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Monday, October 31, 2011

Where were you?

If you live in certain areas of the Northeast, remember where you were this past weekend.  Sooner or later, people are bound to ask where you were during the blizzard/Nor'easter/absolute craziness of Halloween Weekend 2011.  Unbelievable!

Snow blowers, hats, generators, falling tree branches, pure darkness, sirens.  This pretty much sums up all we heard and saw this weekend.  IN OCTOBER.  

Much of our area is still without power (we're running by generator) and isn't due to be restored until the middle or end of this week.  Schools have been canceled today, along with trick-or-treating, parades, and other activities that usually take place during clean, crisp Halloween weather.  

On Saturday, the day of the storm, I promised Bella we'd bake after her nap.  She was so excited when she woke up and rushed into the kitchen.  Little did she know, we lost power while she was recharging her little batteries.

A while later we got the generator going, but didn't have much time before bedtime to bake.  It's times like these when I'm glad I keep my emergency stash of cake and brownie mixes in the pantry.  In about 5 minutes, there was a very happy 3 year old watching Mommy put a pan of these in the oven.

What a great October snow day indulgence (sure, go ahead and have it during the REAL winter months, too).  This is also a great last minute dessert to throw together today while juggling the rest of your spooky activities!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

5 Minute Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
from Betty Crocker

For the filling:
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 egg
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the brownies:
1 box brownie mix (enough for 9x9 pan)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottom only of 9x9 pan with cooking spray.  Mix all filling ingredients together in a bowl until smooth (by hand or with mixer).  Set aside.

Combine brownie ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Spread 3/4 of batter in pan.  Spoon filling by tablespoons over batter, then spoon remaining brownie batter over that.  Use a knife to swirl for marbled design.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of middle clean.  Cool completely and cut.  Store covered in refrigerator.

Linked to:  Sweets For A Saturday

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Talk to me

I'm curious - do you enjoy my simple pasta dish recipes?  Do you find them useful?  I ask because there are so many of them that I haven't blogged, just because I'm not sure if they'd be appreciated.  A very common question when looking for dinner ideas is "I need something quick and easy", so I'm thinking that they must be helping some people out there.  Speak up now...

I personally find quick and easy recipes very useful, as well as those that use common pantry ingredients.  Lots of people out there lead very busy lives and rely on these types of meals pretty often.  I hope those people are reading my blog :)

This is another one, again, using what I usually have on hand, plus a few fresh ingredients I happened to have that day.  The vegetables can easily be substituted with others like artichoke hearts (canned or frozen), zucchini, fresh tomatoes, spinach (fresh or frozen), broccoli rabe, mushrooms...pretty much anything goes.

As for the cheese, use the fresh stuff.  Fresh mozzarella makes a huge difference as far as taste and texture.  It melts really nicely and is just so delicious.

Is there a favorite quick and easy pasta dish in your house?  If so, please share it!

Autumn Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella
1 pound pasta (whatever kind/shape you like)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 eggplant, diced (I didn't peel it)
1 broccoli crown, roughly chopped
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup fresh mozzarella, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil then add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Be careful not to burn it.

Add eggplant and broccoli.  Saute until they begin to soften.  Lower heat to medium, add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, and  let cook for about 10 minutes.

Drain pasta and throw into pan.  Toss everything until combined, turn off heat and add mozzarella.  Stir gently so cheese is evenly coated and distributed.  Serve immediately.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

More bundting! (What's Baking?)

I know, I know, but I couldn't resist!  It's just too good.

I brought this to a Halloween party last weekend along with my candy corn cookie bark.  The party was a hit - great fun for the kids, and lots of candy.  I mean LOTS.  So many treats that my cake barely got touched...even by the adults!  I had one small bite of Frank's piece and kicked myself on the way home for not packing one up for later that night.

What was I thinking?


