Monday, January 31, 2011

Chocolate Chip Scones



I have yet to understand the fascination of chocolate-chip flavored breakfast food.  I mean, literally, candy for breakfast?  But, ok.  I get that many of you love that (my husband is one of you!)!  And in order to help you justify this breakfast option, I want to share this yummy scone recipe with you.  These scones are biscuit-y, with a hint of sweet, and if you would like, you can pretend that it is a muffin.  Muffins are totally breakfast food.  These scones will also pair nicely with your afternoon cup of coffee or latte or chai.  :)

RECIPE AFTER THE JUMP!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Homemade Marshmallows


I can hear you saying it....because it has been said to me before (in love, of course!)...."You know, Karla, the store sells marshmallows."

I know, I know.....

I think I'm a bit compulsive in the kitchen....  It's like I have oodles of time so I spend it all playing around.

Which is only partially true.

CONTINUE READING AFTER THE JUMP....

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix


I know that I am in the minority when I say that I'm not such a big fan of hot cocoa.  I would rather have a hot cup of coffee of even chai.  But I know that there are many of you who love hot cocoa, and I know that my husband and children like it.  So, I post this recipe for YOU!  Stay tuned tomorrow for the recipe for homemade marshmallows...! 

(RECIPE FOLLOWS AFTER THE JUMP!)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BBQ Ribs


Cooking meat well is hard-core.  To me, grilling and bbq-ing is a man's job, basically because it was always my dad's job when I was growing up.  I'm at a disadvantage having married a man who hates to cook, but loves to eat.  So, I basically have adopted the mindset that if my dad and sister can grill and bbq, then so can I!  That being said, I will choose their bbq, hands down, over mine any day!  But I have found what works for me and I am happy with that.

I think that there are few other flavors that rival the sweet tenderness of rib meat.  Of course, being the girly-girl that I am, I buy my ribs without the bones so I can just enjoy the flavors without all the mess and work.  This is one meat I just had to perfect for myself!   CONTINUE READING AFTER THE JUMP....

Monday, January 24, 2011

BBQ Dry Rub


I'm no grill master.  I'm no meat expert.  So, I won't claim to know how to season meat perfectly or grill it to any level of awesomeness.

But I will share with you what I do know, and what I have learned along the way.

I've learned that good BBQ ribs are even better when a good dry rub is applied to them before cooking.

Today, I will share with you the recipe for the rub.  It makes a lot, but it will keep forever for you.  You can easily halve it, or make the full amount and give it away as stocking stuffers next Christmas.  You choose.

(Recipe follows after the jump).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Honey Apple Brie Bites


Raise your hand if you like appetizers.  Ok.  Now, you know I can't actually see your hand, right?  But, I know that you had it raised.  Which is why I just have to share this recipe with you.  Sweet apples, warm honey, melted cheese, crisp phyllo shells, bite-sized.


Perfection. 

You have to make these.  You will love them.  You will love that the simplicity of this recipe fades into the background of their elegance.  You will  love the textures of each ingredient, combined.  In fact, you probably shouldn't wait for a special occasion to make them.  Your next snack time is perfect enough.



Honey Apple Brie Bites
Adapted from Easy and Impressive Appetizers by Pampered Chef

1 lemon
1/2 cup pecans
1 medium red apple (I used Gala), unpeeled, sliced and diced
1/4 cup honey
1 4-in. round of Brie cheese with rind
2 packages of prepared mini phyllo shells (30 total)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Zest lemon to measure 1 tsp. zest.

For apple mixture, combine diced apple, lemon zest, honey, and pecans.  Mix gently.

Cut Brie into 30 1/2-inch cubes.  Arrange phyllo cups on rimmed baking sheet.  Place one Brie cube in each phyllo shell.  Top Brie with a level scoop of apple mixture.

Bake 6-8 minutes or until Brie is melted.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Bars


I want to you know that I have seriously tried to be dessert-free since the holidays.  Seriously tried.  But like any full-blown sugar addict, I have found myself craving treats.  Since I haven't made any dessert since Christmas, I resorted to stalking my cleaned-out pantry.  Other than some biscotti and a couple of chocolate chip cookies, there's been nada.   (For the record, I have never considered cookies to be dessert.  Never ever). 

