Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quick Broccoli Slaw Stir-Fry with Turkey

After about a week and a half of the "Buddy the Elf" diet (cookies, candy, sugar, and syrup), it's high time David and I had green vegetables again! Sunday evening, I fixed a light and healthy dinner that was chock full of green vegetables. And there wasn't a stick of butter, glop of cheese, or can of cream of something soup in sight! Quite a change from the last several meals we'd eaten during the Christmas season! I don't know if it was really as good as we thought it was, or if it was just the fact that we hadn't eaten something healthy in so long, but this was gone in no time! It went together quickly, which is a huge plus, since we're in the middle of packing up everythingwe own in anticipation of moving. If you're tired of eating "junk", this is the perfect meal to get you back on the healthy eating train!
Quick Broccoli Slaw Stir-Fry with Turkey
adapted from a recipe by Weight Watchers International
1 Tbs. canola oil
4 green onions, sliced
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. broccoli slaw
5 oz. baby spinach
2 Tbs. teriyaki sauce
1 cup cooked turkey (leftover from Christmas!)
Brown rice
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok; add the scallions, ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli slaw and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the spinach, a handful at a time, and the teriyaki sauce; cook, stirring, until the spinach is nearly wilted, about 2 minutes more. Sprinkle with the turkey and heat through; serve at once over hot brown rice.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Swedish Nuts

I gave lots of food gifts for Christmas this year, and the most popular were the tins of Swedish Nuts. I have no idea what makes them "Swedish", but they remind me a little of a praline. They're absolutely delicious, keep really well, and make a really nice presentation. They're by far the most "gourmet" gift that I give. Several people have asked me how to make them, so I thought I'd share a little tutorial with you.The first thing you need to do is make your coating, which is just a mixture of whipped egg whites, sugar, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon. It's really simple, and you can find the recipe at the bottom of the post. Next, you'll pour your coating over your nuts. Use any kind you'd like, but I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts. You've got to get the nuts coated really well. You want that yummy, sugary goodness over every surface!
While making your coating, you'll melt a stick of butter in a 325-degree oven in a 9x13-inch pan. Once it's melted and the nuts are well-coated, spread the nuts in an even layer over the butter. The nuts will bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, but every 8 minutes or so, you'll need to turn them and coat them in the butter.
This is what the nuts will look like after the first turn:
I think I turned my nuts about 4 times, but I have a feeling that the number of turns will be dependent on how hot your oven runs. Just make sure that you turn all of the nuts each time so that they get evenly coated with the butter. They'll get a little drier, browner, and crunchier with each turn. Once they're finished, they'll look like this:
You're in the home stretch now! All that's left to do is let the nuts cool off. I spread mine out on a piece of aluminum foil until they cool off. Then, you can package them in a festive tin, or just put them in a fancy dish. I haven't met anyone who doesn't love these nuts! You can keep them in an airtight container for a couple of weeks. But they won't last more than a couple of days!
Swedish Nuts
2 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 lb. nuts (pecans, walnuts, or a mixture of both)
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. Add sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form and turn glossy. Fold in nuts and coat well with the egg white mixture.
Melt butter in a 9x13-inch baking pan by placing it in the oven. Evenly spread coated nuts over melted butter in pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes (or until no butter remains in the pan), stirring and turning nuts every 8 minutes. Place hot nuts on foil and allow to cool.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