Ange from The Tiny Tyrant's Kitchen was our hostess this month for What's Baking?.  The theme she chose was "Fall Flavors"...and although she challenged us to sway from the usual pumpkin and apple, I couldn't resist this cake.  The streusel filling and glaze definitely make it more "special" than your typical pumpkin cake.  Give it a try...it would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving table!

Thanks for a fun challege, Ange!

Sour Cream Pumpkin Streusel Cake
from Very Best Baking

For the streusel:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons butter

For the cake:
3 cups AP flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 container (8 ounces) sour cream (I used light)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk (I used 1%)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.

Combine first 3 streusel ingredients in a small bowl.  Cut in butter with two knives until mixture is crumbly.  Set aside.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Beat sugar and butter in mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.  Add pumpkin, sour cream and vanilla, and mix well.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Spoon half of batter into pan.  Sprinkle streusel over batter, keeping it in the middle of the pan (don't allow it to touch sides).  Top with remaining batter.  Make sure batter layer touches edges of pan (batter will be thick!).

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out of middle of cake clean.  Cool for 30 minutes in pan on wire rack.  Invert onto rack to cool completely.

Mix together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth.  Drizzle over cooled cake.

Linked to: Sweet Tooth Friday
                   Thanksgiving Blog Hop

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No way.

So, I get home from a dinner and come home to find some crazy talk all over my Facebook feed.  Snow?  THIS WEEKEND?  Say whaaaaa?  I couldn't even click on any links about it - I'll remain in denial, thanks.

The good news is, I've been cooking lots of "housebound" meals...and I have another one to share with you now.  Unlike me, if you choose not to deny, you can arm yourself with the necessary ingredients to make this during the "S" word.

Now, no more mentioning that dirty 4 letter word until at least December, mmm-kay?

Lentil, Kielbasa & Garlic Stew
slightly adapted from Good Housekeeping

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds turkey kielbasa, cut into bite size chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups baby carrots, cut into small chunks
4 medium stalks celery, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups water
2 cans (14 oz) chicken broth (or homemade)
2 cans (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1 1/2 bags (16 oz) lentils, picked over and rinsed

Heat oil in a large pot, then add kielbasa (divide if necessary).  Cook until brown, then then transfer to plate.

Add onion, celery and carrots to pot and cook until golden.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add water, broth, tomatoes and lentils to pot and bring to boil.  Reduce to medium-low and cook uncovered for about 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender.  Stir in kielbasa and heat through.  Serve.

Serves 10.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

So good, yet so bad

I rarely order pasta when I'm at a restaurant.  The dishes are usually simple enough for me to make at home, plus they tend to be pretty rich and decadent.  At home, I try to keep our pasta meals tame, but once in a blue moon I come across something that forces me to break my rule.  Like this dish.

This was really, REALLY good...and really, REALLY heavy.  Don't plan on moving too much after this one...and definitely wear the stretchy pants!  But believe me, it's well worth every.single.bite.

It's absolutely impressive enough for company, so keep it in mind (you could also consider smaller portions as a first course)...and so easy to make.  Make it even easier on yourself and buy the pre-cut pancetta at Trader Joe's.  It's cut up super small so it cooks fast.  

Tortellini & Pancetta in Mushroom Walnut Sauce
slightly adapted from Sunshine and Bones

12 ounces tortellini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta, cut into small chunks
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup heavy cream
black pepper
1 1/2 cups grated pecorino romano cheese

Cook tortellini according to package directions, minus one minute.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and add pancetta, mushrooms and walnuts.  Saute until mushrooms are brown.

Add cream and stir frequently, until sauce begins to thicken.  Turn heat down to low and add pepper and cheese.  Stir until sauce is smooth.

Drain pasta and put in pan with sauce.  Turn heat off and stir together gently.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday
                   Pasta Blog Hop

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Scary stuff!

It's that time of year!  How many Halloween parties are on your calendar?  There are never too many, if you ask me...any excuse to dress up funny and o.d. on chocolate works for me ;)

Whether you'll be partying with or without the kiddies, this snack is sure to be a hit.  Plus, it takes about 10 minutes to make.  Can't beat that!

