Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Autumn Penne

Ok, the recipe title "Autumn Penne" doesn't begin to give you an idea of how exciting this recipe really is.  That said, I thought that calling it something that would give you a better window into this dish might be a little overwhelming.  You tell me, does "Chicken and Roasted Butternut Squash Penne in a Sage Brown Butter Cream Sauce with Balsamic Reduction Drizzle" sound like a bit much?

One bite, though, and you will agree it's well worth it. 

My sister, who is in the throws of medical school midterms, gave me a hard time the other night after making one of my recipes, a Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie, because it was a bit more involved than my usual posts.  It's true, usually a deciding factor for me in whether I'll try a recipe is how many dirty dishes it will create.  So, in fair warning to my sister, Elise, and other pinched for time friends, this is not going to be the simplest meal you've ever made. 

That said, it will be worth it and in reassurance, I made it on a weeknight and if a few of your components are done ahead of time, you really could throw it together really pretty quickly.  This really is a restaurant-worthy dish and you will feel so fancy and accomplished after making something like a "sage brown butter cream sauce" (trust me, it really is easy!).  This pasta encapsulates all the warm flavors of Fall in a dish and is one I am really excited to make again.  

Autumn Penne (or Chicken and Roasted Butternut Squash Penne in a Sage Brown Butter Cream Sauce with Balsamic Reduction Drizzle)
serves approximately 6
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (this was about one breast and using a rotisserie chicken is a really nice short cut)

1/2 butternut squash (about 1 pound), diced into 1/2" cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

12 oz dried shaped pasta (I used Ronzoni brand penne)

2-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced into slivers (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
8-10 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss squash cubes with olive oil and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and starting to turn golden brown.  Remove from oven and set aside until ready to assemble pasta (*This is a step you could do up to a day in advance, storing the cooked squash pieces in the fridge until assembly time).

While squash is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare pasta "al dente" (or still firm to the bite) according to package directions, drain, return to the cooking pot and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, also heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it foams.  Increase heat to medium. Add the sage and cook until the leaves turn crisp, about 1 ½ minutes.  Butter should be a nice nutty brown color and very fragrant (watch this very closely as the butter can go from browned to burnt pretty quickly).  Remove from heat and pour butter and sage leaves into a small bowl or measuring cup and set aside (I just kept the sage leaves whole in the sauce, but you can either remove them from the butter and cut into smaller pieces or remove them altogether, if you prefer).

Return pan to heat and add garlic pieces.  Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until garlic is fragrant.  Stir in cream, nutmeg, cinnamon and chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer and whisk in sage butter.  Turn heat to low and keep sauce warm, stirring occasionally.

In a small skillet over medium high heat, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil, stirring frequently.  Allow vinegar to boil until the liquid is thickened to maple syrup consistency and is reduced by about half.  Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble:  In the pasta pot, pour sage brown butter cream sauce over pasta.  Stir in chicken, roasted butternut squash and a handful of freshly shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese.  Warm gently over medium-low heat, if necessary.  Adjust seasonings by adding salt or pepper if needed.  Transfer to a large serving dish (or individual ones) and drizzle balsamic syrup over top.  Garnish with additional fresh sage leaves as desired.  Serve with additional shredded cheese for sprinkling.

p.s. I think this would be good with a sprinkle of chopped toasted walnuts for another added texture and fall flavor as well.  I'll have to try that sometime and let you know how it goes! : )

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lighter Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

For the last couple of weeks, I've had a serious desire for all things pumpkin and had been especially wanting to bake something pumpkin related.  It was driving me crazy that in all the stores I was looking at, the shelves were bare where there was supposed to be cans of the Golden Autumn Goodness.  I was starting to get desperate.  So it was with great enthusiasm that I spied a 3-pack of canned pumpkin from Costco last week.  Snatched those babies up stat. Then the only dilemma was what to make? 

After scouring recipes for pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins, I was really frustrated.  Why is it that every recipe that sounded good called for several cups of sugar and tons of oil?  I just couldn't bring myself to make something that I would feel so guilty about eating.  I set out to make something that tasted great but lighter and I am thrilled with the results. 
By combining aspects of a couple recipes, I think I captured the best of both worlds, warm and spicy and creamy and full of the Fall flavor I was after yet a fraction of the fat and calories.  Very happy indeed. 
Lighter Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins:
(original recipe said it would make 24 muffins, I only got 18)

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 8 ounce brick reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened to room temperature
1/2 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar

Lighter Pumpkin Muffin Batter:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

To prepare filling:
In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until smooth.  Spread on a piece of plastic wrap in a long log (about 1 1/2" wide and about 12" long).  Smooth the plastic wrap around the cream cheese and reinforce the roll of cream cheese with a piece of foil.  Place in the freezer and chill at least 2 hours or until firm (this is a good step to do the night before). 

