Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Buttermilk Pecan muffins


I made these muffins for breakfast last Saturday; which seems like forever ago. It's been a week.

They tasted delicious and we were really hungry while they baked; all that cinnamon with the pecans, vanilla and brown sugar made for a wonderful smelling kitchen. I loved the crunchy, streusel-like topping and it was extra good having a second layer of pecan goodness in the middle of the muffin.

Supposedly these freeze really well; but I can't speak to that. They didn't last long enough to freeze.  I can say they make great snacks and breakfast the next morning. 

Ingredients:

¼ cup Butter, softened
1 Egg
1-½ cups Buttermilk
½ cup Sugar
½ tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 cups Flour
¾ tsp Baking Power
¾ tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
¼ cup Brown Sugar
½ tsp Cinnamon
½ cup Finely Chopped Pecans

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease  a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper cupcake liners.

In a bowl beat butter, sugar, buttermilk, egg and vanilla. In another bowl combine flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the bowl, mixing thoroughly. It may still be a little lumpy, but no worries.

In a small bowl, mix ½ teaspoon cinnamon with the brown sugar and pecans.

Fill muffin cups half way up with batter. Spoon about a rounded teaspoon of the brown sugar-pecan mixture in each tin of batter, and then repeat with a little more batter to fill the muffin cup up three-quarters. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the brown sugar-pecan mixture.

Bake 25 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins. They can be frozen after baking and completely cooled.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Spinach, Artichoke, And Tortellini Pasta Salad


This recipe has been in my to-try file for a long time. It has olives in it, which Husband doesn't like, so I haven't made for us.

Today there was a potluck at work and I decided to give it a shot. I usually make tried and tested recipes to share with my coworkers, but this sounded so wonderful and I didn't see how it was going to try out badly.

It was popular! Although it makes a large amount nearly all of it was gone at the end of the day and I have many requests for the recipe. It turned out to be a really good choice for a potluck too. I was able to make it the night before and it can sit out for several hours and still taste great.

When the salad comes together it will seem like a TON of spinach. But the spinach does wilt down as the salad sits.

Adapted from Rachel Ray

Ingredients:

1 (20 oz) Package Fresh Cheese Tortellini
8 ounces Fresh Baby Spinach, chopped
¼ Red Onion, minced
2 Tbsp Jarred Roasted Red Pepper, minced
1 (14 oz)can Baby (Small) Artichoke Hearts, quartered
¼-½ cups Pitted Kalamata Olives, chopped or whole
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
Zest And Juice Of 1 Lemon
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves, minced
Black Pepper To Taste
½ cup Oil-Packed Sun Dried Tomatoes, julienned - from a jar or from an olive bar
¼ cup Feta Cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Boil a large pot of water. Add tortellini and boil 4-5 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain pasta and allow to cool. (I have always added pasta to salad while its a little warm. I think it absorbed the flavors of the salad more readily-but whatever you prefer.)

In a large bowl, add chopped spinach, onion, red pepper, artichoke hearts and olives. Toss.  Mince garlic or put the cloves through a garlic press and place in a small bowl or jar. Add red wine vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, and black pepper. Whisk or shake to combine. Pour dressing over spinach. Toss well. Add pasta, tomatoes, and feta. Toss again and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Panini Press



My Christmas present to myself was a Panini press. I had been wanting one for quite a while and, well, everything goes on sale before Christmas. So it was a good time to buy myself a little something.  I love sandwiches in general and I order Paninis all the time when we go out. I have tried them at home a couple times using the two skillet method; as in pushing down on the sandwich with the other skillet. I wasn't thrilled with the results so I thought an gadget made for the job would be a worthy investment.

I wanted a small one; for storage and because Husband and I certainly don't one capable of making a bunch of sandwiches at a time. I settled on this model as it was attractive, compact and got great reviews.  We have some other kitchen items that are Cuisinart brand and I have been pleased with them. 