Isn't it boo-tiful?

Wish I had some more of this right about now.

The perfect sweet treat this Halloween!

Candy Corn Cookie Bark
adapted from Your Home Based Mom

20 Halloween Oreo cookies (you can use regular Oreos if you want)
2 cups pretzels, broken into pieces (I used mini twists)
1 1/2 cups candy corn
1 pound white chocolate (I used Ghirardelli chips)
3-4 tablespoons half and half
Halloween themed/colored sprinkles (mine were orange pumpkins and black bats!)

Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  Crush the cookies and scatter them around the pan, followed by pretzels and half of the candy corn.

Melt chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly and carefully watching since white chocolate burns easily.  Add half and half a little at a time to keep consistency somewhat thin.

Pour chocolate evenly over ingredients in pan.  Use spatula to spread if necessary.  Immediately top with remaining candy corn and sprinkles.  Place pan in refrigerator or freezer to firm up.  Break into rough pieces and serve, or store in airtight container.

Linked to:  Sweet Treats Thursday
                   Halloween Blog Hop

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Warm bellies

I love this time of year.  Once again, I'm knee deep in soups and stews.  Honestly, I could eat them every day, twice a day...so many choices and varieties...so comforting and warming.  Sarah's choice for our latest recipe swap was exactly that, and I love that it's going to add a bunch of different recipes to my ever-growing pile.

I received a recipe from Jenna at Jenna's Cooking Journey for six can chicken tortilla soup.  After reviewing the recipe, I decided to find something similar that better suited our lifestyle...something that used fresh ingredients, and also one that I could make in the crockpot (I'm looking to add a few more slow cooker recipes for the sake of convenience).  I came across one that seemed perfect, especially for Frank's bean aversion.

What a winner!  I made a few slight changes based on what I had in the house, and it really was delicious.  Frank's words as he walked in the door were "it smells f'in awesome in here".  And it tasted pretty f'in awesome, too.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
slightly adapted from Gimme Some Oven

1 pound boneless chicken breasts
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chunky salsa
1 cup homemade enchilada sauce (or one 10 ounce can)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 bay leaf

For the homemade tortilla crisps:
2 whole wheat low carb flour tortillas (or corn tortillas), cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Optional garnishes:
diced avocado
shredded cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro
sour cream

Place all soup ingredients in crockpot and stir to combine.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours.  About 30-60 minutes before soup will finish, remove chicken, shred, and return to crockpot.

To make tortilla crisps:  add oil to hot skillet, then add tortilla strips.  Cook until golden brown, stirring/flipping as needed.  Drain on paper towel and season with salt.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with tortilla crisps and other additional toppings.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

My latest addiction

I don't think my Mom is getting her bundt pan back.

There's a running joke in my family (well, really just with my Dad) about how my sister always steals his good cookware.  The man is always yelling about his missing pots.  So, I figure if the attention is focused there, no one will miss the bundt.

I'm telling you - this pan has to be older than me (save your wise cracks for another time, please) and nothing sticks to it.  Meanwhile, give me a new, basic round pan and I'm lucky if half my cake isn't cemented to it.  Hmmm.

I've been making this for as long as I can remember, and always called it banana bread...but really, if you're using cake mix, shouldn't it be called CAKE?  I think so.  Although, I usually use loaf pans...maybe we'll call it bread when it's in a loaf, and cake when it's in a bundt.  Cool?

So the next time you've got some overripe bananas, bake this deliciousness...whatever you wanna call it.

Banana Walnut Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
3-5 ripe mashed bananas
1 cup chopped walnuts

confectioners' sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.
Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan (or 2 loaf pans) and bake for approximately 45 minutes (30 to 35 minutes for loaf pans).

Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Once cooled, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A "meaty" stew

There are very few ways I can get away with a meatless meal in this house if it doesn't involve pasta.  I have to tread carefully when I try new dishes of this nature.  This one, fortunately, got Frank's approval...even after I got the "hmmph" over the phone when he asked what was for dinner.  

