29 October 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

I am working on a group project and promised my team members that I would bring some cookies to our next meeting. Do you think that the guys will like these peanut butter cookies? Hope so! I gave some to Doug's family too and they seemed to like them. There is nothing wrong with a classic peanut butter cookie in my book! Hope everyone has a ghoulish weekend! Enjoy.

Couldn't help but share a picture of our ring bearer, Evan. Isn't he the cutest?

Peanut Butter Cookies
(Recipe from Dorie Greenspan via Valerie)
Yield: 4 Dozen

2 1/2 C. Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
Pinch of Nutmeg
2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 C. Creamy Peanut Butter (chunky is fine too)
1 C. Packed Light Brown Sugar
3/4 C. Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 C. Salted Peanuts, chopped (optional; I omitted)
Extra 1/2 C. of Sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter; beat for another minute. Next, add the sugars; beat for 3 more minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. On low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until it is just combined. At this time, mix in the chopped peanuts if you are using them. Pour 1/2 C. of the rolling sugar into a large shallow bowl. Roll a tablespoon of dough into a ball (using your hands), then roll them in the sugar to coat. (If dough is too sticky, place the bowl of dough in the fridge for a while). Next, place the sugared dough balls on the baking sheets, leaving space between each cookie. To make the imprints, use a fork and press down on top of the sugar crusted cookies. Bake for about 10 minutes. When done, the cookies will still be somewhat pale in color.

27 October 2010

Creamy Sweet Potato + Rosemary Soup

Snow flurries in Minnesota right now! Can this be? I just talked to my sister and the rumors are true. I am not sure that I like snow in October. I remember when we had a Halloween blizzard in Minnesota growing up. My sister and I dressed up as "snow skiers." Thanks Mom and Dad... what original costumes?! I think we just put on our snow gear and carried ski poles with us. Hah! Snow or no snow, I guarantee that your family, friends, or dinner guests will enjoy this sweet potato soup.

Creamy Sweet Potato & Rosemary Soup
Yield: 4-6 Servings

3 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Large Shallots, thinly sliced
2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper, freshly ground (to taste)
2 (6-inch long) Stems Fresh Rosemary
2 lbs. Sweet Potatoes, peeled, trimmed & cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 C. Chicken Broth (I make my own base)
1/2 C. Mascarpone Cheese, room temperature
3 Tbsp. Maple Syrup

In a large stockpot, melt the butter and oil together over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper; cook for 3 to 4 minutes until soft. Add the sweet potatoes, rosemary, and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper again. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are very tender (about 20-25 minutes). Turn off the heat and remove the rosemary stems. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and thick (I used a blender and poured it back into the stockpot). Whisk in the mascarpone cheese with maple syrup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat until ready to serve.

20 October 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Brownies

I just noticed that I have been posting a lot of Pumpkin recipes lately! (Hope you don't mind)! I wanted to make these pumpkin spice cheesecake brownies as soon as I saw them on Jen's blog. Now you might be thinking that chocolate + cheesecake + pumpkin doesn't sound all that appealing... but when you bite into one of these little brownies, I promise that you'll instantly fall in love!

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Brownies
Yield: 16 bars

Brownie Batter:
3/4 C. Butter, melted
1 C. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
1/2 C. All Purpose Flour
1/2 C. Cocoa Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Cinnamon

Cheesecake Batter:
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)
1 Egg
1/2 C. Sugar
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. Flour
2/3 C. Pumpkin Puree
1/3 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
2/3 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/3 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/3 tsp. Ground Cloves

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Grease an 8x8'' square metal baking pan. Beat together the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla; then beat in eggs one at a time. Combine the dry ingredients and then stir into the butter mixture with a wooden spoon. In a separate bowl, beat together the cheesecake batter ingredients. Spread about 2/3 of the chocolate batter into a prepared pan, and spoon cheesecake batter over. Dollop remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter. Swirl the batters together by running a butter knife back and forth through the pan. Bake for 40 minutes (or until center is set). Cool completely on a wire rack and chill before cutting and serving.