But then I found this dessert on a favorite blog.  And since I was spending my son's snow day from school in the kitchen anyhow, I decided I had to make them.  Now, this is the telling sign of my addiction--I'm not really a peanut butter/chocolate fan, nor am I a "no-bake" fan.  And, yet, I made them.  My sugar-addiction is hard core. 

I have to admit, they are good.  And easy.  So easy.  They will totally make you look like a kitchen rock star when you take them to your next get-together that you promised to bring dessert to.  And true to form, I really made these for my chocolate-loving husband (how's that for denial??!).  Really.

(And in case you're wondering, yes, I took this photograph in the snow.  On my deck off my kitchen.  Shameless white background.)

Peanut Butter Cup Bars
Source:  Brown Eyed Baker

½ cup unsalted butter
1¾ cups powdered sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup milk chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)

Directions: 
Line an 8×8-inch square pan with foil, leaving enough to hang over the sides, then butter the foil. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the ½ cup of butter over low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter and graham cracker crumbs until completely combined and smooth. Spread the peanut butter mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

In the now-empty saucepan, melt the ¼ cup unsalted butter. Add the chocolate and stir until almost completely melted. Remove from heat and continue stirring until completely melted. Pour the melted chocolate over the peanut butter layer and smooth into an even layer.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set. Remove from the pan using the foil overhangs and place on a cutting board. Use a pizza cutter to slice into 16 bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Homemade Soft Pretzels


I am a pool girl.  My kids are pool kids.

Now, some background.  I haven't always been a pool girl.  I am a bookish girl, who doesn't mind spending her summers inside sipping iced tea, devouring book after book.  To prove my point, the summer that I was 11 or 12 years old, I won the summer reading program at my library.  I read over 100 books that summer.

Now, some history.  My mom is a water girl.  She grew up at the lake, surround by her nieces and nephews (who were older than her!).  My mom is also a pool mom.  As a kid, I went to the pool a lot with my mom.  I would have been just fine in the living room reading.  But I went to the pool with her.  I took a book with me a lot.

When I became a mom almost 8 years ago (Ah!  Where has that time gone??), my mom and I took my baby to the pool.  He loved it.  The next summer, we went to the pool again.  And the next summer.  And the next.

For the past 8 summers, my mom and I have lived together at the pool with my kids.  I am still the girl who would be ok with wasting my lazy summer days reading.  But I go swimming.  My kids love it.  And it has kind of grown on me, too.  (Each pregnancy has yielded more "tannable" skin, so I now enjoy that perk!)

What does this have to do with pretzels, you are likely wondering and almost shouting at me through your computer screen.  Ok, ok!!  We eat pretzels at the pool.  Not really the most refreshing snack--hot pretzel, spicy cheese, hot sun.  But, in my nerdy mind, soft pretzels and swimming pools go together.  You just have to accept that about me.

Today, there is about 6 inches of snow on the ground outside of my house.  A far cry from summer pool days.  Making pretzels today is my way of saying that I am ready for the pool again. 

Homemade Soft Pretzels
Source:  Joy the Baker

1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pretzel salt or grill seasoning
1 heaping Tablespoon baking soda (add it to the boiling water just before throwing in the pretzel dough!)

Directions:
Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105 to 110°F) in a glass measuring cup, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Whisk together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon table salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough.**  Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon flour, then turn out dough and knead, gradually dusting with just enough additional flour to make a smooth sticky dough, about 8 minutes. (Dough needs to be somewhat sticky to facilitate rolling and forming into pretzels).

Return dough to bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and cut into 8 equal pieces. Using your palms, roll 1 piece back and forth on a clean dry work surface into a rope about 24 inches long. If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust them with flour. Twist dough into a pretzel shape. (Dough will retract as you form the pretzel.)

Transfer pretzel with your hands to an oiled baking sheet and form 7 more pretzels in same manner with remaining dough, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.

Let pretzels stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Bring a wide 6-quart pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, add heaping tablespoon of baking soda.  The baking soda will help the pretzels brown.