White Chocolate Covered Peppermint Rice Krispie Treats

Late last week, I was in Cracker Barrell looking for an exchange gift, when I saw a box of white chocolate covered peppermint Rice Krispie treats. They looked absolutely adorable, and so festive. I didn't buy a box, because I knew I could recreate them very easily at home, and probably much cheaper! So...on my way home, I stopped and bought marshmallows, vanilla almond bark, and candy canes. I had the Rice Krispies and butter at home.
I whipped up a batch of Rice Krispie treats using the recipe on the box, which only took a matter of minutes. Instead of pressing them into a 9x13-inch pan, I used a rimmed cookie sheet. I wanted them thinner than a traditional Rice Krispie treat. After they cooled and set up, I cut them pretty small..about 2x2 inches. Then, I melted the almond bark and added a couple of teaspoons of shortening, just to make the almond bark a little thinner. Instead of dipping them, which took ages when I made the Chocolate Billionaires, I put the treats on a cooling rack, then poured the melted almond bark over them. It worked much better! Not all of the treats were completely covered, but I think they looked nice! I sprinkle of chopped candy cane finished the treats off. I packaged them in a festive Christmas tin and gave them to my Secret Pal for Christmas. I'm pretty sure she doesn't read my blog, so I feel pretty safe in showing them here!
Speaking of Chocolate Billionaires, I had a little of the dark chocolate left over from that recipe, so I used those on a few of the Rice Krispie treats that wouldn't fit in the gift tin. I topped these with mini chocolate chips and chopped peanuts. Honestly, I liked the chocolate covered treats better than the peppermint version, but that's mostly because I'm not really a huge fan of peppermint. These were an easy and quick food gift to make, and they're a nice change of pace from a plate of cookies. Yum!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Whirlwind

Whew! Between this...
And this...
my little food blog has been woefully neglected lately! Our house is so close to being finished! We won't make it in by Christmas, but we won't miss it by much. We'll take a little photo tour here in a few minutes. But what about that good looking group of grads? Those are the very first graduates from the Lindsey Wilson College School of Professional Counseling extended campus in Louisville! They're the group of students I've been working with since I started my new job in April. Last Tuesday evening, we held their pinning ceremony at The Bunbury Theatre at The Henry Clay. It took a lot of work to put together, but it was worth it! If you'd like to see more pictures, visit LWC's Flickr page.
Now, this house! It's kicking my butt, and I'm not really doing anything but picking things out...how can it possibly consume so much time?! We went over tonight and got a wonderful surprise, which you'll see at the very end. I just can't believe how much I love it. Standing in that house makes me realize how fortunate I am. Let's take a tour!
These are the steps leading up the stairs to the upstairs bedrooms. Please pardon the dusty floors...we're still under construction!
This is the view of the living room and the fireplace from the catwalk upstairs. The mantle isn't finished, but you get the idea...
Here's a view of the living room and fireplace from the breakfast room. Again, pardon the dust and garbage!
This was my surprise tonight! I'm so daggum excited about getting into this kitchen that I can't stand it! When I saw these cabinets tonight, I just fell in love with the kitchen. I've had my doubts about it, but tonight, I could tell that it would all come together beautifully!
There are still more cabinets to install, but you get the idea. The fridge goes right there in the center. The cooktop and microwave go in the space on the right. The sink will be on the left, and my double wall oven will be where those two ladders are. I can't wait!
Another view of the kitchen. I just can't wait! Now, even with all this excitement going on, I assure you, I've been in my tiny little kitchen baking up a storm. I've got loads of Christmas goodies to show you, and I'll do my best to get those up in the next few days. I've got several days off work coming up soon, but I'll be sure to post in between packing up all of our stuff!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Billionaires

I can't remember where I first heard about "Chocolate Billionaires," but when I found out that they were made from caramel, Rice Krispies, pecans, and chocolate, I knew that they had to be something worth trying! These delightful little sweets were quite a hit at the Christmas party David and I went to on Saturday. These were well-loved by everyone, and I was lucky to get home with a couple to photograph! They were very easy to make, but a little time-consuming because of the fact that they're dipped in chocolate. I've got to find an easier, quicker way to enrobe my chocolate goodies!
If you Google "Chocolate Billionaires," you'll get hundreds of recipes. I chose one from the Taste of Home website, because I knew I couldn't go wrong with one of their selections. With just a few ingredients, you'll have a ton of these crunchy, caramel delights to give as holiday gifts (or to keep for yourself!).
Chocolate Billionaires
14 oz caramels
3 Tbs. water
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup crisp rice cereal
3 cups milk chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
1 1/2 tsp. shortening
Line two baking sheets with waxed paper; grease the paper and set aside. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the caramels and water; cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Stir in pecans and cereal until coated. Drop by teaspoonsful onto prepared pans. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until firms.
Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Dip candy into chocolate, coating all sides. Place on prepared pans. Refrigerate until set. Store in an airtight container. Yields about 2 pounds.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia

David and I are pretty wimpy when it comes to spicy foods. Neither of us can tolerate heat very well, so when I found this recipe for Chili-Rubbed Tilapia, I was a little wary of trying it. It sounded so good though, that I went ahead and tried it. It turned out to be one of the best things we had last week for dinner!
The original recipe included a side dish of asparagus, but I decided to go with broccoli. It's not that we don't like asparagus (in fact, we love it), but it's just kind of expensive. We wait around for spring to harvest Mama's asparagus, and we have it at least three times a week. Oh, we get spoiled in the spring. The broccoli was a pretty good substitute, but I'll have to try it again this spring and use some fresh asparagus.
Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Broccoli and Lemon
Adapted from a recipe from Heather's Website
1 lb. fresh broccoli, cut into florets
2 Tbs. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
4 tilapia fillets (about 5 oz. each)
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Bring 1 inch of water to boil in a large pan. Place broccoli in a steamer basket; place basket in pan. Cover and steam for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Transfer to a large plate; spread out to cool.
Combine chili powder, garlic powder and 1/4 tsp. salt on a separate plate. Dredge fillets in mixture to coat. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add tilapia and cook 5-7 minutes, gently turning halfway. Fish will be done when it is opaque in the center and flakes easily. Remove fish from skillet and cover to keep warm. Immediately add lemon juice, remaining salt, and 1 tsp. oil to pan. Add broccoli and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly until broccoli is coated and heated through. Serve broccoli with tilapia.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sables

Every Christmas, David and I look forward to those blue tins of Royal Dansk butter cookies. It seems like someone always has one of those tins, and he and I love them! I always go for the pretzel-shaped ones with the sugar crystals on them, but they all taste the same. When I pulled these cookies out of the oven, David said, "They look like those Christmas cookies in the blue tin!" And they do. Only they taste even better!
Bungalow Barbara chose this week's TWD recipe...Sables! They're sandy, buttery shortbread cookies, and they're delicious! This week's recipe can be found on Barbara's blog, or in Baking: From My Home to Yours on pages 131-133. Dorie offers several variations on the basic sable recipe, and I chose to make the spice sables, since we're so close to the holidays. They're full of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg...some of my favorite flavors!
It's important to have a light hand when mixing the dough, so that you can keep the sandy, tender texture that's characteristic of sables. I tend to have a heavy hand when mixing, so I purposely tried to work the dough less. And this time, I think maybe I didn't work the dough enough, because some of my cookies fell apart. But they still tasted great! Isn't the sugar on the outside pretty? Some of the TWDers rolled their cookies in pretty sanding sugar, but I just used regular ol' turbinado sugar. Still a very pretty effect!
These cookies would be perfect if you're going to a cookie exchange, or if you plan to give some food gifts to friends and family. Visit Bungalow Barbara for the recipe, variations, and a couple of tips on how to get perfectly round logs of dough. Happy baking!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Skillet Chicken Stroganoff

This week and next week are going to be pretty busy, between work, Christmas prep, and getting ready to move. I knew I'd have to work a little late this evening, so that meant that I'd have to find something quick and easy (but stil tasty!) for dinner.
I found this Skillet Chicken Stroganoff online about a week ago, but never got around to making it. It went together really quickly, which was my main requirement for this evening's meal. It used lots of mushrooms, so I enlisted David with his help in cleaning them so that we could eat supper sooner. Tonight, I used Hunt's fire-roasted diced tomatoes with garlic, instead of my regular diced tomatoes, and they really added a ton of flavor! Overall, this meal gets an "okay" rating. I probably won't make it again, but it was good in a pinch, and it was something new (which I need pretty frequently, if I'm going to keep up with this food-blogging thing)!
Skillet Chicken Stroganoff
Heather's Website
14.5 oz stewed tomatoes (I used diced)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 lb. mushrooms, quartered (I used about twice this much...we love mushrooms)
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
4-6 oz. whole wheat pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup sour cream
Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid. Add water to liquid, if necessary, to measure 3/4 cup. In a large skillet coated with nonstick spray, cook chicken, mushrooms, onion, and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Stir in pasta, reserved liquid, and tomatoes. Cover and cook over medium heat, ten minutes or until pasta is done, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Best Flank Steak Marinade and a Shortcut