19 October 2010

Cranberry, Pecan + Rosemary Chicken Salad

Are you looking for something new to bring to work or to serve to your friends for lunch? I made this lovely fall-inspired chicken salad last week and was so pleased with the end result. I served this on some whole grain bread with some spinach and tomatoes. It was heavenly! I plan on making a double batch of the chicken salad for this weekend because we will have lots of family in town for our engagement party. I think that everyone will enjoy this either on crostini, on a bed of mixed greens, or in a sandwich!

Also, I want to wish my wonderful mom a happy, happy birthday! Hope your day is fabulous!

Cranberry, Pecan & Rosemary Chicken Salad
(Adapted from Lemons & Lavender)
Yield: 4 Servings

2 Large Chicken Breasts, roasted or poached
1/3 C. Dried Cranberries
4 Green Onions, thinly sliced
1/3 C. Unsalted Pecan Halves, roughly chopped
1 Heaping Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary, stems removed & finely chopped
1/2 C. Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, add more or less to your liking
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Whole Grain Bread, Spinach, Tomatoes, etc. for garnish

Cook chicken breasts by roasting or poaching, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes or shred it (whichever way you prefer). Place chicken, cranberries, green onion, pecans, rosemary, and mayo in a bowl. Mix and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

18 October 2010

Pumpkin Spice Latte

We have seriously had the most gorgeous October ever, but I have noticed that the mornings are getting a lot colder. I took my road bike out for my normal cruise to get the heart pumping. I rode past a bank... 43F degrees! Are you kidding me? That is just a little too chilly for my liking. Anyway, I needed something to warm my soul when I got home. I was craving a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks (who doesn't, right??). But then I remembered that my friend sent me a recipe to make my own! Tah-dah! It was a success and super easy too.

Pumpkin Spice Latte
(Adapted from The Kitchn)
Yield: 1 Serving

1 C. Skim Milk
1 Heaping Tbsp. Canned Pumpkin
1/2 Tbsp. Sugar
1/2 Tbsp. Vanilla
1/8 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1-2 Shots Espresso
Whipped Cream, for garnish (optional)

In a small saucepan, whisk the milk, pumpkin, and sugar together over medium heat until steaming. Once steaming, remove from the heat and add the vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Pour this mixture into a blender and blend until foamy. Pour into a cup and add the espresso on top. (I used instant espresso because I don't have an espresso machine and the prepared instant espresso worked out just fine). If desired, add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Serve immediately.

14 October 2010

Homemade Egg Noodles

As you know, there is nothing I love more than a good batch of homemade soup. I have been single-mingle this whole month because Doug is working in another city. This means, I've been making meals and freezing the leftovers (This also means that my fiance has been eating frozen pizzas and hot pockets. I bet he misses me). Anyway, soup makes for great leftovers. Have you tried my mom's Chicken Noodle Soup? It's pretty darn good and it freezes really well.

Do you know what makes it even better? ... You guessed it - homemade egg noodles. I'm in love. Sorry Doug! You can have the leftovers when you get back!

Homemade Egg Noodles
Yield: Enough for my Chicken Noodle Soup recipe

2 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour
3/4 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 C. Milk (Skim is fine)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, egg and milk. Mix until you produce a slightly sticky ball of dough. Flour the counter and roll out the dough to an 1/8-inch thick rectangle (cut off excess - you want sides straight). Cut the noodles with a pizza cutter to desired size and place on wax paper. (Note: cut the noodles very thin because they will expand when cooked). Let the noodles dry out on the counter at least 1 hour before adding them to the soup. About 30 minutes before serving the soup, drop noodles in the pot and cook.

Chef's Notes: I have also made these using whole wheat flour and it still tastes wonderful. Use 1 C. whole wheat flour + 1 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour. My mom also told me that these uncooked noodles freeze exceptionally well.

13 October 2010

Pumpkin Cake with Oatmeal Streusel

Tis' the season for baking with pumpkin puree! This is my absolute favorite time of the year. I already asked my fiance if I could start playing Christmas music... he said that I need to wait until it gets closer to Thanksgiving at least! Let's just say that I'm counting down to flannel pajamas, making cookie packages, and spending time with our families! Until then, I guess I'm forced to bake some autumn treats and enjoy the nice weather (not complaining one bit)! Enjoy the pumpkin cake!