I had an eggplant I needed to use, along with leftover tomato paste in the fridge and a little bit of marinara sauce.  I threw this together and it hit the table 30 minutes later.  Quick, delicious and satisfying!  Oh yeah, and healthy :)

When will he realize I'll never let him down? 

What's your favorite meatless meal?  Try this soon - it may just end up at the top of your list.

Eggplant Stew with Polenta
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 eggplant, cubed
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons tomato paste
3/4 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup red wine
polenta (see this link for different ways to cook it)

In a medium size pot over medium-high heat, heat 3 tablespoons oil, then add onion and garlic.  Saute for about 1-2 minutes, then add eggplant.  Stir and add remaining oil, plus salt and pepper, basil and parsley.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes, then add tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste, marinara and wine.  Cover, lower heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

Cook polenta and plate.  Add stew on top and serve.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday
                   Eggplant Blog Hop

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sweet and saucy

My recent apple windfall had me baking lots of sweet treats.  I'm not complaining (they were all delicious!) but I wanted to use them in at least one savory dish.  So, I found this recipe.  And I'm VERY happy I did.

Pork and apples definitely belong on the same plate.  They're totally complimentary.  Add the more potent flavor of balsamic vinegar and you've got yourself a great dish, easy enough for a weeknight yet impressive enough for company.

And the bonus - this dish is really, really good for you.  I served it with spinach and garlic roasted potatoes.  Try it soon!

Pork Tenderloin with Apples & Balsamic Vinegar
slightly adapted from Mayo Clinic

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound pork tenderloin
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped apple
1 1/2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray.

Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Add pepper to pork and place in pan.  Cook until brown on all sides, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and place in prepared pan.  Roast in oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add apple, onion and rosemary to skillet.  Saute over medium heat, about 3-4 minutes, until onions and apple are soft.  Stir in broth and vinegar.  Raise heat to high and boil until sauce has reduced.

Place pork on large platter.  Pour apple and sauce mixture over it and serve.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Your new go-to cookie this fall

What do you do when you have leftover pumpkin from white chocolate pumpkin blondies?  You make cookies, of course! 

I'm a huge fan of butterscotch so I had to sub them in for the basic chocolate chips that the original recipe called for.  The combination of them with the pumpkin was pretty awesome, I must say.  And they couldn't be any easier to make!

The other great thing about these cookies was the texture...soooo soft and chewy.  They were a big hit with my girlfriends over lunch, and the kids loved them too.  

All you need is a cup of pumpkin for this recipe, so the next time you've got some you need to use up, definitely make a batch.  Then come back here and leave a comment thanking me :)

Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies
slightly adapted from One Charming Party

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening (or butter)
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butterscotch chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and shortening for 3-4 minutes. Mix in the egg, vanilla and pumpkin.

In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.  Add to pumpkin mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir chips in with a spoon.

Drop spoonfuls onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes.

Makes approximately 30 cookies.

Linked to: Sweet Tooth Friday
                 Deelicious Sweets
                 Sweets For A Saturday
                 Pumpkin Blog Hop

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Do you Moo Shu? (Daring Cooks)

I think I've only had Moo Shu once from a Chinese restaurant.  MAYBE twice.  It's just not a dish that I'm much into.  So when this month's Daring Cooks challenge was announced, I was excited and thought maybe this would convert me...or at least, inspire me to make it more often at home and continue to skip ordering it :)

Are you familiar with what Moo Shu is?  Simply put, it's a stir fry that traditionally contains lots of vegetables and meat (very thinly sliced and/or shredded), and scrambled egg...served with hoisin sauce and rolled up into a flat thin pancake.  What's nice about it is that you can sub just about whatever you like if you're not crazy about an of the typical ingredients.