David and I have discovered that we both love flank steak, so I've been experimenting with different marinades in order to find the best one. We tried one marinade with honey, which was really quite good. Then, we tried a couple that really weren't anything special, which is why they never made it to this blog. But the other night, I found The Pioneer Woman's flank steak marinade. I knew I'd probably found my answer to the best flank steak marinade. For the one or two of you left in the country who aren't familiar with The Pioneer Woman, let me fill you in. She's one hilarious lady (whose real name is Ree) living her dream life on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma. She's got one handsome husband (Marlboro Man), four super-cute kiddos, and the laziest basset hound in the universe. Her website is updated daily with her regular musings on country life, what she's been cooking, helpful hints around the house, and updates on her adventures home-schooling her kids. She recently published a cookbook and has been on a whirlwind book tour, which sadly, isn't stopping anywhere in Kentucky. Anyway, I've tried several of her recipes, and they've all been really good. This one was really good.
You know what I love most about Ree's style of cooking? She does everything you're not "supposed" to do. She rinses her mushrooms! And her chicken! She uses "cooking sherry" instead of table wine! But her food is delicious. She likes to make "fancy" recipes now and again, but the bulk of her cooking is done for her husband and kids, who like simple, good food! And who doesn't? Anyway, here's the recipe for the most delicious flank steak I've ever put in my mouth.
The Pioneer Woman's Flank Steak
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup cooking sherry
3 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. sesame oil
2 heaping Tbs. minced ginger
3-5 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flake
1 whole flank steak
Combine all ingredients in a glass or ceramic dish. Remove flank steak from package and give it a quick rinse. Coat both sides of the meat with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 3-6 hours.
Now, for the shortcut I promised you. The night we had the flank steak, I had to work late. But I really wanted a baked sweet potato with my meal. Instead of putting my sweet potato (and David's regular potato) in the oven to bake for an hour when I got home (which would have resulted in a very late supper), I stuck it in my crock pot on low before I left for work! It was perfect! The sweet potato and regular potato were absolutely wonderful with our flank steak and green beans. I can't take credit for this stroke of genius, though. I overheard my friend Leslie telling someone that she cooked baked potatoes in the crockpot sometimes. So I stole her idea, and I'm so thankful for her wonderful suggestion! It makes for a quick, easy side dish that's ready whenever you are!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pumpkin Caramel Pound Cake

Baking is my thing. If you're having an event, and you invite me over, put me down to bring dessert. I'll bake a pie, a cake, cookies...whatever you want. Just let me do dessert.
Thanksgiving was no exception. I told Mom that I would bring sweet potato casserole and a dessert. I cut this recipe for Pumpkin Caramel Pound Cake out of the Louisville Courier-Journal over a year ago and hadn't made it yet. The recipe comes from Chris Weppler, who's Pumpkin Caramel Pound Cake won a ribbon at the state fair. I had high hopes for this one. I was honestly kind of disappointed.
The cake was simple enough to make, but the flavor just didn't have as much "oomph" as I thought that it would. And parts of my cake never baked completely through, even though I rotated the cake halfway during the baking time. (But maybe that problem was due to operator error...who knows?) The cake was fine, but it wasn't as special or tasty as I hoped it would be for the Thanksgiving holiday. But I guess that's what you get when you make an untested recipe for a family gathering!
Pumpkin Caramel Pound Cake
Chris Weppler
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
3 cups sugar
3/4 cups caramel ice cream topping
1 cup canned pumkin pie mix (not pure pumpkin puree)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
5 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbs. caramel ice cream topping
4 tsp. water
Pecan halves for garnish, if desired
Finely chopped (or crushed) pecans for garnish, if desired
For the Cake:
Grease a 10-inch tube pan. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine shortening, butter, and sugar, and beat to blend evenly. Beat in caramel icecream topping and pumpkin.
Combine and sift flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and other spices. Add eggs and dry ingredients to creamed mixture, alternating eggs with dry ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
Bake 70 to 80 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove and cool completely.
For Glaze:
Combine sugar, caramel topping, and water, and beat until no lumps remain. Drizzle over completely cooled cake. Garnish with nuts if desired.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

