Monday, January 31, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip mini-muffins

  • You'd think it'd be hard to mess up a chocolate peanut butter combination, right?  But these certainly were not my favorite.  They were too dense and a bit dry.  Maybe less peanut butter?  Or don't use the "healthy" kind?  Don't bake them as long?  Hmmmm . . . 

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

  • In a large bowl, combine the first four ingredients. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, peanut butter, oil and vanilla.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Fill greased or paper-lined miniature muffin cups two-thirds full.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chicken Tostadas

Jessie pointed out this recipe on her blog and said we needed to give it a try.  I'd been wanting a new "mexican food" recipe, so we put it to the test last night and it passed with flying colors!  The flavor of the chicken "sauce" was fantastic and gave it an extra edge to make it more than just your normal chicken tostada.  I only used one serrano chile so it wouldn't be too much for the kids to handle, but if I was serving it to guests I would have used two and it would have been just the right amount of spice.

1 medium white onion
1 pound tomatoes, quartered
2 large garlic cloves
1 or 2 fresh serrano chiles, stemmed
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
3 cups shredded lettuce
3 large radishes, halved and sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1 rotisserie chicken, meat coarsely shredded (4 cups)
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 (1-pound) can refried beans, heated
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1/4 cup crumbled queso añjo (aged white cheese, also called cotija) or ricotta salata

Accompaniments: sliced serranos; lime wedges

Preheat broiler.  Cut half of onion into 3/4-inch wedges, then chop remainder. Toss onion wedges, tomatoes, garlic, and whole chiles with 2 tablespoons oil in a 4-sided sheet pan, spreading in 1 layer.  Broil about 4 inches from heat until softened and charred, 10 to 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, toss together lettuce, radishes, chopped onion, and half of cilantro.

Purée tomato mixture in a blender along with one or both roasted serranos (to taste) and 1 teaspoon salt until smooth(use caution when blending hot foods). Transfer purée to a bowl and stir in chicken, remaining cilantro, and salt to taste.

Heat remaining 1/2 cup oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry tortillas, 1 at a time, turning once or twice and pressing with tongs to immerse, until golden brown, 45 to 60 seconds per tortilla. Drain briefly on paper towels, then transfer to plates. (or just buy a small pack of prepared tostada chips!)

Spread tortillas thickly with heated refried beans, then top with chicken mixture. Slice avocado over tostadas and dollop with crema.  Mound lettuce mixture on top and sprinkle with cheese.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gingerbread Waffles

Who says you can't make gingerbread after the holidays are over?!  I'm not sure how I came across this recipe, but when I did, I knew it would be our next Saturday morning special breakfast (my camera was still broken then, so I didn't get my own shot).  I ended up using half whole wheat flour and they were delicious, satisfying, and tasted like gingerbread!  They were heavy on the ginger, so if you're not a ginger fan you might want to use a bit less.

makes 8-10 waffles
 2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 c buttermilk
4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
3 Tbsp unsulfered molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat waffle iron. In the meantime, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, eggs, molasses and vanilla.  Add wet ingredients to dry, whisking until smooth.

Coat waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour batter into waffle iron and cook as per instructions (it’s usually called for to fill the waffle well about 3/4′s full). Close and cook until waffle is golden and cooked through.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spicy Cheese Crisps

Yummy, yummy in my tummy!  I first had these at my aunt's bridal shower.  My sweet Nana copied down the recipe from the host's cookbook because we liked them so much!  I made this batch for my friend's baby shower (hence the little green frog about to dive into the fruit plate).  My husband didn't care for them as much, but I think the buttery crunch with a little kick makes the perfect savory bite.

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
3 cups crisp rice cereal

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until fluffy. Slowly mix in the flour, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir in cheese and cereal.

Shape into 1-1/2-in. balls the flatten slightly with the palms of your hands.  Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350F for 15-17 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Penne with Pumpkin and Sausage

The other half of my can of pumpkin went towards this tasty meal.  Like most pasta dishes, it's a bit dried out as leftovers (and it makes a lot!), but has great flavor and the sweet sausage is just right.  My son wanted his carrots included in the picture!

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4-6 sprigs sage leaves (about 2 tablespoons), cut into chiffonade (I used 1 Tbsp dried)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used whole milk)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate, cooked to al dente
Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for grating

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it.  Transfer sausage to a paper towel-lined plate.  Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove.  Add the remaining Tbsp oil, followed by the garlic and onion.  Saute 3-5 minutes until the onions are tender.

Add bay leaf, sage and wine to the pan.  Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes.  Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble.  Return sausage to pan; reduce heat and stir in cream.  Season the sauce with the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper, to taste.  Simmer mixture 5-10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in.  Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over the pasta.  Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute.  Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Savory Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

Whoa . . . WHOA these are so good.  You just thought I was done with pumpkin.  Oh, no.  I had a large can sitting in my cupboard begging to be used.  But these are so moist and yummy, it's worth buying an out-of-season-priced can of pumpkin to make a batch, or two.  Thankfully I had some friends over to help eat them all, otherwise I think I would have forgone my dinner for another muffin, or two.

