uses of the leftover meat.  I'll be trying out this one next week and will let you know how that turns out.  What are you doing with your leftovers (if you still have any!)?

          Wednesday, November 24, 2010

          Pumpkin Bread

          This is my Gramma's recipe and I've not found another that compares.  It's a great way to start a day of Thanksgiving, which is what I'll be doing tomorrow - Happy Thanksgiving!

          1 cup pumpkin puree
          3 cups sugar
          1 cup oil
          2/3 cup water
          4 eggs
          3 1/2 cups flour
          2 teaspoons baking soda
          1 1/2 teaspoons salt
          1 teaspoons cinnamon
          1 teaspoon nutmeg
          1/2 cup pecans, chopped

          Grease and flour 2 large loaf pans.  Preheat oven to 350.
          Mix sugar and oil together in a large bowl.  Add eggs and pumpkin then mix.  Lastly, add water and mix until batter pulls together.
          Combine all the dry ingredients (except nuts) together in a separate bowl.  Then gradually add dry mixture to the wet ingredients.  Gently stir in nuts.
          Pour an even amount of batter into each loaf pan.
          Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then rotate loaf pans and turn oven down to 325.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Let bread cool in pans for 1 hour before slicing and serving.

          Monday, November 22, 2010

          Easy Slow-Cooker Thai Beef

          Yes, this is pretty much as far away from Meatless Monday as you can get!  I'm letting myself off the hook during the holidays.  We'll still have meatless meals, but I'm not going to worry about them happening every Monday.  So we'll move on.  This is one of my favorite sites for crock pot ideas.  I used her picture for this post as well as the recipe.  It was, indeed, super easy.  I wasn't blown away by the taste, though.  I should have made my own peanut satay sauce (here's my favorite recipe), and I would suggest going all out and using coconut cream instead of milk to get a more rich flavor.

          2 pounds beef chuck roast
          1 (8-ounce) bottle peanut satay sauce 
          1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk (full fat is best)
          1 (16-ounce) package baby carrots
          cooked basmati rice for serving
          1/4 cup chopped peanuts for garnish (optional)

          Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Put the beef into the bottom of your cooker, and add the peanut sauce and the whole can of coconut milk.  Flip the meat over a few times to get it good and saucy. Add baby carrots. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until meat is fork-tender and pretty much falls apart. Stir well to distribute sauce, and serve over hot rice.
          Garnish with a sprinkle of peanuts, if you'd like.

          Saturday, November 20, 2010

          Shrimp Salad with Lime-Buttermilk Dressing

          I thought this recipe from Everyday Foods turned out a wonderful salad.  The dressing was more than enough for our family.

          3/4 cup buttermilk
          1 avocado, halved, pitted and peeled
          1 tsp lime zest, plus 1/4 cup lime juice (from 2 limes)
          salt and pepper
          1 Tbsp vegetable oil
          1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
          3 hearts romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
          1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
          1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

          In a blender, combine buttermilk, avocado, lime zest and juice, and 2 tablespoons water.  Blend until smooth, 20 seconds.  Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

          In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Season shrimp with salt and pepper.  Cook until opaque throughout, about 3 minutes, flipping once.  In a large bowl, toss together romaine, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, shrimp, and 1 cup dressing until combined and serve immediately.

          Dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.

          Friday, November 19, 2010

          Shortbread Candy Bars

          These were rich and delicious.  I liked the Reese's Pieces better than the M&Ms, but both went very well with a glass of milk! 

          Makes 16 bars
          1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
          3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
          1-1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
          2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
          1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
          2 cups assorted chocolate candies or roughly chopped candy bars (12 ounces)

          Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and salt on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. With mixer on low, add flour in three additions and beat until combined (dough will be crumbly). Press dough evenly into an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake until golden brown and firm, 30-35 minutes.

          Scatter chocolate chips on top of shortbread. Bake until soft, 1 minute. With the back of a spoon, spread chocolate evenly over shortbread. Scatter candies over top. Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate briefly to set chocolate, then cut into 16 bars. (Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, up to 4 days.)

          Recipe from Everyday Foods.

          Wednesday, November 17, 2010

          White Nut Nana

          This is a little creation using one of my most favorite kitchen tools - the Vita Mix!  I'll post the original Nut Nana some other time, but I like the white version better.

          1/2 - 1 cup milk (start with 1/2 cup and use more if your blender sounds like it's struggling)
          1/2 cup vanilla or plain yogurt
          *1 Tbsp honey (I only add this if I use plain yogurt)
          1/2 to 1 whole frozen banana (when my bananas are looking less-than-appetizing, I peel them, break them into pieces, and freeze them in a baggie for future smoothie-making)
          1 large spoonful peanut butter
          1/4 cup wheat germ
          6-12 small ice cubes

          Put everything in your blender and go to town!  Mmmmm . . .

