Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pumpkin Granola

I didn't bother to take a picture of this one because I didn't think it was that great.  But I'm a bit picky about my granola, so you might like it.  It's on the softer more chunky side.  The flavor was fine, I just like my granola to be crunchy and not too clumpy (like my standard recipe is!).

3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the oats, dried cranberries, raisins, almonds, coconut, and pumpkin seeds, stirring until granola is evenly coated. It will be moist.
Spread out evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes and stir the granola around. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container. Granola will crisp up once it has cooled down.
Serve with milk, yogurt, or eat it plain and by the handful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

Who doesn't love peanut butter and chocolate?  Seriously?!  Those kind of people exist?!  Well, I'm a big fan of the combination and these amazing brownies did not disappoint.  You can use whatever brownie recipe (or box) you chose, but it's really the frosting that makes this dessert absolutely rich and to die for.  Don't leave out the salt - it really does make a difference.

6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) softened butter
¾ cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (like Maldon), for sprinkling on top

Cream the butter and the peanut butter until combined. Slowly stir in the powdered sugar and pinch of salt until completely incorporated. Spread over cooled brownies. Sprinkle the sea salt all over top.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

photo credit here

This has nothing to do with thanksgiving dinner, but I was certainly grateful to get to eat this soup!  As much as I enjoy Olive Garden's soup and salad combo, I'd never tried this one from their menu.  So I can't say how close the recipe is to the original version, but it was delicious nonetheless.  I ended up adding more chicken broth to thin the soup a bit, leaving it still plenty rich, creamy, and a comforting fall soup.

  • 1 cup chicken breasts, cooked and diced (you can use a rotisserie chicken)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 quart half and half (I used 1 cup half and half and the rest whole milk)
  • 1 14 ounces can of chicken broth (I added at least one more cup)
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup carrots, finely shredded
  • 1 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
  • 1 pound potato gnocchi 

Saute the onion, celery, and garlic in the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the flour and make a roux. Let the butter and flour mixture cook for about a minute before adding 1 quart of half and half.
Cook gnocchi according to package directions.
Into the roux, add in the carrots and chicken. Once the mixture becomes thick, add the chicken broth. Once the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasoning;, simmer until soup is heated through.

Monday, November 21, 2011


These got better with each one I made.  The first two weren't really worth eating - too thin and cooked too long.  But by the end I had the hang of how thick and how long to cook and we ended up with enough tasty naan to scoop up our curry.  Why use a spoon when you could have naan?  It's not a substitute for what you get in the restaurants, but for the price, it's a good homemade alternative.

2 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 - 3 cups flour
1/2 tsp sale
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 plain green yogurt
1 large egg

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and water. Stir to dissolve then let sit for a few minutes or until it is frothy on top. At that point, stir in the oil, yogurt and egg until evenly combined.

In a medium sized bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the salt. Next, add the bowl of wet ingredients to the flour/salt mixture and stir until well combined. Continue adding flour a half cup at a time until you can no longer stir it with a spoon (about 1 to 1.5 cups later).

At that point, turn the ball of dough out onto a well floured counter top. Knead the ball of dough for about 3 minutes, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. I ended up using about 3 cups of flour total. The dough should be smooth and very soft but not sticky.

Loosely cover the dough and let it rise until double in size (about 45 minutes). After it rises, gently flatten the dough and cut it into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a small ball by stretching the dough back under itself until the top is smooth and round. 

Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat and spray lightly with non-stick spray. Working with one ball at a time, roll it out until it is about 1/4 inch thick or approximately 6 inches in diameter. Place the rolled out dough onto the hot skillet and cook until the under side is golden brown and large bubbles have formed on the surface (see photos below). Flip the dough and cook the other side until golden brown as well. Serve plain or brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with herbs!

For the most bubbles, don't roll out the ball of dough until just before it is ready to be placed in the skillet. I experimented with different skillet temperatures and found that a medium heat produces the most bubbles in the dough and does not burn the surface.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese

photo credit here

My finished product looked nothing like this, but it still tasted excellent.  Don't be bummed if your basil bread topping clumps up, too.  It won't look very pretty, but it will still be good.  We were fans.