Thursday afternoon, David and I headed to Mom and Chet's for Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. Aside from setting aside time to really consider the many blessings we have in our lives, it's about the food. And I love the food! This year, the celebration involved David and I (of course), Mom and Chet, Allison and Larry (my sister and brother-in-law), and Paul and Marty (Mom and Chet's neighbors). We had quite the spread for the eight of us...by the end of the afternoon, we were stuffed. Here's a recap of the Thanksgiving deliciousness! Chet carved the bird. He brined it overnight, and it was moist and delicious! I focused on the dark meat this year...something new for me. And oh, it was good!
The stove was a busy, busy place! Gravy, broccoli, and noodles up top, and rolls in the oven.
Here's the platter piled high with turkey. This was maybe half of the bird. Again, most and delicious!
One of my favorites...cranberry sauce! This year, Chet made his own, and it was wonderful! It was full of fresh cranberries, apples, pecans, and orange zest. He has promised me the recipe. Oh, it was good!
And the dressing/stuffing...whatever you want to call it. Chet's stuffing is a mixture of cornbread and regular bread (I think). Anyway, it's good. It's not dry and crunchy like some dressing is. This stuff is moist and full of yum!
This is fall broccoli that just came out of Chet's garden last week. I didn't even know you could grow fall broccoli, but now I know. Oh, it was good. I love fresh broccoli.
And noodles! I know...you guys are probably thinking that we're some kind of freaks at Thanksgiving. No mashed potatoes in sight, but we do have broccoli and egg noodles! I never really thought of egg noodles as Thanksgiving food, but when Mom and Chet got married, Chet fixed them for Thanksgiving because his family alway had them with Thanksgiving dinner. Yeah, I thought it was weird at first, but now, they just seem like a part of Thanksgiving. It wouldn't be the same without them. I like to pour dressing over my noodles and dressing, then eat a little noodle and a little dressing at the same time. Carb overload! Yum!
This sweet potato casserole was one of my contributions. I love this stuff. There aren't words to describe how much I adore this stuff. It's really sweet, but I love to have it with holiday (Thankgiving and Christmas) meals. The sweet potatoes are mashed, and then there's the crunchy, sweet topping. Oh, mercy. It's the perfect foil to all the savory stuff. You'll find the recipe at the end of this post.
These yeast rolls are absolutely wonderful. They're Chet's mom's recipe. And they're made with lard. Don't even think about trying to make them without the lard. Chet's pretty much got the recipe down pat, and they are the hit of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I've got to learn to make these...it'll force me to get over my fear of yeast.
Here's the holiday table, ready for us to devour everything in sight. See the pretty fruit salad? Paul and Marty brought that, and it was wonderful!
For dessert, I brought this. It's a pumpkin caramel pound cake. I was less than impressed, but I'll post the recipe tomorrow. Paul also brought one of his famous cheesecakes...pumpkin! How in the world I got out of the house without a picture of it is beyond me. I was snapping pictures like a fool. Allison said I was the food paparazzi. Anyway, as you can tell, we were gluttons on Thanksgiving. We ate too much, but it was so nice to spend a lazy Thursday afternoon with family and friends.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cathy Lawrence (my mom)
For the Casserole:
40 oz. sweet potatoes in syrup
1 1/2 cups white sugar (you could probably back off to 1 cup)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
For the Topping:
1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup Rice Crispies
1/2 cup crushed nuts (optional, but I always use them)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain sweet potatoes well. Mash potatoes, and add sugar, eggs, milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Pour mixture into a greased casserole dish (9x13 is a good size, but I used a 12-inch round tart pan) and bake for 30 minutes. To make the topping, melt the butter and mix in brown sugar, Rice Crispies, and nuts. Spread over sweet potato mixture and return to oven to bake for another 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisps

I had planned on making these little Cran-Apple Crisps last week for TWD, but life just got in the way, as it is wont to do these days. I finally got around to making them late tonight, just in time for David to have a little snack during the UK game. These were the perfect warm-up for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast.
These little crisps are the perfect fall dessert. The apples, cranberries, and raisins are perfect complements to one another. The crisps aren't too sweet; in fact, it's the tart cranberries that make it work, I think. The crumble on top is wonderful...David said it was his favorite part. With brown sugar, oats, and sweetened shredded coconut, what's not to like?!
Dorie's recipe makes 8 individual crisps, but tonight, I just made two...one for me and one for David. But I made the whole recipe of the crumble topping. I thought it would freeze well and be very handy to have for future impromptu crisps this winter!
Em, of The Repressed Pastry Chef, chose these tasty little desserts as her TWD selection. And her blog is actually right above mine in the TWD blogroll, so we're neighbors! You can check out her blog for the recipe. These came together very quickly and easily, which is always a plus, especially this time of year. Great choice, Em!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tuscan Chickpea Soup

I'm not a picky eater, but I do have a little problem with texture. If the texture of a food gives me the creepin' willies, I just can't eat it, no matter how good it tastes. Tapioca is a fine example of this. The flavor of tapioca pudding is delicious, but the texture of those tapioca pearls is too much. I feel like I've got a mouth full of fish eyeballs...I just can't do it.
David, on the other hand, will pretty much eat anything that won't eat him first. There are some things he doesn't like much, but he still eats them. But this soup? Nope...not on the list. He hated it. He admitted that the flavor was fine, but he couldn't get past the texture. He said he felt like I was serving him baby food!
You see, I had used the immersion blender (thanks, Earl and Shirley!) on this Tuscan Chickpea Soup. I had in mind that it would have a delightful, velvety mouthfeel. It was pretty good (not quite velvety), but David just didn't care for the texture at all! So we won't have Tuscan Chickpea Soup here at the Orr house ever again, but it's worth trying, if you don't have any "texture issues" in your household! I took it for my lunch for several days, and it reheats nicely. It's a hearty soup, what with all the chickpeas and all, and it great on crisp, cool fall days. It's easy to throw together, and of course, you get to use the immersion blender!
Tuscan Chickpea Soup
adapted from a recipe from Core and More Recipes
2 Tbs. canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped (I omitted this)
1 large bell pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary (could've used more)
salt and cayenne, to taste
3 (15.5 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
14.5 oz diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, and bell pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in stock and next 5 ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to process/puree the soup until smooth. You can also puree the soup in batches using a regular blender. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and serve with a splash of additional balsamic vinegar on top.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Dip

Last Saturday, I took this Pumpkin Pie Dip to a get-together at a friend's house. My friend Leslie said, "Is that that pumpkin dip?!" She'd had it at a party at my house last year, and I took it as an ultimate compliment that she remembered it that well over a year later! But this Pumpkin Pie Dip is absolutely delicious, so I shouldn't be surprised. It's a breeze to make, and everyone loves it. It's the perfect dessert to take to any holiday party! And the leftovers also made a delicious swirl in my Double Pumpkin Cake! It's got all of the flavors of pumpkin pie, but it serves a crowd. Plus, you don't have to make a pie crust. It's a winner!
There are actually two ways to make this yummy dip, and I've used both of them. Which one I make mostly depends on whether I happen to have a can of pumpkin pie filling in my pantry or not. I think I actually prefer the recipe made with the pumpkin pie filling, but both are delicious. You choose! But if you're not sharing this dip with lots of friends or family, either be prepared for leftovers, or cut the recipe in half.