          Saturday, November 13, 2010

          Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

          This is my favorite pumpkin recipe of the season (thus far - we're not done yet!).  Whoa, these are super good.  Everyday Food gave them the perfect name.  The texture is like a caked doughnut, but they are still moist and fluffy enough to be a muffin.  And, while the muffin isn't that sweet, they are rolled in butter, cinnamon, and sugar!  Be sure to make these when you know other people will help you eat them, not only because they aren't diet friendly, but they also don't stay good for more than two days.

          Makes 12

          For the Batter:
          10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
          3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
          2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
          1/4 teaspoon baking soda
          1 teaspoon coarse salt
          1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
          1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
          1/3 cup buttermilk
          1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree
          3/4 cup light-brown sugar
          2 large eggs

          For the Sugar Coating:
          3/4 cup granulated sugar
          2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
          1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

          Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups.  Make batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice.  In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin puree.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture and beat to combine.

          Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Working with one at a time, remove muffins from pan, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture.  Let muffins cool completely on a wire rack.

          Friday, November 12, 2010

          Orange-Ginger Sweet Potato Casserole

          Here is a fantastic idea for your Thanksgiving table.  I made this last year for our Christmas dinner and we loved it, so it will be making another appearance in two weeks. 

          4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed 
          1 tablespoon orange zest 
          2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger root 
          2 egg yolks 
          salt and ground black pepper to taste 
          1/4 cup orange juice, or to taste 
          1/2 cup 2% low-fat milk 
          1/3 cup chopped pecans 

          Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Place oven rack in middle position. Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, and set aside.  

          Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork, and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Roast the sweet potatoes in preheated oven until easily pierced with a fork, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Remove sweet potatoes from the oven, and cool about 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  

          When sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Discard potato skins. Add the orange zest, ginger; and egg yolks; process to make a smooth mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour in the orange juice and milk; if desired, add more orange juice to taste. Spoon sweet potato mixture into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle top with pecans.  

          Bake in preheated oven until heated through and pecans are toasted, about 30 minutes. 

          *photo found here

              Wednesday, November 10, 2010

              Braised Beef with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

              I was excited to see this recipe on Jessie's blog (I stole her picture!)  - it looked so good . . . and it is.  So good.  It's more like a stew.  I made it on Saturday for our family and decided to scrap my other plans and make it again on Tuesday night for our community group.  It was a hit.  For the first batch, I brought everything to a boil and then dumped it in the crock pot to simmer on low for five hours.  The second batch I did as directed.  I didn't notice a difference.

              2 teaspoons olive oil
              2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
              2 medium onions, vertically sliced
              2 garlic cloves, minced
              1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
              1 3/4 cups water
              1 cup dry red wine
              1 cup less-sodium beef broth
              1 cup sun-dried tomato halves, packed without oil, cut into strips (about 2 1/2 ounces) If you can't find the kind without oil, at least rinse the tomatoes a bit to remove as much oil as possible to keep the stew from being super oily
              1 tablespoon brown sugar
              1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
              1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
              3/4 teaspoon salt
              1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
              1 bay leaf
              1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

              1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 4 minutes, browning on all sides. Add sliced onion; cook for 7 minutes or until onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Add minced garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in flour; cook 2 minutes, stirring often.

              2. Stir in water and next 9 ingredients (through bay leaf). Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 1 hour. Uncover and simmer 30 minutes or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle each serving with parsley.

              Monday, November 8, 2010

              Meatless Monday - Orzo Pasta Salad

              This is one of my favorite things to bring to a shower.  It's simple, is easy to present well, and has subtle flavors that are pleasing to most.  There are lots of different options with what you can throw in.  Fresh basil looks prettier in the bowl and rounds out the color scheme a bit.  You could also add diced cucumbers or substitute slivered almonds for the pine nuts.

              olive oil
              1 box orzo pasta, cooked as directed
              2-3 bell peppers, chopped
              6oz. crumbled feta
              15-20 pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
              1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced, or 1 tsp. dried basil
              1/2 - 1 tsp. salt
              1/4 - 1/2 tsp. pepper

              1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

              Cook orzo as directed on box.  Rinse in cold water, strain, then dump pasta in large mixing bowl.  Throw on a few splashes of olive oil and stir.  You don't want the pasta to be glumpy or sticky.  Add more oil if necessary.  Throw everything else in the bowl except the pine nuts.  You'll probably need to play around with the amount of salt, pepper, and basil.  Just mix things in until it tastes good to you!  Top with a few shakes of basil, slivers of bell pepper, and the pine nuts.  