I really enjoyed this challenge.  To some, it may seem like a bit much, given all of the components, but it is fairly simple and all comes together quite nicely.  I made a few adjustments to the suggested recipe based on my likes and what I had available.  All in all, we really liked it, and now if the mood ever strikes us to have Moo Shu, we know we'll be able to satisfy our craving without picking up the phone.

Here are the original recipes...again, they seem long and tedious, but it's all easy to do!  They are from the cookbook The Chinese Kitchen.

Thin Pancakes:

Makes 24-30 pancakes
4 cups AP flour
About 1½ cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Dry flour for dusting
  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Gently pour in the water, stirring as you pour, then stir in the oil. Knead the mixture into a soft but firm dough. If your dough is dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time, to reach the right consistency. Cover with a damp towel and let stand for about 30 minutes.
  2. Lightly dust the surface of a worktop with dry flour. Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes or until smooth, then divide into 3 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a long sausage and cut each sausage into 8-10 pieces. Keep the dough that you are not actively working with covered with a lightly damp dish cloth to keep it from drying out.
  3. Roll each piece into a ball, then, using the palm of your hand, press each piece into a flat pancake. Dust the worktop with more dry flour. Flatten each pancake into a 6 to 8 inch circle with a rolling pin, rolling gently on both sides.
  4. Place an un-greased frying pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot, lower the heat to low and place the pancakes, one at a time, in the pan. Remove when little light-brown spots appear on the underside. Cover with a damp cloth until ready to serve.
Alternate method for preparing the pancakes:
Once the dough has rested and been kneaded again, divide it into an even number of small pieces, rolling each into a ball. Working with two balls of dough at a time, dip the bottom of one ball lightly into sesame oil and press it onto the top of the second ball. Press the double layer flat, then roll the doubled pancake layers into 6 to 8 inch circles. In a dry pan, cook on each side until dry and lightly blistered (but without browning). Separate pancakes after cooking.

Moo Shu Pork:
2/3 cup Dried black fungus ('wood ears')
½ lb pork loin or butt
¾ cup bamboo shoots, thinly cut
3 cups Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage), thinly cut
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 scallions
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine
A few drops sesame oil
12 thin pancakes to serve

  1. Soak the fungus in warm water for 10-15 minutes, rinse and drain. Discard any hard stalks, then thinly shred.
  2. Thinly cut the pork, bamboo shoots and Chinese cabbage into matchstick-sized shreds.
  3. Lightly beat the eggs with a pinch of salt.
  4. Heat about 1 tablespoon oil in a preheated wok and scramble the eggs until set, but not too hard. Remove and keep to one side.
  5. Heat the remaining oil. Stir-fry the shredded pork for about 1 minute or until the color changes. Add the fungus, bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage and scallions. Stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes, then add the remaining salt, soy sauce and wine. Blend well and continue stirring for another 2 minutes. Add the scrambled eggs, stirring to break them into small bits. Add the sesame oil and blend well.
  6. To serve: place about 2 tablespoons of hot Moo Shu in the center of a warm pancake, rolling it into a parcel with the bottom end turned up to prevent the contents from falling out. Eat with your fingers. 

Hoisin Sauce (from Epicurian)
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter OR black bean paste
1 tablespoon honey OR molasses
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
20 drops Chinese style hot sauce (optional, depending on how hot you want your hoisin sauce)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Simply mix all of the ingredients together by hand using a sturdy spoon.
At first it does not appear like it will mix, but keep at it just a bit longer and your sauce will come together.

The October Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by Shelley of C Mom Cookand her sister Ruth of The Crafts of Mommyhood. They challenged us to bring a taste of the East into our home kitchens by making our own Moo Shu, including thin pancakes, stir fry and sauce.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

One potato, two potato

If I took a poll and asked about favorite side dishes in the fall/winter, what percentage do you think would include potatoes?  They're very popular this time of year.  So, it's good to come up with lots of different ways to make them...

This dish isn't quite mashed.  Well, it's partially mashed.  Leave the taters chunky...don't get carried away.  Better yet, don't even bust out the mixer.  Use what God gave you.