1 small butternut, acorn, or other winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into tiny chunks
olive oil
1 bunch of basil, stems removed
2 slices bread, stale or dried out in the oven
1/2 a small head of broccoli, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp sour cream
3 cups combination of grated cheeses, white cheddar and gruyere were the original suggestions - I used sharp cheddar and monteray jack
large handful of cherry tomatoes
3 cups dried macaroni elbows

Preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle.  Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Place the squash on a large baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden.

In the meantime, pulse half the basil, all the bread, the broccoli and lug of olive oil in a food processor until you've got a fine crumb.  It'll be a bit damp - that's ok.  Transfer to a small bowl and give the processor a rinse.

In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream and grated cheeses.

Place tomatoes in food processor with remaining basil.  Pulse a couple times to break things up, then add to the sour cream mixture and stir well.

Boil pasta in well-salted water for a bit less time than the package suggests.  Drain, reserving a big cup of the hot pasta water for later use.  Return the hot pasta to the pan and add cheese mixture.  Add squash and give it a good stir.  Add pasta water to thin the sauce to the consistency of cream.  It can be a bit runny as the pasta will soak it up in the oven.

Transfer everything to a large baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle the green breadcrumbs evenly across the top and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the topping is crunchy.  Remove from the oven, and wait 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin Gingerbread

This is my oldest gingersnap enjoying his pumpkin gingerbread.  He and his sister helped me polish off this deliciously moist loaf.  

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 Tbsp finely minced candied or fresh ginger (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare a loaf pan with non-stick spray or butter to keep the pumpkin gingerbread from sticking to pan.

In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In another bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the pumpkin puree, melted butter, sugar, molasses, fresh or candied ginger, eggs, and water.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Stir only until incorporated.

Place batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a bamboo skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Then gently run a knife around the edge of the loaf and invert the loaf to remove it from the pan.  Let it cool on a rack for 30 minutes or longer.

The loaf's flavor will improve with time.  If you cut into it while it's still a bit warm, it may be crumbly. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Apple-Cheddar-Squash Soup

This soup was full of flavor, creamy, not too rich, and perfect for fall.  My oldest gingersnap asked last night if I would make it again for dinner soon (identified as the orange soup with bacon!).

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium apples, thinly sliced
  • 1 large white potato, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled butternut squash, fresh or frozen
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup apple cider (I used juice)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into bite-size pieces (I used bacon)
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Chopped chives, for garnish (optional)
  • Crusty bread, for serving (optional)

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium-low heat and add the onion, apples, potato and squash. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in the sage and flour. Add the cider and cook over high heat, stirring, until thickened. Add the broth and milk, cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the potato is soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and cook until crisp, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Add the cheese to the soup and stir over medium-low heat until melted. Puree in a blender in batches until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the prosciutto, more cheese and chives, if using. Serve with bread, if desired.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cinnamon Snaps

In August, we went to Belgium and I tasted, among other wonderful things, the wonders of a cookie called Speculoos:

I'm typically a chewy cookie kind of girl, but these cinnamony wonders were crispy and had me with one bite.  I've since learned that there is a Speculoos spread!  It's as if Nutella is introducing me to its long-lost cousin!!  But back to the cookie . . . I wasn't wasn't thinking of Speculoos when I made these cinnamon snaps, but they ended up being pretty darn close!  So, of course, I loved them.  They are light, just spicy enough, snappy and addictive.  The perfect holiday cookie.  I baked one roll and kept the other in the freezer for a last-minute sweet treat with unexpected company.

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 large egg
  • extra sugar and ground cinnamon for coating

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.  Set aside. 

Beat the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the honey, egg, and vanilla extract and beat for another minute on medium until well incorporated.  Be sure to pause halfway through to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Slowly mix in the dry ingredients and mix until they are incorporated into the dough and the dough is smooth.
Lightly flour a work surface and divide the dough into two equal parts. Lightly roll them out into logs about 2-inches in diameter. Place them on pieces of plastic wrap and wrap them up and carefully smooth the logs out. Place in the freezer and chill at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.  
Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside a small bowl and add some cinnamon and sugar in whatever proportions you enjoy best (I find 1/4 cup of sugar to a teaspoon of cinnamon is perfect for me, but taste and go with what works for you).
Slice the dough into 1/4-inch rounds with a sharp knife. Take each round and press one side into the cinnamon sugar you mixed earlier. Place the dough round sugar-side up. Give the cookies plenty of space as they will spread when they bake.
Bake for 10-13 minutes or until a dark golden-brown. Be sure to watch them very carefully after 10 minutes as they can burn very quickly. The cookies will puff up a bit and remain soft once out of the oven. Don't worry as they will become crisp as they cool. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Jessie and I "challenged" each other to make one of our fall favorite meals.  This was the recipe she sent to me and it was de-li-cious!  We all loved it.  It made a ton, which we enjoyed as leftovers and shared with neighbors.  Jessie's recipe is here, but I ended up halving the amount of meat and thought there was still plenty.