              Saturday, November 6, 2010

              Pumpkin Flan Flop

              You wouldn't think by looking at the dish it was a flop since we managed to eat over half the dessert in just two days (with the help of some friends, of course!), but this post is to assure you that not everything in the Payne kitchen turns out the way I want it to.  I'm not even going to post the recipe for this one because, although it tasted good, it was nothing like flan.  Imagine pumpkin pie without the crust.  Delicious, sure, but certainly not flan.  It was probably user error, but I couldn't get past step 2, so I finally just scrapped it all and fumbled my way to the end of a dessert that wasn't all that bad, but not anything like what I was going for.  Take a look for yourself here and please let me know if you figure it out!

              Thursday, November 4, 2010

              Rotisserie Chicken

              I tried out this idea from Our Best Bites.  It was a mighty fine tasting bird, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a fair replacement for the real deal rotisserie stuff.  My garlic was MIA when I was getting everything ready, so that could have upped the flavor a bit.  Either way, it was delicious and easy and fun to try something a bit different with the crock pot.

              1 whole chicken, small enough to fit in your slow cooker
              Salt-based seasoning (Seasoning salt, Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper with salt in it, etc. Just make sure salt is one of the first ingredients on the label.)
              Whole garlic cloves, peeled
              fresh herbs

              Make 3 balls of aluminum foil and place them in the bottom of your slow cooker. These hold the chicken off the bottom so the hot air can circulate all around the chicken and so it's not stewing in its own juices.

              Rinse chicken, including the cavity, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on its back so the breast is facing up and the legs are on the plate. If you want (and I actually strongly recommend that you do UNLESS you're looking for a neutral flavor), pull the skin up all around the chicken.  Slice a few garlic cloves in half lengthwise and stick them under the skin. You can also arrange a couple sprigs of fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and/or sage under the skin. This makes a very pretty chicken when it's all cooked and adds a lot of flavor.

              Rub salt-based seasoning VERY liberally onto the skin of the chicken. Place chicken breast-up on the foil in the slow cooker, cover, turn heat to low, and leave it alone for 7-8 hours.

              Tuesday, November 2, 2010

              Candy Corn and Peanuts

              Here's an idea for all that 50% off candy you'll see in the stores this week.  Candy corn and peanuts.  It's as delicious as it is simple!  Weight Watchers claims it's a good alternative for a Snickers craving.  I just say it's addicting!  1:2 candy corn to peanut ratio is my "perfect bite" and I prefer dry roasted peanuts instead of spanish style, which is what I had on hand this time.

              Monday, November 1, 2010

              Meatless Monday - Italian Chickpea Soup

              I like eating soup out of big mugs.  Especially big mugs I got on my honeymoon!  This soup from Vegetarian Times wasn't my favorite.  I think it was a texture thing for.  But was plenty of flavor and my 10-month-old daughter loved it!

              4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
              1 medium onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
              3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
              1 small bay leaf
              1 tsp. dried thyme
              1 tsp. dried oregano
              1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
              2 16-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
              2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (6 cups)
              1 stalk celery, finely diced (1/2 cup)
              1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
              1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus a few sprigs for garnish

              Bring broth, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, and 2 cups water to a boil in large saucepan over medium heat. Simmer 5 minutes. Add chickpeas, sweet potatoes, celery, and mustard, and simmer 10 to 12 minutes more, or until vegetables are very soft.

              Mash vegetables and chickpeas to chunky purée with potato masher or large spoon. (Chickpeas will remain mostly whole.) Stir in parsley, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish each serving with parsley sprig (or use feta like I did!).

              Friday, October 29, 2010

              Nutella Hot Chocolate

              About a month ago, my family and I popped into a local cafe to try out their Nutella Hot Chocolate.  Oh.  YUM!  Even my husband, who isn't a huge fan of hot chocolate (and will actually make fun of you for ordering hot chocolate at a coffee shop!) really enjoyed it.  The temperature dropped a bit this week and I wanted a yummy warm drink to cozy up with last night.  How hard could it be to make my own specialized hot chocolate?  Not very.  I'm actually drinking it again for the second night in a row as I type this.  YUM!

              1-1 1/2 cups milk (depending how rich you want it)
              1 Tbsp. cocoa
              2 Tbsp. Nutella
              1/2 tsp. sugar
              dash of salt
              1/4 tsp. vanilla

              Warm milk in a heat-proof mug for 2 minutes.  Add cocoa, Nutella, sugar and salt and stir vigorously until thoroughly mixed (that is, thoroughly de-chunked).  A mini frother or tiny wisk works perfectly!  Stir in the vanilla.  Sip and enjoy . . .