I have been very happy with it. It heats up quickly, the food heats evenly and its very easy to clean. We haven't made anything terribly greasy with it so it has just been a matter of wiping down the non-stick grill plates once it cools and cleanup is done. We have concentrated on Panini sandwiches and Quesadillas but you can make burgers, sliders, chicken and all sorts of things. 



The sandwich above has pork left over from a roast we had a few weekends ago, Provolone cheese, dill pickles and Chipotle mayo on multi-grain bread. I love the pretty grill marks from the Panini press. Its a great way to use up leftover meat.
We do make our sandwiches one at a time. You could probably squish both on at once; but it's easy to manage one at a time and the second person isn't waiting long. This sandwich took 4-5 minutes.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Chicken Chilaquiles


These were basically another excuse to put nachos on the dinner menu. They are made with chicken instead of the traditional beef and have a tomato base.  We like spicy so these contain both jalapeno pepper and Chipotle peppers in adobo. The original recipe didn't call for jalapenos but I happened to have several of them at the moment and I knew it would be good addition.

On the subject of Chipotle peppers in adobo; what to do with the rest of the can after making a recipe? Freeze in Ziploc bag! Take the peppers out of the can, spread in the single layer in the bag and throw in the freezer. You can break off what you need for future recipes and your peppers will last a long time. I tried it and it works great. 

I also look for any excuse to buy avocados or guacamole. The first time we had it with chopped avocado over the chicken and this time we had spicy guacamole beside the sour cream; both were delicious. 


Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
¼ cup Onion, finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 Can (14 Ounces) Whole Peeled Tomatoes, in puree
1-2 Canned Chipotle Chilies In Adobo, plus the sauce clinging to the chili pepper
1 Cooked Chicken Breast
1 tsp Cilantro
2 cups Tortilla Chips
1 Avocado, chopped
¼ cup Sour Cream
½ cup Mexican Cheese

Directions:

1.  Pour oil into heavy skillet, heat and add onion and peppers.  Cook and stir over medium heat until tender. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. 

2. Add tomatoes with their puree (breaking tomatoes up, or chop tomatoes ahead of time) and chipotle with adobo sauce. ( I used a can of diced tomatoes instead. )  Bring to a boil; season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer rapidly until lightly thickened and some of the liquid is evaporated, 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Add chicken and cook, stirring, until hot, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro.

4. Divide chips among four shallow bowls; top with chicken mixture and Mexican cheese. Microwave for 30 seconds on high if melted cheese is desired.  Garnish with avocado or guacamole and sour cream.  Serve warm

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies



If you are looking for a thick, rich, indulgent cookie; look no further. This is it. 

The basis of the cookie is cake mix, something I have been meaning to try for a while. I had heard it resulted in a thick, chewy cookie and that is certainly true in this case. The batter is so thick, in fact, it must be flattened a bit on the tray so it takes the shape of a cookie.
It is also such an easy way to make cookies. Other than unwrapping and crushing the peanut butter cups this took me hardly any time to put together. 

These aren't really classic holiday cookies, but I have a bunch frozen to bring out later this season. Personally I think a good chocolate peanut butter cookie is good any time of the year. :-) 

Adapted from Taste of Home

 Ingredients:

1 Box Devils Food Cake Mix
1 stick (8 tablespoons) Butter, melted
1 large Egg
2 cups Mini Chocolate Chips
25 Mini peanut butter Cups, crushed

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Pour cake mix into a large mixing bow. Add melted butter (I melted the butter in the microwave. Having the butter completely melted makes mixing the batter easier.) egg, chocolate chips and crushed peanut butter cups. I put the peanut butter cups in a Zip lock bag and ran my rolling pin over them to crush them.  It's a very thick, heavy batter and I ended up using my hands.

3. Using a tablespoon or a medium cookie scoop drop dough onto a baking sheet about 1 inch apart. The dough does not spread much so they can be closer together then most cookies. With a spoon or your fingers press down slightly on the top of each dough ball.