Pumpkin Cake with Oatmeal Streusel
Yield: 1 bundt cake

Streusel Ingredients:
1 C. Rolled Oats
1 C. Packed Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp. Salt
3/4 Stick of Unsalted Butter, cold; cut into small cubes

Cake Ingredients:
2 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp. Ground Ginger
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. Salt
1 (15 oz) Can of Pumpkin
2 Large Eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 Stick of Butter, melted
1/2 C. Vegetable Oil
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

First, combine the streusel ingredients in a medium bowl. Use your fingers to pinch the butter cubes into the oatmeal mixture until crumbly. Store this bowl in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Next, prepare a bundt pan by rubbing it with butter and dusting with flour (shake out the excess flour). Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. In a large bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients for the cake. In a medium bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: pumpkin puree, eggs, butter, oil, and vanilla. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour 1/3 of the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the streusel mixture over the batter. Repeat the layers until all the batter and streusel are used. Bake for an hour and 15 minutes (check on the bundt cake after one hour because oven times may vary). Place the cake on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and then turn the cake onto the cooling rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or cold.

12 October 2010

Smoky Autumn Salad

This is a wonderful recipe to use for your next fall dinner party. I always try to have at least one salad a day and, to be honest, my ordinary salads are feeling a little "blah" lately. This was a seasonal and pleasant change to my normal salad routine. I loved the smoky flavor from the cheese and the crispness of the apples. The balsamic and maple syrup dressing was a huge hit with my dinner crowd.

Smoky Autumn Salad
(Adapted from A Thyme to Entertain)
Yield: 6 Servings

1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 C. Maple Syrup
1/4 C. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp. Black Pepper, freshly ground
12 oz. Baby Spinach Leaves (I added spring mix for color)
2 Large Granny Smith Apples, cored & thinly sliced
1 C. (4 oz.) Smoked Mozzarella or Gouda Cheese, cut into thin strips
1/2 C. Chopped Pecans, toasted

Combine the vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, and pepper in a large salad bowl; whisk until combined. (This makes a lot of dressing, so you may not want to use all of it). Add the spinach, apples, cheese, and pecans; gently toss until coated. Serve immediately.

11 October 2010

Cinnamon + Banana Oatmeal

The weatherman just mentioned that a year ago at this time, we had snow! I'm definitely not ready for that kind of weather yet. The only thing that makes me want to get out of a warm and cozy bed is the thought of coffee and a hot breakfast! You probably have all the ingredients for this cinnamon and banana oatmeal in your kitchen right now. Hope you all have a fabulous week!

Cinnamon and Banana Oatmeal
Yield: 1 Large Serving

1 C. Water
1/8 tsp. Salt
1/2 C. Old-Fashioned Oats
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 Banana, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. Sliced Almonds (optional)

Bring water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Add oats and keep pan over medium heat; stir occasionally (approximately 5 minutes or until the mixture reaches the desired consistency). Remove the pan from heat and stir in cinnamon and banana slices. Pour oatmeal into a bowl and garnish with almonds and a few more slices of banana.

08 October 2010

Chicken, Hominy + Cilantro Chili

I love our recent cool autumn nights! It gives me an excuse to break out the soup pot and make huge batches of chili, soup, or stew! Usually it lasts for the whole week in the fridge or else I'll eat some and then freeze the rest. It is nice to be able to have a variety of soup to choose from as these cooler nights progress. This recipe is a first for me in many ways... I've never had hominy and I've never served chili over polenta. The next time I make this chili, I'm going to substitute corn kernels for the hominy because I'm not a huge fan of the slightly bitter taste. It was definitely hearty enough to be a main course. Hope you enjoy!