              Thursday, October 28, 2010

              Roasted Beef and Barley Soup with Roasted Carrots

              This was SO delicious!  My husband and I kept saying, "Oh, this is definitely a keeper!"  It reminds me a bit of this dish, but was different enough to excite my taste buds.  The roasted carrots were the perfect "cherry on top" to this already fantastic dinner.  I found the soup recipe in Everyday Foods, but made several changes that I've included below.

              1 pound sirloin steak, fat trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
              1 pound whole cremini or button mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps halved
              2 shallots, coarsely chopped
              2 tablespoons olive oil
              Coarse salt and ground pepper
              5-6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
              3/4 cups pearl barley
              Chopped fresh parsley (optional)  
              5-7 medium carrots, sliced in 1-inch pieces

              Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together steak, mushrooms, shallots, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until beef and mushrooms are browned, about 30 minutes.

              Meanwhile, bring chicken broth to boil in a large pot or dutch oven.  Once boiling, add barley.  Bring back to a boil and then simmer until the meat is finished roasting.

              After meat and vegetables are done roasting, add to pot with broth and barley; simmer.  Season with salt and pepper if you'd like.  Don't clean the roasting pan and leave the oven on. 

              While soup is simmering, toss carrots in no more than 1 Tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the same roasting pan you used for the meat and put in oven for 10 minutes.  Remove, stir (making sure to scrape up the now blackened bits of goodness that were left from the meat and veggies), and put back in oven for another 5-10 minutes or until they are cooked to your liking (I prefer mine to be a bit on the crunchy side instead of too soft). 

              Top the soup with fresh parsley and serve with carrots and a loaf of crusty bread.  Yummy!

              Tuesday, October 26, 2010

              Roasting Vegetables

              I love roasted vegetables.  It's one of my most favorite things to do with the assortment of veg we have been given.  Do you like roasted veggies?  Have you ever tried?  You MUST!  I like using just a bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper and setting my oven to 450.  Most vegetables are done in about 20 minutes.  But below is a link for a more extensive introduction to roasting vegetables if you want to give it a try.  And if you are already a roasting fan, I'd love to hear some of your favorite veg combination or choices for seasoning!

              Simple Bites - Roasting Vegetables 101 -

              Monday, October 25, 2010

              Thai- Spiced Pumpkin Soup

              I've already made this twice since finding the recipe two weeks ago.  My husband is in love with this stuff!  The picture comes from the post found here.  I just used water to thin the soup the first time but liked the broth/water combo on the second batch better.  

              2 acorn squash, pumpkins, or other smallish winter squash
              3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
              1 14-ounce can coconut milk
              1 teaspoon (or more) red Thai curry paste
              water or broth
              2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt (or to taste)
              Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the oven racks in the middle.

              Carefully cut each squash/pumpkin into halves (or quarters). Slather each piece of squash with butter, sprinkle generously with salt, place on a baking sheet skin sides down, and place in the oven. Roast for about an hour or until the squash is tender throughout.

              When the pumpkin/squash are cool enough to handle scoop it into a large pot over medium high heat. Add the coconut milk and curry paste and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and puree with a hand blender, you should have a very thick base at this point. Now add water a cup at a time pureeing between additions until the soup is the consistency you prefer - a light vegetable stock would work here as well. Bring up to a simmer again and add the salt (and more curry paste if you like).

              Serves six.

              Thursday, October 21, 2010

              African Chicken Treat

              I think the name of this recipe from Fix It and Forget It is a bit silly, but the dish was simple, filling, and pretty tasty.   

              1 1/2 cups water
              2 tsp chicken bouillon granules
              2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
              2 onions, thinly sliced
              1 red bell pepper, sliced
              1 green bell pepper, sliced
              8 chicken thighs, skinned
              1/2 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
              crushed chili pepper of your choice

              Combine water, chicken bouillon, celery, onion, and peppers in slow cooker.

              Spread peanut butter over both sides of chicken pieces. Sprinkle with chili pepper. Place on top of ingredients in slow cooker.  Cover. Cook on Low 5-6 hours.

              Tuesday, October 19, 2010

              Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes

              Ohhhhhhh . . . these were so yummy!

              1/3 C pumpkin, canned or homemade
              1/4 - 1/2 C milk
              1/4 t vanilla
              1/2 t cinnamon
              1/16 t cloves (just use a 1/8 t measure and fill it half way, or do a pinch)
              1/16 t nutmeg
              2 T brown sugar
              2 C vanilla ice cream
              1-2 graham crackers

              Pop everything but graham crackers in a blender. Start with 1/4 C milk and then slowly add more if needed to make the blender process it all.