Using both hands, carefully add 2 (maybe 3)  pretzels, 1 at a time, to boiling water and cook, turning over once with tongs, until pretzels are puffed and shape is set, about 3 minutes. Transfer parboiled pretzels to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 5 pretzels in 2 batches.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil paper, then arrange pretzels on sheet. Brush pretzels lightly with some of egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown and lightly crusted, about 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve warm.

**I share this recipe with you the way I found it, but I used my Kitchenaid stand mixer with the dough hook to make the dough.  I kneaded with the mixer for 8 minutes.

Click here for details on how you can help save a little girl.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blueberry Scones


I love muffins.  I love cinnamon rolls.  But sometimes, muffins get a bit boring.  And cinnamon rolls just simply take too long to make to make them very often.  But scones....now scones are the perfect alternative that is both quick and un-boring.  

I have the perfect forum to share treats with a group of ladies each week.  I love that I have the opportunity to try new baked items without having to eat it all by myself (which trust me, I totally would and could, but totally shouldn't!)  I loved how these turned out--biscuit-y without being dry and crumbly.  They are dense yet airy, and possess the perfect balance of sweet without being sugary.  My ladies may be sharing these with me several times in the next 10 weeks!

These scones will also freeze well; follow all the steps except baking.  Wrap each scone individually in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag.  Bake straight from the freezer, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time if necessary.

Blueberry Scones
Source:  Annie's Eats

8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen whole
1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
½ cup whole milk
½ cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
½ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, optional
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Directions:
Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat to 425˚ F.  Grate the frozen butter on the holes of a large box grater.  (I like to use my food processor for this – fast and easy.)  Place the blueberries in the freezer until needed.

Whisk together the milk and sour cream in a medium bowl; refrigerate until needed.

Combine the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.
Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula just until combined.

Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface.  Dust the top of the dough with flour, and knead with well floured hands, 6-8 times, just until the dough holds together in a ragged ball.  Add small amounts of flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Roll the dough into a 12-inch square.  Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter.  Fold the short ends of the dough into the center in thirds, to form an approximate 4-inch square.  Transfer the dough to a plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Return the dough to the floured work surface and roll into an approximately 12-inch square again.  Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough, and gently press down so that they are slightly embedded in the dough surface.  Using a dough scraper, roll the dough up to form a tight log.  Lay the log seam side down and press the the log into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle.  Using a sharp, floured knife, cut the rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles.  Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles.  Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Brush the tops of the scones with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with sugar.  (If freezing ahead of time, flash freeze on the baking sheet for 20 minutes, then wrap individually and store in a freezer bag until needed.)

Bake until the tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Garlic Rice Pilaf


What a simple side dish!  I am considering purchasing a rice cooker since I can never seem to get my stovetop rice perfectly fluffy and tender without saturating it in extra water.  But this....this oven-baked version was pure bliss, both in cooking and the finished texture!  And of course, how can you go wrong with garlic?? This is the perfect addition to any meal where the main dish meat is the center stage.  

Garlic Rice Pilaf
Adapted from Pennies on a Platter

2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 cup chicken broth or water for gluten-free
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Melt butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat.  Sauté the garlic and rice for about 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown.  Stir in the chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.

Once boiling, turn off the heat and pour the mixture into a casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 25 minutes.

Stir in the water and continue to bake, covered, for another 30 minutes.  Stir in a splash of lemon, cover, and bake a final 15 minutes.

*Recipe may be doubled without increasing the baking time.


Project Love Day going on right now.  Click here for more details. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Project Love Day


How do you celebrate Valentine's Day?  Already, the stores are flooded with reds, pinks, and heart-shaped everything.  Personally, little flying cupids have never done anything for me.  I don't particularly care for the color combinations of Valentine's Day.  Rich, gooey chocolate confections are way overrated.  :)  And, I try to tell my husband and my kids that I love them each day, so while having a day set aside on a particular date is nice, it isn't really necessary.

Here is what does get to me:  somewhere in the world, right now, there is girl sitting in a dark room who does not know love.

She knows fear.  She knows pain.  She knows abuse and brutality.  She knows abandonment.  She knows rejection and humilation.  She is isolated and trapped, and threats of imminent danger and possible death hold her in bondage.