1 c. canned pumpkin
3 TBSP sour cream (I used plain yogurt)
2 eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, cooled and melted
2 c. flour
1 & 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 & 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 & 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 & 1/4  c. grated sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly coat the insides of 12 muffin cups with vegetable oil or cooking spray.

Whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream.  Whisk in the eggs and cooled, melted butter until combined.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, pepper and brown sugar.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients into the well and gently fold until combined.  Fold in 3/4ths of the cheese.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups.  Sprinkle tops with the remaining cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out the muffins to a cooling rack.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Train Cake

My son turned three this week!  Last year, I made him a dump truck cake.  This year, I let him help me decide what the mass of sugar he would inhale would look like.  He asked for a train cake and this is what he got!  Not the smoothest frosted cake, but a train cake to be sure, and he was excited, which is all I care about.  You can find the original instructions here, but I am posting them with the changes I made (minus the pictures and diagram at the bottom).

1 family-size frozen pound cake (16 oz), thawed (I couldn't find a family-sized cake, so I bought two smaller ones and just pieced the train together using my own measurements instead of following the cutting guide you'll see below)
2 cans (16 oz each) vanilla frosting
Yellow food coloring
Blue food coloring
3 Twizzlers
4 Rolos
2 Tootsie Rolls
4 Ring Dings or Ding Dongs
8 mini-Oreos
4 Oreos
1 bag plain M&Ms
5 Hershey's Sticks or Kit Kats for the track (optional)

Trimming the cake:

  1. Using a bread knife, trim a ¾-inch piece off both short ends of the pound cake to make the cake about 9 by 4 ½ inches.
  2. Cut the pound cake as indicated on the diagram to make two 2 ½ by 4 ½-inch cars, one 4 by 3 ½-inch car, and one 1 by 4-inch slice. Reserve the 1 by 4-inch piece and set aside.

For the colored frosting:

  1. Spoon the contents of 1 can of vanilla frosting into a bowl. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to tint it a light blue.
  2. Divide the remaining can of vanilla frosting in half and spoon into separate bowls. Add yellow food coloring to one bowl of frosting to tint it yellow; add red food coloring to the other bowl of frosting to tint it red.

For the engine decorations:

  1. Heat the Tootsie Rolls in the microwave for 2 to 3 seconds. Roll out each Tootsie Roll on wax paper and cut into two 1 by ½-inch rectangles for the train windows.

Frosting the cake:

  1. Lay the trimmed 1 by 4-inch slice flat on a serving platter. Spread the top with some blue frosting.
  2. Stack the 4 Ring Dings, spreading frosting in between each cake, and lay the stack on its side to make the cylindrical front engine.
  3. Place the 4 by 3 ½-inch piece upright behind the stack of Ring Dings.
  4. Spread the entire engine with blue frosting to cover and make smooth.

Assembling the engine:

  1. Add 2 mini- and 2 regular-size Oreos to either side for the engine's wheels.
  2. Press the Tootsie Roll windows into the sides of the upright cake.
  3. Trim off the large end of one Rolo.  Press caramel side into the nose of the engine.  Place a small dot of frosting on the center of the Rolo and add a blue M&M.
  4. Gently press one Rolo, fat end up, into the top of the engine.  Stack two more Rolos on top, matching the skinny end with skinny end and fat end with fat end.  
  5. Cut two picees of Twizzler, the same length (shorter than the "smoke stack" of Rolos), and gently press them next to each other in the top of the third Ring Ding. 

Decorating the middle car:

  1. Set one of the 2 ½ by 4 ½-inch pieces of pound cake behind the engine. Frost with the yellow frosting.
  2. Trim the Twizzlers with a serrated knife to fit the length and width of the top edges of the cake.
  3. Fill the top of the cake with the M&Ms.
  4. Attach the mini-Oreos, two on each side.

For the optional train tracks:

  1. Cut 3 of the chocolate sticks in half.
  2. Place the pairs of halved chocolate sticks in front and in back of the middle car and caboose. To complete, place the 2 long chocolate sticks in front of the engine cake.

Cake Anatomy:

train anatomy

train anatomy


Cake Cutout:

train anatomy

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

I'd never made stuffed mushrooms before, and I've only had them one other time, so without much to compare to I thought these were fantastic!  My husband and I both agreed that I should have doubled the recipe since there were six of us enjoying them.

18-24 button or cremini mushrooms, scrubbed clean, stems separated from the caps
1 Tbsp butter
2 small shallots, minced, about 2 Tbsp
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence or dried thyme
2 Tbsp breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp sherry or chicken stock
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Finely chop the mushroom stems. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the chopped mushroom stems and the shallots for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and walnuts and sprinkle with salt. Stir well and sauté 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat and add the parsley, herbes de Provence and breadcrumbs. Pour the sherry into a food processor, then the rest of the stuffing. Pulse several times to get a fine mixture, almost a paste.