              A note about blenders (if you don't have a VitaMix!): Here's the problem with making thick, diner style milkshakes at home: A lot of times you have to add so much milk to the thing to get the blender to process that it turns into a milk-slushy instead. Or you have to blend and plunge, blend and plunge, etc. You know the drill, right? So if you have any trouble with your blender, I would recommend blending everything but the ice cream first and then mashing it into the ice cream by hand (well, with a hand. Holding a fork or spoon :) If your scooped ice cream sits out at room temp while you measure the other things and get them all ready, then by the time you mash it all together it should be a good consistency.
              Sprinkle with crushed graham cracker crumbs before serving. It reminds me of DQ's Pumkin Pie Blizzard!

              Monday, October 18, 2010

              Meatless Monday - Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

              This picture is from the same place I got the recipe.  It was pretty good, but not great.  The cheese, sour cream, and chips at the end really helped. 
              1 cup dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
              1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
              1 medium yellow onion, diced
              3 garlic cloves, minced
              1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
              1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
              1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
              1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
              4 cups vegetable broth
              4 cups water
              4 whole serrano chiles
              baby spinach (to add later, optional)

              Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Put the presoaked beans into your slow cooker. If you don't have time to soak the beans overnight, you can quick soak them by boiling rapidly on the stove for 10 minutes, and then letting the beans sit in the closed pot of hot water for 1 hour. Drain and then put into the cooker.

              Add the entire can of tomatoes, the onion, and the garlic. Follow with all the spices and then pour in the broth and water. Wash and float the uncut peppers on top.

              Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or on high for 4 to 5. Remove the chiles before serving. If desired, drop in a few handfuls of baby spinach into the pot and stir. The spinach will wilt quickly! If you'd like, garnish with shredded cheese or sour cream (or both!)

              Saturday, October 16, 2010

              Carrot Cake Cheesecake

              We celebrated my husband's birthday this past week.  His most favorite dessert is carrot cake and he requested a carrot cake cheesecake for his big day this year.  I managed to get this picture before we gobbled up the last piece after sharing the rest of the cake with our community group.  If you like carrot cake at all, you will love this!

              16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
              3/4 cup sugar
              2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
              1 tablespoon flour
              3 eggs

              3/4 cup vegetable oil
              1 cup sugar
              2 eggs
              1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
              1 cup flour
              1 teaspoon baking soda
              1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
              8 1/2 ounces can crushed pineapple, packed in juice, drained well, reserve juice
              1 cup grated carrots
              1/2 cup coconut
              1/2 cup chopped walnuts

              2 ounces cream cheese, softened
              1 tablespoon butter, softened
              1 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
              1 teaspoon vanilla extract
              1 tablespoon reserved pineapple juice


              In large bowl of electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Beat in flour, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth. Set aside. Meanwhile prepare Carrot Cake.

              Carrot Cake:

              In large bowl, combine oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract; mix well. Stir in dry ingredients; mixing well. Stir in drained pineapple, carrots, coconut and walnuts.

              Spread 1 1/2 c. carrot cake batter over bottom of greased 9- or 9 1/2" springform pan. Drop cream cheese batter over carrot cake batter by spoonfuls; top with large spoonfuls of remaining carrot cake batter. Repeat with remaining cream cheese batter, spreading evenly with a knife. Do not marble with a knife. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven for 50 to 65 minutes or until cake is set and cooked through. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. When cake is cold, prepare Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting.

              Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting:

              In a bowl of electric mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and reserved pineapple juice. Beat until smooth and of spreading consistency. Frost top of cheesecake. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before serving.

              Note: Don't skimp on the ingredients (and don't use store brands or generic). Use regular cream cheese, real butter, and pineapple packed in juice, not sugar syrup. You will be glad you did.

              Wednesday, October 13, 2010

              Pumpkin and Feta Muffins

              Let the fun begin!  This is officially my first pumpkin treat of the season.  How did I wait so long, you ask?  I have no idea.  If you weren't around last year, get ready for a LOT of pumpkin to show up over the next month or so.   I just can't get enough of it!  These muffins are like nothing I've ever had before, but my kids and I really liked them!  Maybe a pinch more salt next time.  

              1 tablespoon unsalted butter
              2 tablespoons olive oil
              2 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash, 1/2-inch cubes
              salt and pepper to taste
              1 large handful of baby spinach, chopped
              2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
              3 tablespoons sunflower seeds kernels
              3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
               1/2 cup cubed feta
              2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
              2 large eggs, lightly beaten
              3/4 cup milk
              2 cups flour
              4 teaspoons baking powder
              1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
              Preheat oven to 405F / 200C, with rack in the top third. Use the butter to grease a 12-hole muffin pan and set aside.