To prepare muffins:
Mix together all the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour through ground cloves) in a large bowl.  You can also put all the dry ingredients into a large ziploc bag and shake to combine--also nice to do the night before! : ).

For streusel, mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is crumbly. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin cups by lining with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine sugars and eggs and stir with a whisk until smooth.  Stir in vanilla, milk and vegetable oil.  Stir in pumpkin puree and mix until smooth.  In a large bowl, gently stir wet ingredients into the dry mixture just until combined.  

To assemble:
Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling almost completely full.  Remove cream cheese log from freezer and slice into 24 equal pieces.  Place one piece of frozen cream cheese into each muffin cup, pushing it down slightly into the batter.  You can also smooth a little extra batter over top of the cream cheese if you prefer it to be a surprise.

Sprinkle a tiny amount of the streusel mixture over top of each muffin cup of batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until muffins are lightly browned and tops spring back when lightly touched.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. 

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats and The Best of Cooking Light

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vegetarian Black Bean and Quinoa Burritos

The streak is over.  And by streak, I mean a ridiculous string of postings on sweets.  I know, it was getting a little excessive.  To offset all that sugar (and no, I haven't given up sugar yet like I was musing about previously and yes, today I thoroughly enjoyed the pumpkin bar I picked out from the cute little bakery next to my son's hair cutting place--speaking of ridiculous, my 5 year old son has such tricky hair to cut that I take him to a fancy children's salon and spend more on his haircuts than I do), I am featuring these extremely healthy, yet incredibly delicious burritos.

Black beans and the protein-rich seed quinoa are mixed with other Southwestern style ingredients including a quick lime vinaigrette and wrapped in whole grain tortillas.  If you leave the cheese off the top, they're even a vegan recipe! 

I sort of made them up as I went along and wasn't sure what I was going to end up with but I was really happy with the result.  I was also quite relieved since I had made an extra pan of them to bring to a neighbor who just had a baby--I know they always say not to try out new recipes on company and I never listen.  Sometimes I pay the price for that, but thankfully not this round!

I knew it was a good sign when my dear husband told me they were "top notch" and the baby ate thirds (never mind that the floor around his chair was scattered with black beans and corn kernels--those are the days I wish I had a dog...). 

Vegetarian Black Bean and Quinoa Burritos
1 can (about 15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 small ear), you can also sub frozen or canned or omit
1/2 red bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions (can sub cooked brown or white rice)
large handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 burrito size whole grain tortillas (Santa Fe Tortilla Company found at Costco recommended)
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup shredded colby jack or cheddar cheese, optional
sour cream for serving, optional

In a large bowl, mix together black beans, corn, red bell pepper, onion, zucchini, quinoa and cilantro.  In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, cumin, garlic powder and salt.  Drizzle in olive oil and stir to combine.  Pour over bean mixture and toss together.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9x13" glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Scoop 3/4-1 cup filling onto each tortilla.  Roll tortillas around filling and place seam side down in baking dish.  Pour salsa over top of burritos (I like it poured right down the center so that the edges of the tortillas stay dry and get crispy).  Sprinkle cheese over top, if desired.  Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until top of burritos are lightly browned and salsa is bubbly.

**Double the recipe, assemble half in a disposable baking dish and put it in the freezer to give to someone in need of a pre-made, healthy meal!**

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Low Fat Monkey Bread

 So I contemplated going on a fast from sugar for awhile.  That lasted about one day until I decided to make this.  I'm telling you, I think my relationship with sugar is borderline stronghold status.  Someday soon I probably ought to go cold turkey for awhile, but not today.

I'm not really sure why it is called Monkey Bread, it contains absolutely no monkey and no monkeys were harmed in the making of it.  Perhaps, it is because it is so easy maybe even a monkey could make it.

There are certainly a lot of versions of Monkey Bread out there and I think between the various sleepovers I went to as a kid, I've probably tasted a lot of them.  This is my favorite.  It's made with frozen bread dough and instead of using gobs of butter, you make a cinnamon caramel sauce on the stove with just a touch of butter, milk and (I admit, quite a lot of) sugar.