Warning: these are addictive.  Licking the bowl is totally okay.

I served this with my chicken marsala, which I usually cut and serve over pasta.  I think it may have been even more delicious this way!

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by OXO.

Red Skin Potato Mash
6 red potatoes (medium-large), cut into quarters
5 tablespoons salted butter, softened
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Boil potatoes until cooked.  Drain and return to hot pot.

Add butter and cream and mix with a fork, squashing the potatoes at the same time, but leaving them chunky.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

Serves 3-4.

Linked to:  Tastetastic Thursday

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Busy, busy, busy

When you're running out of time, make pasta.  It's as simple as that.

And when you get tired of the usual pasta, make gnocchi.

Gnocchi Florentine with Sausage
1 pound gnocchi
4 chicken sausage (or Italian, doesn't matter...use your favorite), cooked, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup frozen spinach, cooked and well drained
1 1/2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
grated pecorino romano cheese (for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook gnocchi until al dente.  Drain, add marinara (enough to coat) and place in baking dish.  Add sausage, spinach, ricotta and mozzarella.  Stir until combined.  Top with pecorino romano.

Bake for 20 minutes or until sauce starts lightly bubbling and top begins to brown.

Linked to:  These Chicks Cooked

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making my way through the pile

And now, the obligatory apple crisp recipe.  I mean, come on - if you go apple picking and pick enough apples to fill up your car, you've got to go through the usuals.

So to make it interesting, you have to add a little something special.  Like crystallized ginger.  Mainly because I happened to have some in the pantry :)

Love it.  And SO easy.

I'm guessing apple turnovers will be next.  Stay tuned.

Apple Crisp with Crystallized Ginger Topping
from Heavy Table

5 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (I used Macoun)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour

For the topping:
3/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt (do not use if using salted butter)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pile apples into an 8x8 baking pan.  Top with crisp topping (see directions below) and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling.

To make topping:
Mix all ingredients except butter in a bowl.  Add butter and work in with fingers until mixture is crumbly.  Chill until ready to use.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated for a week, or frozen for 2 months.

Serves 6.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Global warming (Secret Recipe Club)

This month's Secret Recipe Club blog assignment was an interesting one.  From Arepas to Zwetschgen is a blog that pretty much spans the globe.  I spent a while browsing around.  So many great recipes from lots of different countries!  Check it out when you have a chance.

When I saw the recipe for Czech Beef Goulash, I was automatically inspired to bust out the recipe that I've been using for a looooong time (I was missing a few of the ingredients for the assigned recipe anyway, plus I don't have a pressure cooker).  I hadn't made it in ages - definitely not since Frank and I have been together (7 years!).  It served its purpose by filling our bellies with lots of warmth and comfort on a cool, crisp autumn day.

There's something about the way the sour cream blends in with the sauce and noodles...the whole thing comes together so nicely.  Yum.

I'm so glad I was reminded of this meal, which is very similar to the assigned recipe (see link below)...looking forward to making it again soon!

Beef Goulash
inspired by From Arepas to Zwetschgen

1 1/4 pounds beef stew meat
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 small yellow onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons flour
3/4 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste
egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
sour cream for topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Heat oil in a oven safe casserole dish and add beef, cooking until brown.  Add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are transparent.  Add paprika and stir.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste.  Dissolve flour in beef broth, stir and add to pot.  Add thyme, then salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, stirring often.

Cover tightly and place in oven.  Cook for approximately 2 hours.  Serve with noodles and a dollop of sour cream.

Serves 3.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Where is pumpkin, where is pumpkin...here I am!

Recognize that line?  If you have a 3 year old in preschool right now, you've probably been hearing it repeatedly for the past week.  Bella's been belting it out over and over...well, at least the parts that she knows. It's yet another reminder that it's that time of year.  A very cute reminder :)

Our theme for the latest recipe swap was anything including apples or the mighty pumpkin, and I've been well equipped with both (still working through the mountain of apples we picked last week!), so I was ready to take on whatever was given to me.  Heather's recipe was a nice switch, since it seems as if all the sweets I've been making so far this season have included anything but pumpkin.