              Sprinkle the olive oil and some salt and pepper over the squash. Toss well and turn onto a baking sheet or roasting pan. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 15 - 25 minutes or until cooked through entirely. Set aside to cool.

              Transfer two-thirds of the squash to a large mixing bowl along with the spinach, parsley, sunflower seeds, Parmesan, two-thirds of the feta, and all of the mustard. Gently fold together. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and milk together and add to the squash mix. Sift the flour and baking powder onto the squash mix, top with the salt and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper and fold together just until the batter comes together, be careful not to over mix.

              Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, filling each hole 3/4 full, top each muffin with a bit of the remaining squash and feta (see photo up above). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let cool for a couple minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. I like these muffins cooled a bit, served just warmer than room temperature.

              Makes 12 muffins.

              Tuesday, October 12, 2010

              Meatless Monday - Peanut Butter Banana Bread

              Technically it's still Monday, so I can still post my Meatless Monday recipe even though no one will read it until Tuesday!  If you missed the combo in muffin form, here's an even tastier way (in my opinion) to marry bananas and peanut butter - a match made in Heaven!  From Cooking Light.

              1 1/2  cups  mashed ripe banana
              1/3  cup  plain fat-free yogurt
              1/3  cup  creamy peanut butter
              3  tablespoons  butter, melted
              2  large eggs
              1/2  cup  granulated sugar
              1/2  cup  packed brown sugar
              6.75  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
              1/4  cup  ground flaxseed (I used wheat germ)
              3/4  teaspoon  baking soda
              1/2  teaspoon  salt
              1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
              1/8  teaspoon  ground allspice
              2  tablespoons  chopped dry-roasted peanuts
              Cooking spray

              1/3 cup powdered sugar
              1 Tablespoon 1% lowfat milk
              1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter

              Preheat oven to 350°.

              To prepare bread, combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until blended.

              Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Stir in nuts. Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool.

              To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar, milk, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over bread.

              Saturday, October 9, 2010

              Pork and Cabbage-Slaw Burritos

              Two meals in one!  This comes from the leftovers of yesterday's Green Chili post.  I was a bit skeptical at the cabbage and chili combo, but it totally works!  Ryan and I loved these!  Also, if you end up with too much or the cabbage mixture, add a bit of mayo and you have a nice slaw salad to go on the side!

              2 cups shredded green cabbage
              1/4 cup cilantro leaves
              2 tsp lime juice
              2 tsp olive oil
              salt and pepper
              flour tortillas
              shredded cheddar cheese
              2 cups Slow-Cooker Green Chili, warmed and potatoes halved if large
              salsa, for serving

              Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium bowl, combine cabbage, cilantro, lime juice, and oil; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Place tortillas on a work surface.  Place cheese, cabbage mixture, and chili down center of each tortilla, leaving room at ends.

              Fold one side of each tortilla over filling, then tuck in ends and tightly roll up.  Place burritos, seam side down, on a baking sheet.  Heat in oven until tortillas are warm and cheese melts; about 7 minutes.  Serve immediately with salsa.

              Friday, October 8, 2010

              Slow-Cooker Green Chili

              The poblano peppers added a nice little twist to what would have been a regular chili-stew thing.  Ryan said, "This one's a keeper" and I wholeheartedly agreed, especially after tasting the meal you can make with your leftovers.  Stay tuned tomorrow for a post on your 2 for 1 dinner special with this Martha Stewart recipe!

              2 Tbsp vegetable oil
              3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
              coarse salt and ground pepper
              1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
              1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
              2 garlic cloves, chopped
              1/2 tsp ground cumin
              5 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
              3 poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
              1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes (cut in half if too large)
              fresh cilantro leaves and lime wedges, for serving

              In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil over high.  Season pork with salt and pepper.  Cook pork (in batches, if necessary) until browned.  Transfer pork to a 6-quart slow cooker.

              Add broth to skillet, stirring and scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon.  Pour broth into slow cooker, then add onion, garlic, cumin, carrots, chiles, and potatoes.  Cover and cook on high until meat is fork-tender, 6 hours.

              Skim excess fat from top of chili.  Serve with cilantro and lime wedges.  If you'd like, with a slotted spoon, transfer 2 cups chili (leaving liquid behind) to an airtight container; let cool, uncovered, then refrigerate for burritos later in the week (I'll post that recipe tomorrow).

              Thursday, October 7, 2010


              My sister is great at using "methods" to cook instead of recipes.  She inspired me to "throw together" my own chili the other night.  It was delicious, if I do say so myself!