The Monkey Bread pictured is actually a half batch.  I made a full batch of the sauce, though, which meant I had leftovers to experiment with.  My initial research findings: it makes an excellent dip for sliced pears and when stirred into coffee with cream, it makes a darn close imitation of a Starbucks' Cinnamon Dolce Latte (the coffee that tastes like a cinnamon roll--how could you go wrong?). 

Monkey Bread
1 1/4 cup granulated white sugar, divided
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
2 (1-pound) loaves frozen white bread dough, thawed (or 24 unbaked balls of dough for dinner rolls, cut into fourths)
cooking spray

Combine 1 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, milk, butter and 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, cook 1 minutes.  Remove sauce from heat; cool 10 minutes.

Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a shallow dish, stir well.  Cut each loaf of dough into 24 equal portions.  Roll each portion in sugar mixture; layer dough balls in a 12 cup Bundt pan coated with cooking spray.  Pour sauce over dough; cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts 35 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Uncover dough, bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Immediately loosen edges of bread with knife.  Place a plate upside down on top of pan and invert bread onto a plate.  Drizzle any remaining syrup over bread.  Serve while still warm. 

Recipe Source: The Best of Cooking Light
P.S. I'm linking this recipe to The Frugal Girls Chic & Crafty Party! 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Super-Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies

I tend to avoid making cookies for several reasons.  First, although they seem simple enough for a child to put together, they rely pretty heavily on exact measurements (something I tend to be a bit impatient for) to turn out.  Second, bite-sized desserts can be a bit of a pitfall around these parts.  Finally, if I'm going to eat a cookie, it needs to be soft.

I can maintain strong willpower against Oreos and Chips Ahoy, Nutter Butters and Nilla Wafers, but if you put a chewy cookie in front of me, I'm hard pressed to resist.  I am one to purposely underbake any cookie I make, but oftentimes, those don't even turn out very well.  Intentionally chewy cookie recipes are a bit of a holy grail for me. 

This snickerdoodle recipe not only turned out soft and delicious, but the cookies remained irresistibly chewy for days afterward.  With the faint hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, they hint of the holidays to come but feel very appropriate for Fall.  I'm thankful that half the batch went to a neighbor who just had a baby and another portion of the dough was frozen for later.  Otherwise, there would have been little willpower to keep me in check.

Super Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3-4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cinnamon sugar:
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Heat the oven to 425°F. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave and let it cool while you mix the dry ingredients. Stir together the flour, spices, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Whisk the sugar into the cooled butter until smooth.  Stir in the eggs into the butter-sugar mixture and add the vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring just until it comes together, adding more flour as necessary until dough is able to be shaped into balls.
In a shallow bowl, mix together the white sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Form small 1 1/2-inch balls of dough and roll them in the cinnamon sugar. Place them on an unlined, ungreased baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 7 minutes then remove and let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack.
The dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen in logs.

Recipe Source: The's Super Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies

P.S. After all this sugar, I am looking forward to posting soon about some really delicious and HEALTHY vegetarian burritos...this dessert thing has gotten a bit out of hand lately.  Thinking I need to rekindle my relationship with Jillian Michaels stat!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Sometimes things are just meant to be.  From the library I checked out The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2010 Cookbook and this recipe's photo graced the cover.  A few days later, I happened to catch the episode of From America's Test Kitchen on PBS where they made this cake.  Two days ago, was my husband, Jay's birthday.  As if it were ordained,  I had to make this cake.  With the bottom layer a flourless chocolate cake, the middle a silky chocolate mousse and the top a light and creamy white chocolate mousse, how could you go wrong?

After showing him the picture from the cookbook, Jay thought it looked like the makings a pretty good birthday cake.  I was very happy to oblige, and even happier when I realized that I had everything to make the bottom layer, on hand and could crank that out the night before.