Toss the mushroom caps with olive oil. Fill each mushroom with the stuffing. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over each mushroom and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese browns a little. Allow to cool for 5 minutes or so before serving.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Peppermint Pretzels

I love Trader Joe's.  I'm sorry for those of you who don't have one close by.  But on this recipe, you won't miss TJ's.  I borrowed the image since I still don't have a working camera, but I have to say that I like my version of peppermint pretzels better than theirs.  Maybe a little too much better!  The savory and sweet combo makes this little snack quite addicting.  Just giving you fair warning.  Trust me and snag those clearanced candy canes to make this soon!

1 bag thin pretzels (I ended up using about 3/4 of a one pound bag of Rold's Gold classic style thin pretzels)
1 bag white chocolate chips
1/4 - 1/2 cup finely crushed candy canes or peppermints (I used 1/4 cup and would have liked a bit more peppermint flavor after all was said and done)

Crush the pretzels into a large bowl, breaking them all so there aren't any pretzels in their original shape.  Set aside. 

Get your crushed peppermints ready and lay out a large piece of wax paper. 

Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir.  Microwave at 15-30 second intervals, stirring in between, until all the chips have been melted. 

Once melted, quickly pour the chocolate over the crushed pretzels and stir until the pretzels are evenly coated.  You can crush a handful of pretzels and add them if you want to stretch the chocolate a bit more.  Once the chocolate is mixed in, add the peppermint and stir until everything is evenly mixed.  Dump onto the wax paper and spread into an even layer.  Wait about 20 minutes for the chocolate to harden and then break off pieces to enjoy!

*For a fun twist, try using a combination of regular corn chex and chocolate chex instead of the preztels.  Thanks to Ryan's aunt for that idea! 

Thursday, January 6, 2011


 image found here
 My brother-in-law and his wife are vegetarians on their way to being vegans, so I tried out this soup for one of the dinners we shared together during our Christmas visit with the family.  I couldn't get my husband to try it (since the other choice included meat!), but I thought this was delicious.  It was also a great way to use the two-day-old baguette we had in the kitchen.

3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound kale (lacinato or Tuscan are best), stems trimmed off and leaves well chopped
4 cups cooked white beans
1/2 pound crustless loaf of bread
1 1/2 tsp salt
zest of one lemon (I didn't use this-it was good before I threw it in and I didn't want to mess things up!)
well-chopped black olives, optional

In your largest thick-bottomed pot over medium heat, combine the olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and red onion.  Cook for 10-15 minutes sweating the vegetables, but avoid any browning.  Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and simmer for another 10 minutes or so, long enough for the tomatoes to thicken up a bit.  Stir in the kale, 3 cups of beans, and 8 cups water (I used 6 cups water and 2 cups vegetarian stock).  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes. 

In the meantime, mash or puree the remaining beans with a generous splash of water - until smooth.  Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks.  Stir both the beans and bread into the soup.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread breaks down and the soup thickens, 20-30 minutes.  Stir in the salt, taste and add more if needed.  Stir in the lemon zest.

Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate overnight.  Serve reheated, or "ribollita" meaning reboiled, the next day ladeled into bowls.  Finish each serving with a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped olives.

Makes a large pot - enough for at least 8!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Happy New Year!  We kicked off 2011 with some traditional black-eyed peas crock-pot style.  They were so yummy, we gobbled them up before I could get a picture of the finished product.  I see no reason to wait until next year to make this again!

1 pound dried black eyed peas
1 pound spicy sausage, sliced
6 cups chicken broth
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
tabasco sauce, optional

Soak you beans overnight.  Drain and pick out the broken and discolored beans in the morning.

Dump the veggies into the crock pot with your pre-soaked beans.  Add sliced sausage.  Pour in broth and stir in Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for about 6.  Before serving, use a stick blender to smash up about 1 cup of beans, or scoop out 1 cup of beans and blend them with a bit of the broth in a blender, then add back to the soup.  Don't blend too much - just enough to get the broth thicker and creamy-looking.

Ladle into bowls and add Tabasco sauce to taste.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Welcome, 2011!  I've got some black-eyed peas in the crock pot and another stew brewing that I'll share later, but I thought it would be fun to share the posts that received the most views in 2010.  I have to say that you did a great job choosing - these are some of my most favorite recipes, too!

Italian Cous Cous - my go-to recipe for new moms and something that is simple enough to please almost everyone but not so boring that you wouldn't want to serve to guests.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins - you've just got to try these!  They have shape and texture of a muffin but the taste and melt-in-your-mouth goodness of a doughtnut.

Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes - perfect for the month of November, but good enough to drink any day of the year!

Blackberry Slump - similar to a moist and yummy coffee cake; you could use any fresh berry on top

Stir-Fried Bok Choy - The sauce in this stir-fry is fantastic!  

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