She is one of the 2 million children who are trapped in sexual slavery and exploitation around the world, including the United States.

She breaks my heart and I weep for her, and the countless others like her.  She is only a bit older than my own little girl. 

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery.  Women and children are kidnapped, held against their will, raped, abused, and tortured.  Human trafficking generates about 32 billion dollars a year.

This atrocity is more horrendous than my mind can even comprehend.  And yet, it is undeniable and its victims are real, just like my sweet little daughter.  I can't turn my face from it yet I can't bear to look at it.

To look on the faces of those who have escaped their hellish ordeal, to see the scars left behind, to know that the effects of their abuse and slavery will last their whole lives long requires a response.  To do nothing is to continue to let innocent little girls be sold or kidnapped for the sexual perverted pleasures of greedy sexmongers.


"What does this have to do with a cooking blog?" and "This is pretty heavy stuff for a cupcake blog." you may be asking and saying to yourself.

And you are right.

But you see, I firmly believe that life is not about our own pleasures or gratifications.  It is just not all about us.  I believe that God calls us to use the resources He has given us to promote justice and bring Him glory.

Micah 6:8--"He {God} has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

While cooking is fun and sharing recipes with you is fun, I think that this blog is part of my life in this season to be used as a vehicle for justice and mercy when the opportunity is presented.

Showing real love in ways that matter to those who need it most, in the season of Valentine's Day seems to me to be a good enough opportunity.

So, what is it that I feel led to do?  Give.

This blog generates a bit of income.  Let me tell you how.

I have affiliated this blog with a food blog community called Foodbuzz.  Basically, in return for running their ad on my blog, they pay me based on the page impressions my blog traffic generates. 

Give.  I will donate my Foodbuzz ad revenue for the months of January and February 2011 to World Vision  to provide safety for a girl who has been exploited and abused.  My donation will "help build a safe, secure environment and prevent further exploitation.   With things like vocational training, education, counseling, and even livestock, you'll give a second chance to an abused child." 

Would you like to partner with me?  Here's how.

Click your way around The Culinary Enthusiast.  The more pages you hit, the more recipes you view, the more posts you comment on, the more you click on the ad on the side generates more income that Foodbuzz pays me.  Share this site with your friends, your family, your Facebook friends.  Simply put--more people + more traffic + more page views = more revenue.  More revenue from January and February means more money to donate to help broken, enslaved little girls.

What's more.....I will personally match this donation with my own personal funds. 

This is Project Love Day.  Let's make a meaningful, life-changing difference with the time and resources that have been given to us.

Love, Karla

For more on this horrific, heartbreaking, global issue, please visit:
Love146
Women at Risk International
World Vision

You absolutely have permission to link this to your own blog. ~Karla

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Light Whole Wheat Baguette Bread


You might have noticed a particular theme around The Culinary Enthusiast--if something can be purchased, I would rather make it.  Yes?  Would you agree?  I thought so.  Crusty baguette bread has long been on my list of things to make, but making it authentically literally takes a couple of days.  I usually don't have that kind of time in the afternoon when I am deciding what to feed my family for dinner that night.  I may be enthusiastic but I'm not superwoman.  So, I shelved the idea of making crusty baguette bread for the time being--maybe when I had more time, right?

Then I found this recipe.  I bookmarked it.  Later, that night I was reading a cooking magazine and it referenced this book, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, which now has made it to the top of my wish list.  So, with very little effort on my part and certainly NO kneading, I made crusty baguette bread and had it on the dinner table with plenty of time to spare!

Whew!

Light Whole Wheat Baguette Bread
Source:  Good Life Eats

3 cups 110 degree F water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 3/4 cups freshly ground hard white wheat flour
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:
To prepare the dough:
Combine the water, yeast, and salt in a large 5-quart bowl or resealable, lidded (but not airtight) plastic food container. The yeast does not need to proof as in traditional recipes.

Mix the whole what and all-purpose flour together in a medium bowl, then add it to the large bowl containing the water. Stir the flour into the water mixture using a wooden spoon. You don't need to knead the bread, but if stirring becomes too hard you can reach your wet hands into the bowl and press the mixture together.  *I used my Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook attachment.