Despite the lengthy instructions, it was really quite simple and only required a bit of time.  It's definitely worth making for a special occasion.  Clearly, I need more practice in making sure the layers come out more even and working on my chocolate shavings (how wimpy did those turn out???), but it was met with rave reviews.  I don't think I'll mind having to work out the kinks in this one, especially when that includes getting to lick the bowl... : )

Happy Birthday, Honey!
Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
Base Layer:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder (Starbucks via works very well)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
pinch salt
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

For the middle layer:
2 tbsp. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5 tbsp. hot water
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

For the top layer:
¾ tsp. powdered gelatin
1 tbsp. water
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream

For garnish:
Chocolate curls or cocoa powder

To make the bottom layer
, butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.  Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325˚ F.  Combine the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in a large heatproof bowl set over simmering water.  Stir occasionally until the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the vanilla and egg yolks.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds.  Crumble half of the brown sugar into the mixing bowl with your fingers to remove any lumps.  Beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds.  Add the remaining brown sugar and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the beaten egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining egg whites gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until the cake has risen, is firm around the edges and the center has just set but is still soft (should spring back after pressing gently with a finger), about 14-18 minutes.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour.  Do not remove the cake from the pan.  (If not making the second layer right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to proceed.)

To make the second layer, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl; set aside.  Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Once melted, remove from the heat and let cool slightly, 2-5 minutes.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds.  Whisk in the cocoa powder
mixture until smooth.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Pour the mousse into the springform pan over the cooled cake and tap gently on the counter 3 times to remove air bubbles.  Gently smooth the top with a spatula.  Wipe the inside edge of the pan to remove any drips.  Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing the top layer.

To make the top layer, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and let stand at least 5 minutes to soften.  Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring ½ cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the white chocolate and let stand about 1 minute.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Cool to room temperature, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the pan over the middle layer.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Return the cake to the refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours (Also, make sure not to cover your finished cake with plastic wrap as it will stick to the top and mess up the pretty smooth surface).

Remove from fridge preferably 20 minutes before serving (I didn't do this and it was ok, just a little messy to cut).  To serve, run a knife around the edge of the spring form pan and gently remove sides of pan.  Top with chocolate curls or cocoa powder to garnish.  To slice as cleanly as possible, dip a knife into hot water and wipe off immediately before making each slice.

Cake can be made and stored a day ahead.

Recipe Source: The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2010 Cookbook

I'm linking this recipe to Cast Party Wednesday--Check it out for some great recipes ideas!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hot Fudge Sauce

When I was a kid, when my mom would buy a jar of Mrs. Richardson's Hot Fudge Sauce, we knew something special was up--guests were coming.  I thought that was a pretty awesome treat, but sometime after I left the house, she started making her own from scratch and now, she's known to press still-warm jars of the chocolaty goodness into friends' hands as a part of the "Long Minnesota Goodbye" process.  She has also cranked out batches to give as Christmas gifts.  She's a good mom.

Taking less than 15 minutes and using mostly stuff that's already hanging out in the pantry, there's no reason not to try your hand at making this classic dessert sauce.  Warm and drizzled over ice cream or cake or fruit (even stirred into coffee!), you can't go wrong.  Pour the extras into empty jars and keep in the fridge to be ready for cold spoonfuls to be indulged in at a moment's notice.

Rich and Gooey Hot Fudge Sauce
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chocolate chips or good quality bar chocolate, chopped (I used combination of Ghiradelli dark and milk chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or a spatula, bring the cream, corn syrup, sugar, cocoa powder and salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat.

Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips, butter and vanilla and stir until smooth.

Cool sauce to warm and serve over ice cream, brownies, cake, fruit, stirred into coffee etc.

Note: sauce can also be poured into jars and kept refrigerated for up to a week.  Reheat in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until pourable. 

Recipe adapted from Rich and Gooey Hot Fudge Sauce from Serious Eats
P.S. I'm linking this recipe to Cast Party Wednesday--Check it out for some great recipes ideas! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Waffles with Two-Berry Syrup

Making waffles presents quite a problem.  Unless you have multiple waffle makers or like soggy waffles, you have to eat in shifts.

Being a waffle-loving girl, my third-grade self tried to tackle the problem of soggy waffles.  In school, we had an Invention Unit where we were required to create something.  Mine was a waffle rack to keep them upright and to prevent sogginess.  I was a little ashamed of my decidedly unflashy invention.  Compared the shampoo-dispensing shower head by Jimmy Woolmann or Cecily Schraeder's Robot Butler, my idea seemed pretty weak.

Until...I actually saw my exact idea available for purchase in a fancy cooking gadget catalog.  Seriously, missed, opportunity.  I bet that inventor made a (very, very small) fortune. 

Never fear, I've provided a way for everyone to eat crispy waffles all at once.  Lay them on a cooling rack placed on top of a cookie sheet in a warm oven.  Pretty pedestrian, I know, but in our house it was pretty revolutionary...