These blondies are delicious.  Moist, fluffy and really tasty.  My kitchen smelled amazing.  I think the only thing I'd do differently next time is add more chocolate.  I mean, you can never go wrong with more chocolate. I just felt like it got a little lost and I would've liked to have had it in every bite.  

Bella ate hers in about 2.5 seconds.  Now if only I could get her to tackle broccoli as aggressively...

White Chocolate Pumpkin Blondies
slightly adapted from Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks

2 1/4 cups AP flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup applesauce (I used unsweetened)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar (I used dark because that's all I had)
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup white chocolate chips (like I said, bump it up!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x13 baking pan with foil, leaving some hanging over each side.

Mix flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.  Set aside.  In a mixing bowl, beat butter, applesauce and sugars together.  Once smooth, add egg and vanilla and mix until combined.  Mix in pumpkin puree.

Slowly add and mix dry ingredients in with the wet, until just combined.  Fold in white chocolate chips.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan and bake for around 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out of center clean.  Let cool completely in pan.  

Lift cake from pan by the foil, then slowly peel foil off.  Cut into squares with a serrated edge knife.

Linked to: Friday Shout-Out
                 Sweet Tooth Friday
                 Sweets for a Saturday

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pop quiz

Top 3 vegetables that scream fall.  Name 'em.

So, what number was butternut squash?  Come on, it has to be on your list.  It's in season...it's orange-ish...it's delicious...what more do you need?

Now put it in a pan with chicken and roast it.  Easy peasy.

Beware - it's addicting.  At least it is for me.  I could pop those chunks of roasted goodness in my mouth all day long.  Which reminds me - I need to pick up another one tomorrow.

Good news - it's easy enough for a quick weeknight meal.  And kid friendly.  And cheap.  3 reasons to have it in your top 3!

Roast Chicken with Butternut Squash
adapted from Food & Wine

6 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on (use more chicken if you like...this is what I had)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 teaspoons dried sage

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine chicken and squash in a ziploc or in a large bowl and add oil and spices.  Shake until evenly distributed, then put in roasting pan.

Cook for about 20 minutes, then remove pan from oven and pour most of the liquid carefully from corner of pan.  Return to oven and cook for another 10 minutes, or until juices from chicken run clear.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You can call me spicy

I can't help it.  I love spice.  I love heat.  Thankfully I have a pretty strong stomach because between the garlic, onions and hot spices and ingredients, I'd be a mess otherwise.  

I came across this recipe in Brianna's blog, Oishii, and knew right away how I'd be using up the (CHEAP!!!  love Trader Joe's!!!) jalapenos I had in my fridge.  Frank doesn't eat them, and I couldn't possibly eat them all myself before they went bad, so I brought this fun appetizer along with me to my friend's baby shower a few weeks ago.

The original recipe calls for the poppers to be grilled, but I knew I'd only have oven access at my friend's house.  So, I baked them.  I also used cheddar instead of monterey jack, since that's what I had on hand.  

SO good!  Hot, but not TOO hot.  The perfect blend of ingredients.  

I think the person who loved them most (after me) was the Dad-to-be.  He even took some home.  Some of the other girls gave me that "thanks, but no thanks" look.  That's okay...more for the rest of us ;)

These would be a big hit on gameday!  They're also a great low carb treat.  Give them a shot.

Baked Sriracha "Poppers"
adapted from Oishii

12 medium/large jalapeno peppers
7 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper
olive oil for the pan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spread a little oil on top (or use cooking spray).

Carefully clean jalapenos by slicing them lengthwise down the middle and gutting out the insides (a spoon is helpful).  Wear gloves if necessary, or be sure to wash your hands after handling them.