Cover the container with a lid (not airtight). Let the dough rise at room temperature for 2-5 hours - until it begins to collapse or flatten on top.

After this, you can take a portion of the dough to make a loaf at anytime - OR refrigerate the covered container 3 hours or overnight before shaping a loaf.

To shape the loaf:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a baking stone on the middle rack and an empty broiler tray on a lower shelf.

Sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour, then cut off a 1 lb. piece for use and return the remaining dough to the refrigerator.  You can estimate by removing a piece about the size of a grapefruit.

Dust the piece with flour and shape it into a ball. Once it is cohesive, you can stretch and elongate the dough to form a cylinder approximately 2 inches in diameter.

Dust a pizza peel (or sheet of parchment if you don't have one) with whole wheat flour. Place the loaf on the dusted surface and let rest for 20 minutes.

After resting, paint water over the surface of the loaf with a pastry brush. Then, using a serrated bread knife make longitudinal, diagonal slashes across the top of the loaf.

Slide the loaf onto the hot stone. Add 1 cup of hot water to the broiler tray and immediately shut the oven door. Bake for 25 minutes, or until deep brown and firm to the touch. Cool before eating.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chili


To me, chili is winter's classic comfort food at its finest.  It is easy to make either on the stove or in the crockpot on low all day.  It is hearty, warm, and filling.  I love that you can totally make chili your own, be it spicy or not spicy, thick or thin, etc.  I personally like mine with a bit of a kick (but not too much!), thicker, with practically an equal amount of beans and meat.  Toss some cheese on the top to melt and you're good to go!

Chili
Source:  a Karla original

1 1/2 lbs. ground sirloin, browned, crumbled, and drained
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups water
3 beef boullion cubes
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tbl. worchestershire sauce
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chili powder
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
3 14 oz. cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper
cheddar cheese to serve (optional)

Directions:
In large skillet, brown ground beef.  When halfway done, add diced onions, garlic and salt to taste and continue cooking until vegetables are tender and meat is no longer pink.  Drain.

In a large stockpot, add three boullion cubes to water.  Heat over medium-high heat until cubes are dissolved.  Add crushed tomatoes, worchestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, and chili powder.  Stir to combine and salt to taste.  Add diced tomatoes and beans.  Add ground beef; stir to combine.  Taste and adjust chili powder and salt to taste.  Grind pepper over top and stir again.  Place lid off-center on top of pot and let simmer 30 minutes.

Ladle hot chili into bowls and serve hot.  Garnish with cheese if desired

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Roasted Vegetables and Apples


Roasting a pan-full of winter root vegetables is a great way to come off the sugar high from the holidays.  The carrots, sweet potatoes, and apples lend a natural sweetness and roasting them allows the vegetables to retain their nutrients.  Be careful when you peel the beets--they stain!  Feel free to add more of each vegetable as you wish!

Roasted Vegetables and Apples
Adapted from A Thought for Food

3 carrots
1 sweet potato
2 beets
1 parsnip
1 large red onion 
2 firm apples (I used Gala), sliced and unpeeled
1/4 cup olive oil
parsley, chopped coarsely 
1/4 tsp. thyme, preferrably fresh
salt and pepper, to taste.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel all of the root vegetables and cut into thick pieces.  Place them in a large mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Slice the apples into wedges. 

Spread the vegetables, apples, parsley, and thyme out on a baking sheet (or multiple baking sheets if needed) and bake until they are tender, about 25-30 minutes.  Cook under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until crispy on top (keep your eye on this, because you don't want them to burn).  Serve hot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Honey Chipotle Chicken with Sweet Potatoes


How do you feel about grocery shopping?  I know, right.  There was a time in my life where I loved it.  Loved the hunt.  Loved the thrill of saving with coupons.  Love putting my new collections of fresh veggies and fruit and pretty cans away in my kitchen.  I even loved it when my stash ran low (or the fresh veggies rotted in the crisper drawer) and I had to return to the store for a fresh bouty.

Now, 10 years of marriage and 3 kids later, grocery shopping has sort of lost the thrilling excitement for me.  Now, it is a two-hour escapade of gathering necessary items that is going to crush my checkbook, while I'm hauling kids in and out of carseats and shopping carts.  To keep the crew happy, we have to look at the Barbie cakes in the bakery section and watch the fish swim after we get our cheese.