              1 pound ground beef
              1 yellow onion, chopped
              1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
              1 can (15 ounce) tomato sauce
              2 cans (15 oz) kidney beans, drained
              1/2 tsp salt
              2 1/2 tsp chili powder
              3/4 tsp cumin
              1/4 tsp pepper
              3 Tbsp ketchup

              Combine onion in a large pot with beef over medium heat, breaking up meat with a spoon.  Cook until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender, about 10 minutes.

              Add the rest of the ingredients.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

              Serve in bowls topped with grated cheddar cheese.

              Monday, October 4, 2010

              Meatless Monday - Orange-Ginger Baked Tofu

              I used to make something similar to this in China, the land of inexpensive tofu.  We like it!

              1 pound firm tofu
              1 cup fresh orange juice
              1/4 cup rice vinegar
              1/3 cup soy sauce
              1/3 cup canola oil
              4 teaspoons dark sesame oil
              3 cloves garlic, minced
              1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
              1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
              1 green onions, cut into 1-inch strips
              1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
              2 dried chipotle chile pepper (optional)  

              Turn the tofu on its side, and cut it into 4 thin slices. Lay the tofu flat again, and cut the block diagonally to make 8 triangles. Without separating the pieces, place tofu on a cutting board. Cover, with a paper towel, and place a heavy skillet on top. Set aside for 30 minutes, allowing time for excess water to drain from the tofu.

              In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, oils, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Separate the pressed tofu pieces, and arrange in a baking dish in a single layer. Cover with the marinade, and sprinkle with the green onion and cilantro. Cut the stems off the chiles, remove the seeds, and place the chiles in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight.

              Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

              Pour off some of the marinade, so the tofu is covered halfway. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, without turning, until the tofu is golden and most of the marinade has been absorbed.

              Wednesday, September 29, 2010

              Chocolate Nutella Cookies

              This was the best I could do at getting a picture of these before they vanished!  My husband volunteered to be the hand model for this one (and the taste tester it appears!).  What's not to love about Nutella?!  Personally, I like my cookies a bit more on the fluffy side, but it's Nutella we're talking about here.  I've been in a bit of a cooking funk and I was counting on this recipe to pull me out of the rut.  I think they did the trick!

              1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
              3/4 cup of brown sugar
              3/4 cup of white sugar
              1 cup of Nutella
              1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
              2 eggs
              2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
              1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa
              1/2 tsp baking soda
              1/2 tsp salt
              1 cup of chocolate chips
              1/2 cup of chopped hazelnuts 

              Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter in an electric mixer for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and Nutella and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

              Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds between each. Add the vanilla and mix for 10 seconds.

              Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda (do not skip this step as sifting eliminates clumps of cocoa). Mix into the butter mixture on low speed until fully incorporated, scraping down the bottom and sides at least once to ensure even mixing. Fold in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts and refrigerate the dough for ten minutes.

              Spoon tablespoon-sized drops of dough onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on the sheets for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

              Makes 6 dozen.

              Monday, September 27, 2010

              Meatless Monday - a repeat already?!

              Call me boring, but we did a repeat this Meatless Monday.  We liked them so much, I put Roasted Veggie Sandwiches back on the menu after just a couple weeks!  Happy Monday!

              Friday, September 24, 2010

              Oatmeal Cream Pies

              These weren't quite as good as the real thing, but still a delicious treat. The cookies were very similar, but I would use an icing-based filling instead of cream cheese if I were going for a true copy-cat. No matter what, my husband loved them and that makes me happy.

              1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
              1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
              1/2 teaspoon baking powder
              1/4 teaspoon baking soda
              1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
              1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
              3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
              1/2 cup granulated sugar
              1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
              1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
              2 large eggs
              1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
              1/2 cup golden raisins
              8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
              6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

              Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown and granulated sugars, and molasses on high, scraping down bowl, until light and fluffy, 4 minutes. Add vanilla; beat until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl after each addition.

              With mixer on low, add flour mixture and beat just until combined. With a rubber spatula, stir in oats and raisins. Drop dough in 2-tablespoonful mounds, 2 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until cookies are just set at edges and slightly soft in middle, about 11 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets, 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

              In a medium bowl, using mixer, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until light, 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Spread filling on flat side of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies.

              Wednesday, September 22, 2010

              Slow Cooked Spicy Orange Chicken

              We tried this out the other night and it immediately went on my "sure to be a crowd pleaser" list. Mmm, mmm, good. A little spicy, a little sweet, moist and tender meat - yum! Roasted sweet potatoes were the perfect side veg.