Pumpkin Pie Dip I
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
15 oz pumpkin pie filling (not pure pumpkin puree)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
apple slices, for dipping
gingersnaps, for dipping
cinnamon graham crackers, for dipping
Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
Add pie filling, cinnamon, and ginger, beating well.
Cover and chill 8 hours.
Serve with gingersnaps, apple slices, and graham crackers
Pumpkin Pie Dip II
recipe by Yvette Swearingen
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
15 oz. canned pumpkin
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups powdered sugar
4 oz. Cool-Whip
Gingersnaps, for dipping
Cinnamon graham crackers, for dipping
Apple slices, for dipping
Using an electric mixer on low speed. Blend the pumpkin and cream cheese until smooth.
Add pumpkin pie spice and powdered sugar and blend with mixer until smooth and creamy.
Fold in the Cool-Whip and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Serve with gingersnaps, cinnamon graham crackers, and apple slices.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Double Pumpkin Cake

Happy National Bundt Cake Day...a day late! I've been mesmerised by Mary the Food Librarian's Thirty Days of Bundts leading up to yesterday's big day. Seriously, the lady baked a different bundt cake every day for thirty straight days! I really enjoyed checking her blog every day for the latest bundt, and I've got quite a few new recipes I'll have to try now! Anyway, I'm a day late posting my bundt, but I figure now is better than never!
Since it's fall, I decided that I wanted to make some kind of a pumpkin bundt, but it needed to be pretty quick because I had lots of stuff to get done this evening. I pulled out my Citizen's Union Bank cookbook (it's my husband's workplace, and they made cookbooks as fundraisers for their Relay for Life team last year) and found a recipe to use as a starting point. I knew I was going to "doctor" whatever recipe I chose. You see, Saturday, David and I went to the 10th Annual Waford Bowl at our friend Brett's house. For the past 10 years, a bunch of our friends have been getting together to play football each fall. When we were young and carefree, all the girls played, and we played full tackle footbal with the guys. Now, the guys are getting older, and most of the girls have babies, so the game is now all guys, and it's flag football. Anyway, we always have more food than we can eat. My contribution was my Pumpkin Pie Dip with gingersnap cookies and graham crackers. We had lots of dip left over, but no gingersnaps or graham crackers. I didn't want to throw my dip away, so I decided to use it as a filling in my cake. It was just an experiment, but it worked out pretty well!
See that line that looks like it's not quite set? That's the pumpkin dip filling. I knew it wouldn't really show up, seeing as how it was pumpkin-colored, but you can taste it. It makes a nice addition to the cake. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. A quick drizzle of Dorie's maple glaze finished it off and made a nice little snack for David while he watched the UK game.
Here's the recipe for the Double Pumpkin Cake...I'll post the Pumpkin Pie Dip tomorrow (TWD will have to be WWD this week). Enjoy!
Double Pumpkin Cake
adapted from Lisa Mullins' Pumpkin Bread recipe
1 box spice cake mix
1 can pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup (more or less) Pumpkin Pie Dip
Maple glaze:
6 tbs. powdered sugar
2 tbs. maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do not use mixer. Stir cake mix, pumpkin, sugar, water, oil, and eggs together. Pour 1/2 of the batter in a well-greased bundt pan. Top batter with Pumpkin Pie Dip, then cover with remaining cake batter. Swirl with a knife. Bake for 1 hour, or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Glaze cake with maple glaze.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chicken Barley Bake

It was another quick and easy dinner night, and another brand new recipe. I've mentioned before that I went on a whole grain kick awhile back, which left me with Mason jars full of "exotic" grains (at least they're exotic to me): pearled barley, whole wheat couscous, bulgur wheat, steel cut oats, etc. I'm slowly but surely working my way through my supply, and it's been exciting to find new recipes and try new things. Tonight's recipe features pearled barley, which is very tender and mild. I think it's kind of like puffy, chewy oatmeal, but in a good way.