Chicken, Hominy, and Cilantro Chili
Yield: 8 Servings

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
12 Chicken Thighs, skin on & bone in
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
2 Yellow Onions, chopped
2 Red Bell Peppers, seeded & chopped
1 or 2 Jalapeno Chiles, seeded & minced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
2 C. Chicken Stock (preferably homemade)
1 C. Lager Beer (I used Summit Oktoberfest)
1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
1/4 C. Yellow Cornmeal
1 Can Hominy, rinsed & drained (substitute: corn)
1/2 C. Fresh Cilantro, chopped
2 C. Instant Polenta, cooked according to pkg. directions

In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In batches, add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until browned (about 8 minutes). Transfer to a plate and set aside. Pour off the fat from the pot. Return the pot to medium heat and heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Add the onions, bell peppers, and chiles to taste and cook uncovered, stirring often, until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, oregano, and cumin; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Stir in the stock, beer, and tomato paste. Return the chicken to the pot. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (about 30 minutes).

Using kitchen tongs, remove the chicken from the pot and let cool slightly. Discard the skin and cut the meat from the bones. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces and return them to the pot. In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 C. of the broth with the cornmeal; stir into the pot along with the hominy (or corn) and cilantro. Simmer until the chili thickens (about 10 minutes). Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon the polenta into warmed individual bowls, top with the chili, and serve hot. I served mine with reduced fat sour cream and added sliced green onions on top.

05 October 2010

Our Fall Favorites!

Many of you are new readers to my blog, so I wanted to make sure that you were up to date on some of our fall favorites!

Planning to go to a football party or hosting a party of your own? Whip up some Caramelized Onion Dip! It will be gone by halftime!

Do you remember when tomato soup splattered the walls of my kitchen? Catch up on the story and get the best ever recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup.

One recipe that people compliment me on over and over again is this Cornbread-Stuffed Rosemary Chicken... a.k.a. The Ultimate Autumnal Comfort Food!

Mmmm... my all-time favorite bars. Hands down. No question. These Cappuccino-Caramel Oat Bars will certainly be your favorite too!

What are your fall favorites? Would love to know...

04 October 2010

Grilled Pineapple with Pound Cake + Caramel-Rum Sauce

Although this recipe is somewhat time-consuming, it is totally worth every little second. I doubled the recipes below and made this for my uncle's 50th birthday party a few weeks ago. I'm pretty sure this whole platter of grilled pineapple on top of my aunt Joy's famous pound cake drizzled with a caramel rum sauce was gone in a heartbeat. People devoured it! Either my family and friends were really hungry or they really loved it! If you want to save some time, just buy a pound cake from the store. However, I will say that my aunt's recipe is the best pound cake recipe ever and you should try it!

Grilled Pineapple with Pound Cake and Caramel-Rum Sauce
(Adapted from Bobby Flay)
Yield: 8 Servings

2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
3/4 C. Dark Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. Dark Rum
1/2 C. Heavy Cream
1 Small Pineapple, peeled & cut into 1-inch slices
1/4 C. Canola Oil
1 Pound Cake, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (recipe below)
Vanilla Ice Cream, for serving

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over high heat, add the brown sugar and rum; cook. Whisk until the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the heavy cream and cook until heated through and slightly thickened (this took a while to get thick, but just have patience. Transfer the mixture to a bowl; keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the grill to high. Brush the pineapple on both sides with oil and place on the grill. Grill until golden brown and caramelized on both sides (about 6 minutes). Remove from grill and cut into chunks. Then, place the pound cake on the grill until lightly golden brown on both sides (about 20 seconds per side). Remove the pound cake and set on platter. [Grilled pineapple and pound cake can be done in advance and put in air-tight containers until ready to serve]. Top each piece of pound cake with some of the pineapple and drizzle with the caramel rum sauce. Add dollop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Aunt Joy's Famous Pound Cake
(Highly coveted recipe from Joy)
Yield: 2 loaves

1 1/2 C. Unsalted Butter (3 sticks), room temp.
1 (8 oz) Package of Cream Cheese, room temp.
3 C. Sugar
6 Eggs
3 C. All Purpose Flour
Pinch of Salt
3 tsp. Vanilla

Cream together the butter and cream cheese in a bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Alternate adding the sugar and eggs, one at a time. The key to a great pound cake is beating the batter a lot. Slowly add the rest of the ingredients. Grease 2 loaf pans really well (or a bundt pan). Bake until golden brown (times will vary depending on your oven, so just keep an eye on it).