I guess the up side of this trauma is that I only have to do it every 2 weeks.  Or maybe that is the major contributing factor....2 weeks worth of groceries in one trip.  Hmmmm....

Well, either way, I'm in sore need of inspiration and motivation when I sit down to plan my menu and grocery list, knowing that two hours of frustration and fatigue (and general poverty!) will follow my planning.  So, I have been procrastinating.  Did you know that about me?  Major Procrastinator, right here.

Ok, long backstory just to say that I was able to whip this dinner up without a trip to the store...it's nice to have certain ingredients on hand.  It was so yummy!  I loved the spiciness of the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (have you tried these??!) paired with the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes.  Aside from the time it takes to bake the chicken, this meal came together in less than 30 minutes--the prep is so minimal!  I'll include the "30 Minute Meal" label on this one.

Honey Chipotle Chicken with Sweet Potatoes
adapted from Pink Parsley

4 sweet potatoes (10 ounces each), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 Tbs olive oil
4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs honey, plus more for drizzling
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cleaned of excess fat (I like to halve my chicken, which I think cooks better)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the sweet potatoes in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, chipotles, garlic, honey, vinegar, salt, cumin, and cinnamon.  Toss with the sweet potatoes.

Scatter the potatoes on the bottom of a roasting pan, and bake 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 teaspoons of adobo sauce to make a paste.  Rub the chicken breasts with the paste.

Stir the potatoes.  Carefully place the chicken on top of the sweet potatoes, and continue to roast until the chicken is just cooked through (registers 165 on an instant read thermometer), about 20 minutes longer

Divide the potatoes and chicken evenly among serving plates and drizzle with remaining honey and garnish with cilantro.  Serve.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gingerbread Waffles


Being that I have published this post after Christmas, I may have missed the peak time of gingerbread.  However, I think that this recipe is still a nice change-up from the classic waffle.  A bit spicy, a bit ginger-y, and a lot of yum, these are a perfect addition to a family breakfast.  As usual, my husband made the waffles, and as usual there were a lot of dishes to do afterward!  I'm pretty sure that somewhere in the middle of the batter-making, waffle-cooking process I heard his famous words muttered under his breath, "This is Reason #3,249 why I don't belong in the kitchen!"

Anyway, famous last words because these waffles were unexpectedly delicious and were enjoyed by all 5 of us!  So, it may not matter all that much that the Christmas season has passed....these waffles can be enjoyed anytime!


Gingerbread Waffles
Source:  Family Circle, December 2010 issue

1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup molasses

Directions:
Preheat waffle iron.

In a large  bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

In another bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar together until combined.  Pour buttermilk and melted butter into egg mixture and beat until well-blended.

Make a well in flour mixture and stir in egg mixture and molasses; stir until well-blended.

Pour about 1/2 cup waffle batter in each heated waffle mold.  Close lid and cook for 2 minutes; remove carefully and place on a baking sheet in a warm oven; continue with the rest of the batter.

Serve with maple syrup and fruit, if desired.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cinnamon Honey Butter


Here is yet another simple and delicious butter to put on your homemade bread or rolls.  Yum!

Cinnamon Honey Butter
Source:  The Barefoot Contessa Parties!


1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tbl. honey
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt

Directions:
Combine butter, honey, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl with a mixer.  Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Raspberry Butter


So, how did your bread turn out?  Feeling a bit more confident with yeast?  Need more practice?  I'm here to testify that working with yeast is not the easiest thing.  Sometimes you end up with a big fail.  Sometimes, it is so perfect you stun even yourself!  It takes practice working with it and you and your yeast have to come to an understanding--you'll work for it if it will work for you.  You know?

Anyway, I'm optimistic that you have a nice fresh loaf of bread in your kitchen that is just begging for something divine to go on top of it.  Here you go.  This is so simple and delicious it can hardly be called a recipe.  Feel free to substitute out the raspberries for your favorite jelly/jam.


Raspberry Butter
Source:  Barefoot Contessa Parties!