For this recipe, I combined my pearled barley with onions, carrots, garlic, chicken broth, and poultry seasoning. I sweated the onions, garlic, and carrots, then added my barley to the skillet, just to toast it a tiny bit. I added the chicken broth and poultry seasoning, then brought the whole thing to a boil. The barley mixture is dumped into a 9x9-inch pan, some skinless chicken thighs are plopped on top, and then the whole mess goes into the oven for about an hour. Then, you get this:
It looks kind of boring, and it doesn't have over-the-top flavor, but it was good. It could use some doctoring up, which is what I plan to try in the future. I'd like to add some broccoli and spinach to the barley mixture. It also needed some salt, and next time I'll certainly add some Greek seasoning. That should help.
Why have I not been using chicken thighs for the past three years? I've always thought that I didn't like dark meat, but I've discovered that it's really my favorite! There'll definitely be more chicken thigh purchases in my future...and they're cheaper than chicken breasts. More flavor for less money...it's a winner!
If you're interested in introducing whole grains into your diet, this would be a great place to start. I actually found pearled barley in my regular grocery store (Kroger), instead of having to go to Whole Foods! Kroger keeps the pearled barley with the dried beans, just in case you need a little help finding it.
Chicken Barley Bake
Adapted from a recipe from Heather's Site
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped carrots
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup pearled barley
1/4 tsp. chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 chicken thighs, skinned (1.5 lbs)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, sweat onions, carrots, and garlic, just until the onions are translucent. Add barley and toast for about a minute (don't let it burn!). Add broth, barley, bouillon, and poultry seasoning. Bring mixture to a boil, then pour into a 9x9-inch baking dish. Arrange chicken thighs on top of mixture. Season chicken thighs with salt/pepper and any other seasonings you'd like. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes. Uncover chicken and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

All this month, the TWDers are baking out of sequence. This week, I chose the Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies...mostly because I thought they'd be easy to throw together. And it didn't hurt that over the past couple of weeks, I've seen other bakers who've made these, and they look delicious! As you can imagine, molasses is a main ingredient in these cookies. Molasses isn't something I particularly enjoy, but I remember my grandfather eating molasses on biscuits pretty regularly. And I think my little sister likes molasses, too. But around here, we call it sorghum. As in, sorghum molasses. I don't know if I had sorghum molasses, but I know it was store-bought, so probably not. If you know what sorghum molassses is, and if it's any different from the molasses you buy at the store, please let me know!
Anyway, let's get to baking. This is the picture of all my dry ingredients. I love pictures of flour topped with spices. Here, we've got ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and...black pepper.
After mixing together the dough, you leave it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, because it's so darn sticky. After a quick chill, you pinch of little dabs of dough, roll into balls, then roll in sugar. After they've been placed on the silicone-mat lined baking sheet, you press them with the bottom of a drinking glass so that they're sugar-coated discs of goodness. Aren't they pretty?
When they come out of the oven after baking for 12-14 minutes, they're supposed to pretty much look the same...only darker and crinkly/cracked on the top. Except I didn't pay attention to the baking directions and put 12 on the cookie sheet instead of 9. So they spread like crazy and I got a few fairly good looking square cookies:
But most of them got mangled as I tried to wrestle them apart, so they looked like this:
No, they're not pretty, but they are delicious! These are simple little cookies to make, but I think they've got a sophisticated taste. They're "grown up" cookies, but I think little ones would like them, too. These are cookies that you could be proud to serve to company...which is a good thing, because I've got a disc of dough frozen in the fridge. If you stop by sometime soon, let's have some of Dorie's Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies!
Next week, you should be able to find the recipe on Pamela's blog, Cookies with Boys. She's the baker responsible for these delightful little morsels! Thanks, Pamela!
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