5 (4 ounce) links hot Italian sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 chicken tenders or strips
1 pound medium shrimp - peeled and deveined
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 large stalk celery, with leaves, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups uncooked long grain rice
2 (14.5 ounce) cans peeled and diced tomatoes, juice reserved
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 1/2 cups chicken broth

Heat a wok over medium-high heat. Fry hot and mild Italian sausage pieces in the wok until brown on all sides. Remove sausage, and fry the chicken strips in the sausage drippings until browned. Remove chicken and saute onions, green pepper, celery, and garlic for 5 minutes, or until tender.

Stir in the uncooked rice, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, oregano and turmeric. Cook and stir for 1 minute, then mix in 1/2 cup of reserved tomato juice and chicken broth. Add chicken pieces, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add sausage to the mixture, and continue to simmer for 15 minutes, then stir in the shrimp; cover and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes, or until shrimp is cooked through.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Indian-Spiced Chicken Wraps

The original recipe called this Chicken Schwarma.  We thought the flavor was delicious, but not really like any schwarma we've ever tasted.  I think I would have preferred the chicken on a flat bread or naan instead of pita.  But the yogurt sauce was fantastic and went very well with the flavor of indian-inspired flavor of the meat.

Chicken and Marinade:
1 large chicken breasts
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

Yogurt sauce:
7 oz. cup plain greek yogurt
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp salt

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the marinade.  Add chicken, coat well, cover and refrigerate for 4-24 hours.  If desired, slice the chicken into strips before marinating to maximize the flavor.

Prepare the yogurt sauce for the sandwiches.  Combine all ingredients.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

After marinating the chicken, grill until cooked through.  Serve with yogurt sauce and desired vegetables on pita or flat bread.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lemon Chicken with Croutons

This dish was my absolute favorite from a recipe exchange party.  The flavor is amazing, the chicken stayed moist and the croutons absorb the delicious lemony juices.  Add some lightly charred, flavorful onions on top and it's one of the best things I tasted last month.  When I finally put the dish on the table, the chicken had cooled off more than I wanted it to, so I'll have to figure out how to remedy that next time.

1 roasting chicken, at least 3 pounds
1 large onion, sliced
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
2 lemons, quartered
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 cup chicken broth
6 cups bread cubes (1 baguette cut up)
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Preheat oven to 425.

Wash chicken inside and out (remove giblets if they're still inside).  Toss the onion with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan.  Place the chicken on top and sprinkle the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper.  Place lemons inside chicken.  Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels, brush it with the melter butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.

Roast chicken for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh.  Check onions after 45min.-1 hour.  When they are getting crispy and really browned, add chicken broth.  Cover with foil and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with 2 Tbsp of olive oil or until very hot.  Lower the heat to medium and saute the bread cubes, tossing frequently, until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add more olive oil, as needed, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp garlic salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Remove croutons from heat.

Slice chicken (or just kinda piece it off the bone) and place it on a serving platter.  Put croutons on top of chicken, then pour juices and onions on top.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Energy Balls

My kids and I made a batch of these this week.  I actually posted this recipe a couple years ago, but after tasting one today, I decided you needed to be reminded of the goodness.  These are the perfect "pick-me-up" bite.  They're packed with good fats and protein and have an addictive salty-sweet thing going on with a little crunch.  So here they are, making another appearance and hoping that you like them as much as I do!

In a large saucepan, melt together:
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey

Stir in:
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup rice crispies cereal
(I also added a few spoonfuls of wheat germ at this point)

Mix in:
basically anything you want - the possibilities are endless!
1/2 nuts (I used chopped almonds and pecans)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I would suggest decreasing the amount of honey if you use chocolate chips. They were a little too sweet for my taste)

When the mixture is cool enough for you to handle, form into balls and roll in shredded coconut (optional). Store in a cool place.
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