4. Bake for 11-13 minutes until cooked through. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack. I am normally not good about doing these but these fall apart unless they are allowed to cool

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pumpkin muffins


I did some baking this week to donate to a bake sale to benefit the local animal shelter. Anything with animals is a cause near and dear to my heart.

I made these chocolate pecan pie bars that are beyond delicious. My plan was to donate half the pan and keep the other half frozen and have for Christmas. I think they would have to be frozen and stored across town to survive much longer. It doesn't help that they are amazing even straight out of the freezer.

There was leftover pumpkin puree from Thanksgiving so I decided to try this pumpkin muffin recipe. They are nice for a light breakfast or a quick snack. I didn't have sunflower seeds, but I think they would be a nice addition. I could also see mixing in some nuts; pecans sound really good.  Husband thought cream cheese frosting would be good, sort of a pumpkin bar in muffin form. I can't argue with that, but I left this batch as is.



I donated six pumpkin muffins, a plate of chocolate pecan pie bars and some milk chocolate fudge.



Adapted from Parade Magazine

Ingredients:


2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
¾ tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Ginger
¼ tsp Salt
1 stick Unsalted Butter, softened
½ cup Brown Sugar
2 large Eggs
¾ cup Pumpkin Puree
¼ cup Milk
Sunflower Seeds, optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Beat butter and brown sugar until well combined. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Fold in pumpkin puree and milk.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Fit a regular muffin pan with liners.

Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups ( a cookie scoop works well ) and sprinkle with sunflower seeds if desired. Bake until muffins are puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Italian Chicken soup


I have been wanting to make chicken noodle soup ever since the weather turned cold, but I wanted something different than the classic egg noodles and chicken in broth. I like all the vegetables in this recipe and the heavy cream made this soup a bit richer and decadent that most classic broth soups.

My original plan was to modify this recipe a bit and use leftover turkey. As it turned out I didn't have enough leftover turkey, but I am glad it worked that way. I had four chicken legs sitting in the freezer with no plans for them and they worked great in this soup along with a chicken breast. Bone-in skin-on chicken makes for tasty stock for the soup, as does a little dark meat.

 This recipe is half the original and still produces six large servings.

It is wonderful as leftovers too as I found out for lunch today. The flavors meld and everything gets extra delicious after sitting a few days. 

Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

½ Box Ditalini Pasta (Very Short Macaroni-Type Pasta Noodles)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ Whole Chicken - Breasts, Legs, Thigh Or Any Combination - I used one large breast and 4 legs
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
½ Whole Medium Onion, Diced
1 Whole Red Bell Peppers, Diced
1 Stalks Celery, Diced
1 Whole Fresh Jalapeno pepper, Diced
1 ½ tsp Olive Oil
1 Can (14-Ounce) Can Whole Tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup Heavy Cream
⅛ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Minced Fresh Oregano
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste
Parmesan Cheese Shavings or grated Parmesan, For Serving

Directions:

Place chicken pieces in a large soup pot and cover with the chicken broth. Cover and bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let chicken sit in broth for an additional 30 minutes. Remove chicken, reserving broth and dice or chop chicken; discarding the skin and bones. Set aside the meat.

Cook pasta in a separate pot according to package directions (mine took about 8 minutes) being sure not to overcook it. Drain pasta and drizzle in a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together.

Dice canned tomatoes if using whole tomatoes and return them to their juice.

Heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and oregano and turn off heat, stir constantly for one minute. Set this aside. You can also used dried oregano as the olive oil does a nice job reconstituting the flavor of the dried spice.

Pour chicken broth into a separate container and use the original soup pot to saute onion, red pepper, celery, and jalapeno in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add cooked pasta, cream, and all the oregano and olive oil from the small skillet. Stir to combine and until desired temperature. Turn off heat.

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan or shavings. Bread is always good with soup too.