Mix the cheeses, Sriracha, salt, pepper and cumin in a bowl.  Fill each jalapeno half with mixture.  Place on prepared pan.

Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until cheese starts bubbling.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday
                   Pepper Blog Hop

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's National Taco Day!

Did you know that?  Well, whether you did or not, crack open a cerveza and read on...this recipe is a great way to celebrate.

Words cannot explain how delicious this was.  Seriously.  Mouthwatering might be a better word to describe what was going on at our dinner table.

Easy is another great adjective.  I mean, anyone can make this and be successful.  Low maintenance, people...very low maintenance.  Plus, if you're looking for something casual and delicious to make for company, it works really well because it basically takes care of itself.  Put it on the list.

One word - carnitas.  What does it mean?  Little meats.  What I think it means is AWESOME little meats.

Now, there are no rules for how to eat this.  Do what you like.  Me, I had basically a burrito bowl - no tortilla, just meat and lots of toppings like sliced onion and radishes, jalapenos, avocado, sour cream, fresh cilantro and hot sauce.  With some lime squeezed on top.  Frank prefers the soft taco route and used small flour tortillas, with many of the same toppings.

Use a fattier piece of meat for this dish - and don't trim the fat before cooking!  It helps with the flavor of the meat...a leaner piece won't taste nearly as good.

I will be making this again, SOON!

Mexican Pulled Pork Carnitas
slightly adapted from A Bountiful Kitchen

3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless pork butt
2 tablespoons cumin
1 small onion, sliced
2 bay leaves, crushed
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 lime, halved
1/2 cup water
2 clementines, halved (oranges are fine, but this is what I had)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place roast in heavy oven proof pan/dutch oven.  Squeeze lime and clementine juice over pork, then rub pork with all dry ingredients.  Pour water around sides of roast, then add halves of fruit to water.  Place onion slices on top of roast.  Cover with tight fitting lid.

Place in oven and set timer for 2 hours.  Once time is up, turn oven off (do not open the door!) and leave roast in for another 2 hours.  Remove and let cool for a few minutes before removing excess fat and chopping the meat.

Have garnishes and tortillas prepped and ready to go when meat is cut.  Build your own meal and enjoy!

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Pete and Petey!

We celebrated two birthdays this weekend...my brother Pete, and his son Petey who turned 5.  Petey is a HUGE Transformers fan, so my sister-in-law ordered a special themed cake for him from her local bakery.  As for my brother, he got what you see here.  And right about now, I'm wishing I had another piece.  

This cake screams fall - and the timing was perfect since we'd gone apple picking the day before.  We picked a ton of Macouns before we got caught in a hail storm - crazy stuff!

This is a very dense cake, and the frosting hardens pretty easily...so, it's a little challenging to handle, but the end result is 100% worth it.  Just be careful as you're taking the cakes out of the pans, and take extra care when applying the frosting.  Stir in a little bit of extra heavy cream to loosen the frosting if need be.  I had to add a few tablespoons more as I was icing the cake.

I highly recommend this cake to bring along to a dinner party, to a potluck...even for Thanksgiving.  It's perfect for the season and very impressive!  And of course, it's delicious.  I mean, how could it not be - caramel and apple -YUM!

Caramel Apple Cake
slightly adapted from The Cozy Little Kitchen

For the cake:
3 cups apples, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
chopped pecans (for topping)

For the frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 (16 oz) box confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8 inch round pans.  Mix sugar into apples and let sit for 15 minutes.

Combine all other cake ingredients and mix.  Add apple mixture and mix until combined.  Pour evenly into pans and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean from center of cakes.  Let cool for about 30 minutes before removing from pans.  Ice cake and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

To make the frosting:  Melt butter in a saucepan, then add brown sugar and heavy cream.  Bring to a boil, then transfer to mixing bowl.  Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla and beat until creamed together well.  Icing will be thick and rich.  If too thick to spread, add a little more cream after you remix before icing cake. Make sure frosting is cool before applying to cake.

Linked to:  Sweet Tooth Friday

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