              4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or thighs

              1 (18-ounce) jar orange marmalade
              1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
              1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

              1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
              1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

              1/4 cup chicken broth

              Put the chicken into the bottom of your slow cooker.
              In a small bowl, combine the marmalade with the dry spices and chicken broth. You'll end up with a slimy orange gel that smells like ginger. Pour this on top of the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or on high for about 4.

              You can either carefully remove the chicken and serve in full breasts or large chunks, or you can do what I did and shred it all with two forks allowing the meat to soak up more of the tasty juice. I suggest serving over brown rice with roasted sweet potatoes. Delish!

              Monday, September 20, 2010

              Meatless Monday - Spicy Stir-Fried Bok Choy and Mushrooms with Tofu

              It'd been a while since I'd made stir-fry. I think stir-fries are all about the sauce. This sauce was spicy and delicious and would work with any number of other veggie combination.

              1tsp cornstarch
              2 Tbs soy sauce
              2 tsp minced fresh ginger
              2 tsp Thai chile sauce, such as sriracha
              2 cloves garlic, minced
              1 tsp sesame oil
              3 Tbs canola oil, divided
              1 14-oz pkg. extra firm tofu, drained and cut into bite-sized cubes
              1 lb box choy, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
              2 cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms

              Whisk together cornstarch and 1 tsp water in a bowl. Whisk in soy sauce, ginger, chile sauce, garlic, and sesame oil.

              Heat 1 Tbs, canola oil in large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry tofu until golden brown; transfer to plate. Add 1 Tbs. canola oil to wok. Stir fry bok choy 4 minutes; transfer to plate.

              Add remaining 1 Tbs. oil to wok. Stir-fry mushrooms for 2 minutes, or until tender. Return tofu and bok choy to wok. Stir in soy sauce mixture, and stir-fry 1 minute or until hot.

              Thursday, September 16, 2010

              Roasted Carrot Soup

              As much as I love fall, saying goodbye to Summer is always difficult. This smooth soup helped the adjustment. It needed a little something at the end, but an extra dash of salt and some Sriracha (aka Rooster Sauce) did the trick. The recipe came from Simple Bites.

              2 lbs carrots, peeled and uniformly sliced

              2 tsp vegetable oil

              salt & pepper to taste

              1/2 tsp cumin

              1 large onion, roughly chopped

              2 tbsp veg oil

              6 small new or nugget potatoes, about 2/3 lb (Use only waxy varieties)

              2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth

              1 cup cilantro (lightly packed)

              Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss sliced carrots in 2 tsp vegetable oil, salt, pepper and cumin. Roast in the center of your oven for 30 minutes, turning once during cooking. Remove when slightly caramelized or blackened. Set aside.

              In heavy bottomed saucepan, sauté onion on medium heat in 2 tbsp of oil. Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into large chunks.

              Once onions have turned slightly translucent, add potatoes and sauté for about 10 minutes.

              Add the stock and turn the heat up to high. Once boiling, lower to a simmer.

              Keep simmering until the potatoes are almost done (about 10-15 minutes), then add the roasted carrots. Cook just enough to bring the carrots up to temperature, then remove from heat.

              Pour soup into blender or food processor in batches (or use an immersion blender). Add in your cilantro at this point as well. Blend it all up until it’s as smooth as you like.

              Return soup to saucepan and reheat.

              Serve with crusty bread for dipping and even a swirl of sour cream or crème fraîche.
              To Freeze: Allow soup to cool completely. Ladle into freezer-safe containers or glass jars, taking care to leave enough headspace to allow for ice expansion. Close lids, label clearly with the date and place in the freezer.
              To Thaw: Whenever possible, thaw soup overnight in the refrigerator. For a quicker thaw, place jar in tepid water and let stand at room temperature. Never pour hot water over your jar or it may crack.

              Tuesday, September 14, 2010

              Blackberry Cobbler

              I adapted a recipe from allrecipes to get this delicious cobbler. Next time, I'll let the berries sit in a bit of sugar to get their juices flowing before adding them to the mix. You could use this recipe for pretty much any fruit that sounds good in cobbler form.

              1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter
              1-1/4 cups flour
              1 tsp. baking soda
              1 tsp. baking powder
              1-1/4 cups sugar
              1 cup milk
              3 cups blackberries
              Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Once oven temperature is reached melt butter in a 8x8 square baking pan.

              In a medium bowl stir together the flour, soda, powder, sugar and milk; batter will be slightly lumpy. Pour mixture on top of melted butter in baking pan. Do not mix butter and mixture together.

              Drop blackberries into batter; if more crust is desired add less blackberries. Bake in preheated oven for one hour or until golden brown on top.
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