This recipe is adapted from my beloved The Best of Cooking Light Cookbook (haven't made a bad recipe from it yet!) and this one does not disappoint.  Served Crispy(!) with the berry syrup, they'll make a breakfast crowd very happy indeed.

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 12-oz package frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup maple syrup

Directions: In a medium bowl, combine ground flaxseed meal, flours, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Make a well in the center of the mixture.  Combine milk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla.  Add to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist. 

Preheat oven to warm (170-200 degrees F).  Place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet and place in the oven to keep cooked waffles crisp while cooking the rest of the batch.

Coat a waffle iron with cooking spray, preheat.  Spoon about 1/4 cup batter per 4 inch waffle onto the hot waffle iron, spreading batter to edges.  Cook 5-6 minutes, or until steaming stops; repeat process with remaining batter.  If you're not eating the waffles right as they come off the iron, store cooked waffles in warm oven on prepared rack.

To prepare syrup, combine frozen berries and syrup in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated.  Serve over warm waffles.  Serves about 6.

You can also freeze waffles individually and then reheat in the toaster.

Recipe Adapted from The Best of Cooking Light

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Homemade Hot Pockets

I don't know a boy who doesn't like Hot Pockets.  These versions of those popular frozen convenience foods will be beloved by boys and girls alike.

This is not so much a Rachael Ray-endorsed recipe but rather a labor of love.  They take a bit of time to put together, but they're so very worth it.  Make it a rainy Sunday afternoon activity.  Make a couple batches and freeze them for convenient lunches.  In addition, I made a Spinach Feta version I'll post soon. 

Also, I think I found a new favorite pastry recipe.  Adding the cream cheese makes the dough extremely easy to work with.  I'll be using that in other future recipes, I'm sure.

Savory Chicken Pocket Pies:
1 heaping cup shredded, cooked chicken
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped carrot (about 1 carrot)
1/3 cup chopped celery (about 1 large stock)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 recipes (2 disks) Cream Cheese Pastry (see below)
1 large egg

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Saute onion, carrot and celery until vegetables begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the salt and 2 tablespoons flour and cook 1 additional minute.  Add the chicken broth and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in shredded chicken and Parmesan cheese.  Cool in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter or line a baking sheet. 

To form the pocket pies, work with half of a disk of dough at a time, rolling it out on a floured surface.  Using an overturned bowl (about 5-inches across), cut out circles from each piece of dough.  After cutting out circles, gather up the scraps into a ball, re-roll and repeat until dough is used up. **Depending on the exact size of your bowl, you should end up with 10+ hand held pies.**

Place about 1/4 cup filling on one side of each dough circle.  Wet the edges of the dough with water.  Fold the dough over to form a half circle.  Pinch the edges of the dough together.  Crimp the edges with a fork (I forgot to do this part and they turned out just fine).  Repeat the process until all the filling is used.

The pocket pies can be frozen at this point (Place on a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze until solid and then transfer to a freezer bag for storage.  You can then bake them from frozen, just add 5-10 minutes to the baking time). 

Place the pocket pies on the prepared baking sheet.  Prick each pie on top twice with a fork.  When ready to bake, beat the egg with 1 tablespoons water.  Brush the egg wash over each pocket pie.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.  The pies can be cooled and frozen after baking to reheat in the microwave for a minute and a half or so.

My Busy Little Helpers

Cream Cheese Pastry
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese (I used reduced fat), at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Process the butter, cream cheese and cream in a food processor, electric mixer or by hand to thoroughly combine.

Add the flour and salt.  Process just until combined and the dough holds together in a ball.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Divide into 2 pieces.  Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out.  If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling.

Working with one dough disk at a time, place the disk on a clean, well-floured surface.  Sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the dough disk as well.  Starting in the middle and gently roll out, changing directions and flipping occasionally so that the dough doesn't stick to the other side.  Roll out until the dough makes a circle of about 12 inches in diameter.
Recipe Source: Mad Hungry: Feeding Hungry Men and Boys by Lucinda Scala Quinn

This recipe is linked to Cast Party Wednesday (check it out for some great recipe ideas!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Vinegar Glossed Chicken over Polenta

I am completely in the mood for Fall.  I bought supplies to make an apple pie and I am really excited for the Pumpkin Spice Lattes to start appearing in Starbucks.  I was having a conversation with of my "foodie friends" the other day and we were commenting on how we are about tired out of Summer food.