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup good raspberry preserves (I used homemade freezer jam)
pinch of kosher salt

Directions:
Combine butter, preserves, and salt in a bowl with a mixer.  Spread on your bread.  Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread


I'm pretty sure that there is not a more homey scent than that of fresh yeast bread dough rising then baking in the oven.  I always love baking homemade bread just to enjoy the aroma that fills my kitchen.

I've come to understand that sometimes I can tweak a yeast recipe; now, hear me carefully, I don't tweak it too much.  Yeast is sensitive--if the liquid is too hot, it gets killed.  If the liquid is too cool, it doesn't activate it properly and you will end up with hard, flat bread.  I have had a bread machine for a long time, and for so long I would just dump the necessary ingredients in that and let it go.  (Of course, I did the ingredients in order and followed the directions).  But you know how hard the crust is of bread machine bread?  Yeah.  I don't like that so much.  So, here's where the tweaking comes in.

I decided one time that I would use the bread machine recipe, but set it on the dough cycle, then do the second rise in the oven and bake it in a regular loaf pan.  Genius, right?  (You're probably thinking I should have thought of this idea a long time ago!)  Well, it worked splendidly!  I love that I don't have to mix the dough up or do the work of letting the dough proof.  The bread machine does it for me!  Ninety minutes later, it is ready to plop in a loaf pan, let rise again for about 30 minutes in a warm oven, then bake!  I love it!

Ready to give it a try? And you can definitely do this sans the bread machine; you just have to do the mixing and kneading by hand.  I didn't include all the instructions for that, though.  I would need to Google it.

Whole Wheat Bread
Source:  Better Homes and Gardens Best Bread Machine Recipes

Yields 1 1-1/2 pound loaf (approximately 16 slices)

1 cup milk, 110 degrees
3 tbl. water, 110 degrees
     *(just mix the two together, then heat slowly and carefully in the microwave, using a thermometer)
4 tsp. honey or sugar
1 tbl. butter, softened
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. bread machine yeast

Directions:
In the pan of your bread machine, layer the ingredients in the order listed.  Before adding the yeast, make a small well in the flour then add the yeast to the well (I think this step helps incorporate the yeast better).

Set your bread machine to the Dough cycle.

Walk away.  :)  Let the machine work for you!

When the cycle is done, turn out the dough onto a flat, dry surface and give it a couple of kneads to smooth it out and shape it.  Place dough in a lightly oiled bread pan and cover with a light towel.

Place covered pan in a warm oven (I heat my oven to 170 degrees, then off the heat.  This is the perfect temperature for the second rise).  When dough has doubled in size and fills the bread pan (your vision will tell you when this looks right), remove pan and place in a closed space (I used my microwave) to keep it warm and soft while your oven preheats.

Heat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.  Bread should be firm and sound hollow when you tap the top.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscotti



"Heck, yeah!" was the response that I got from El Hub when I mentioned this particular flavor of biscotti to him.  Well, ok, then!  While the flavor was classic peanut butter paired with chocolate chips, I think that the type of peanut butter that you use will directly affect the texture of this biscotti.  I used all-natural peanut butter, which isn't quite as smooth and creamy as its "enhanced" counterparts.  Next time around, I would definitely used "regular" peanut butter, extra sugars and hydrogenated oils and all, in order to have a biscotti that wasn't quite so crumbly.

The crumbs didn't keep a certain husband away, however.  This biscotti didn't last too long around here!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscotti
Source:  Annie's Eats

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup mini chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate)--I used regular chocolate chips
Additional chocolate, melted, for drizzling (optional)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk to blend.  

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, peanut butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Blend in the vanilla.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed between additions.  With the mixer on low speed, blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips or chocolate chunks until evenly distributed.  

Divide the dough in half.  Shape into logs on the prepared baking sheet, about 11- by 3-inches in size, spacing at least 3 inches apart.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven while maintaining the oven temperature.  Let the logs cool for 10 minutes.  Slice the logs diagonally into slices about ½- to ¾-inch thick.  Lay the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet.  Bake, turning once, until the slices are slightly crisp, about 20-30 minutes more.   Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.  

If desired, drizzle cooled biscotti with additional melted chocolate.  Let set before serving.