So, today, on the unofficial Last Day of Summer, I look to usher in Fall with this completely Fall-esque menu.  Vinegar Glossed Chicken may sound like an unassuming dish, but it was so amazing that we were practically licking our plates to reach the last bits of the sweet and savory, luxurious sauce after the chicken had been picked clean.  There is a reason why the recipe's author says it's been in her family's rotation for over 20 years.

The recipe originates from Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys which is a cookbook that feels like it was written especially for me.  Not only do I have two little hungry boys and a hungry husband, we have a seminary student living with us.  I am completely surrounded by boys these days...

I followed the recipe almost to a T (except for substituting balsamic vinegar for the red wine vinegar called for) and it was delicious.  I think in the future I will experiment with boneless skinless chicken breasts and even pork chops.  I have a feeling, whatever meat I'll be glossing with vinegar, this technique will be with my family in the next 20 years!

First Fall Menu:
Vinegar Glossed Chicken over Soft Polenta (recipes below)

Roasted Butternut Squash (cut into 1/2" cubes, toss with a couple tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper and some dried herbs--rosemary, sage and thyme and roast at 425, stirring occasionally until golden brown and tender: 20-25 minutes). 

Green Salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette

Vinegar Glossed Chicken
1 cup red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2-3 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
5 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (each part should be cut in half)
salt and black pepper
olive oil
3/4 cup chicken broth, plus more as needed

Combine vinegar with minced garlic and rosemary.  Set aside.

Dry off chicken with a paper towel.  Generously season with salt and pepper.  Heat a 14-inch skillet (or two smaller ones) over high heat and swirl in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the skillet.  Place the chicken in the skillet, skin side down.  Don't crowd the pan.  Work in batches, if necessary.  You should hear an immediate sizzle when the chicken hits the pan.  Don't move them it takes a couple minutes to sear the chicken so it doesn't stick.  Brown all sides, this will take about 10 minutes per batch.  Regulate the heat so it stays high but does not burn the chicken.  Place all the browned chicken back in the skillet.

Add the chicken broth and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Lower the heat, simmer and reduce for 15-20 minutes.  Increase the heat to high and pour in the vinegar mixture.  Swirl the pan and stir around as the vinegar evaporates to form a simmering glaze, 8-10 minutes.  Serve immediately or reheat with some extra broth. 

Polenta: (a dish from boiled cornmeal that can be served similarly to mashed potatoes or fried up after it is cooled and sliced)

2 cups chicken broth or water
2 cups milk
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a medium sauce pan, bring chicken broth and milk to a boil over medium-high heat (watch it very carefully because as soon as it comes to a boil, it will spill over if you aren't paying attention).  As soon as liquid comes to a boil, slowly whisk in cornmeal.  Stir constantly to prevent lumps for about a minute or until mixture becomes thick and bubbly.  Stir in garlic powder and cheese until well mixed together.  Serve immediately (like mashed potatoes).  Or, you can pour into a pan, allow to chill and cut into slices and reheat by sauteing in a pan with a bit of butter or olive oil.

Recipe slightly adapted from Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Common Baking Substitutions

How often do you start a recipe and then realize you're missing an ingredient?  I imagine that all of you are more well-planned than I, but perhaps one of these common baking substitutions may come in handy in a pinch someday.  You may not have self-rising flour or buttermilk hanging out in your pantry or fridge, but you probably have the approximation.  It's wonderful to feel so resourceful!  

1 teaspoon Baking Powder = 1 teaspoon Baking Soda + 1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

1 teaspoon Rapid Rise Yeast = 1 1/4 teaspoon Regular, Active Dry Yeast (use 25% more than called for)

Self-Rising Flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder plus 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup Light Brown Sugar = 1 cup white granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon molasses
1 cup Dark Brown Sugar = 1 cup white granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons molasses

1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate = 2 tablespoons dry cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or melted butter or shortening (or one of my favorites, coconut oil! : )

1 cup Buttermilk = 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice, mix and allow to sit for 10 minutes

*Note on lemons: I'll buy a bag of lemons and if I don't get through them fast enough, I'll juice them. Freeze the juice in an ice cube tray, pop out the cubes and put a freezer bag to have on hand.  I can't tell you how many times I've had a recipe calling for lemon juice and think "Rats, I don't have any lemons" only to remember I have a whole lot of lemon juice waiting for me in the freezer.  Plus, it tastes so much better than the bottles of lemon juice concentrate--do those taste like metallic furniture polish to anyone else?